Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Textiles as Cultural Expressions: Proceedings of the 11th Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, September 24–27, 2008, Honolulu, Hawaii


Copyright 2008 by the author.


Ecuadorian textiles are in general more austere than those of southern Peru or Bolivia, but there are some interesting things if you look carefully enough. The focus of my paper is a woman’s wrap and carrying cloth, locally called a rebozo, from the Salasaca ethnic group in central highland Ecuador (Figs. 1-2).1 It was collected in 1966 by Frances Ruddick, then a Peace Corps volunteer working in Salasaca, and given to The Textile Museum in 2004. It is a large rectangle, 2.23 meters long and 1.02 meters wide, in purple wool with some narrow white cotton stripes, mostly near the edges. This striping is restrained and elegant.

One curious thing about Salasaca women’s wraps of all sorts is that they are woven on a treadle loom, that is to say, a Spanish style loom. They are therefore a single loom width of balanced plain weave with cut ends. The ends are, however, very carefully finished with small darning stitches before the different shawls are cut apart after weaving. This particular shawl is exceptional in having small colored wool embroidered motifs at each end. This embroidery is also a Spanish style.2 Similar embroidery was done in the 1960s on the lower edges of Salasaca festival pants, and I assume that this wrap was also worn for festivals (Fig. 3).

Women’s shawls in Salasaca are worn in the indigenous way, however, which probably is of Inca origin. The rebozo is folded in half, draped over the back and both shoulders, and pinned on the chest. There is considerable inconsistency in the terminology used for different garments in highland Ecuador, and the fact that the Salasaca rebozo is significantly longer than it is wide is the main thing that connects it to other shawls that are called rebozo elsewhere in the Americas, which are normally worn without being pinned, a style that seems to have come into use during the seventeenth century in Mexico.