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Hispanic Weaving

Hispanic Weaving

Hispanic weaving assumes a place as one of the three great textile traditions of the American Southwest, alongside the Pueblo and Navajo traditions.

Spanish conquest changed the foundations of weaving in the Southwest. When Coronado entered the Southwest in 1540, he brought with him 5,000 Iberian Churra sheep that were to provide both meat and wool for the expedition. In 1598, Don Juan de Oñate brought 2,900 head of sheep with him as part of the plan to colonize New Mexico. The coat of the Iberian Churra was prized for its luster, durability and variety of natural colors. As the Spanish imposed their authority, weaving shifted from cotton textiles to those made of wool. At the same time, the harsh punishments and retribution for resistance to Spanish authority drove many Pueblo people to seek security with their enemy, the Navajo. As a result of this cultural intermixing, the Navajo not only learned to use the upright loom, but also became skilled weavers in their own right. From 1700 forward, then, we can speak of three separate weaving traditions existing in the Southwest: the Pueblo, the Hispanic, and the Navajo. Each has a separate history, Each experienced its own evolution. Yet, each existed simultaneously with the others.

Spanish weavers were among the colonists who settled in the Rio Grande Valley after 1600. They brought with them four items that established their tradition as different from both Pueblo and Navajo weavers: Iberian Churra sheep, indigo dye, the horizontal loom and bayeta, a machine woven cloth usually dyed red. For discussion purposes, the Spanish Colonial weaving tradition can be broken into four periods, each with its own characteristics.

Tools – the Loom

The horizontal (treadle) loom was introduced into northern Europe-probably from the Mediterranean area–around 1050-70. Weavers could have longer warps, more design opportunities, and could sit down while weaving .  The warp and weft were still spun on a drop spindle, which was women’s work. Men became the weavers as they saw the possibility of producing cloth faster, with less effort more profitably.