Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



From Textiles as Primary Sources: Proceedings of the First Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Minneapolis Institute of Art, September 16-18, 1988


Copyright © 1988 by the author(s).



Wool, weft-faced textiles from the looms of Northern New Mexican Hispanic weavers (Figs. 1 through 7) are widely represented in museum collections and historical societies. Often, they are confused with Navajo and Mexican blankets and rugs although Hispanic weavings are the products of a unique weaving tradition and are produced within a distinctive cultural context. I view the history of Hispanic weaving in northern New Mexico as an example of "boundary art," that art which is produced by one cultural group for purchase by another. This transaction often requires the services of an intermediary and takes place within a "boundary art world."

Focus here is upon the craft of Hispanic weaving during three newly-designated periods. The first I have termed the "Transitional Period," 1860 to 1910. The second is the "Early Chimayo Period," 1880 to 1920, the last the "Revival Period," 1920-1940. These overlapping periods occur between what is termed the earlier Classic Rio Grande Style of Hispanic weaving and Modern Chimayo weaving found in northern New Mexico today. However, first a brief summary of what preceded these intermediate periods will be presented.


The first weaving technology in the American Southwest was a diffusion from Middle America to the settled peoples who were the predecessors of the modern Pueblo Indians during the centuries before contact with the white man. Later, after Spanish colonization the Navajo learned the art of weaving from the Pueblo.

The history of Hispanic weaving in the Southwest began in the late 16th century, when Hispanic settlers colonized the northernmost frontier of the Kingdom of New Spain in the area now known as New Mexico. These settlers brought European weaving technology to the area and constructed looms of local materials (as shown in Fig. 8 in a late 19th century example) to meet a range of textile needs. Blankets produced on Hispanic looms from earliest settlement until the late 19th century have been known as Rio Grande blankets. Early examples were made of coarse, homespun wool in solid natural colors or with simple stripes (Fig. 1). They were popular with all manner of frontiersmen - traders, trappers, miners - who were the first consumers in the "boundary art world."