ETNICO focuses its work on custom one-of-a-kind textile products of premium quality, collaborating with local artisans in the Andean region of South America.

Pre-Hispanic Times

Fabrics are undoubtedly the most complex and elaborate cultural expression in the Andean world. With deep roots in pre-Hispanic history, the date of its beginnings is the subject of historical controversies, although on average we can date the oldest archaeological evidence to be over 3,500 years old in the coastal area of southern Peru.

Such is the importance of textile art in the Andean region that, iconographic representations appeared earlier in textiles than in ceramics. Throughout this extensive journey, the designs, materials, pigments, and techniques, as well as their uses and symbolic representations have reached a vast range of degrees of specialization; the variety, widely diversified in a geographical distribution reaches special development along the Central Andes (the current territories of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, and Ecuador).

The fabrics have served in the different civilizations of the region, from the ancient Chavín and Paracas cultures to the Aymara, Urus and the Incas. Clothing and coat, adornment, ceremonial, religious and documentary are just a few of the uses of these fabrics and countless other functions. Its social and cultural importance in the region controlled by the Inca empire before the arrival of the Spaniards is so extensive and diverse that it far exceeds the purpose of this context.

and Colony

The arrival of the Spaniards implied such a profound turn in the life of the Andean region or, to put it in terms of the Inca culture, a “pachacuti” (a world turned upside down) within which textile art had a central role, both in the cultural and religious aspects as well as in the economic and technical aspects. The fabrics, their techniques, materials, and symbolic value suffered important changes due to the new reality.

An interesting example of this is how, in the early days of the Hispanic colony, the desire to impose Christianity on the part of the conquerors, led them, among many other actions, to combat fetishism and all the religious imagery of Native Americans. This policy, regarding fabrics, resulted in a unique process of abstraction of the designs. Complicated guards began to symbolically replace what was previously a river that in turn was considered a god, a triangular or rhomboidal figure that went on to represent a sacred mountain and many more examples. These designs widely studied and disclosed by specialists, appear as evidence of the concealment of the ancient gods in the abstract figures of the new fabrics.

On the other hand, the fineness and complex elaboration of textiles, as well as the extraordinary properties of American animal fibers, seduced the Spaniards from the beginning, who organized different forms of exploitation of this art. The most developed and widespread was through the “encomienda”, a colonial institution that forced the “entrusted Indians” to pay a tribute to the noble “encomenderos” that was often made in fabrics that were partly for them and in part for the crown. This practice, which in some regions was sustained for centuries, produced an immense quantity of fabrics and important qualitative changes in them.

Present Day

After the independence revolutions in South America, textile traditions continued their development and their complex web of regional specializations, always characterized by a significant ritual / religious component and often with a strong secrecy around the symbolism intertwined in the fabrics.

Today, Andean textiles continue to be applied both to the daily life of those who make or consume them, as well as to different ceremonial uses that range from honoring the Pachamama (Mother Earth), mournings, from baptisms and the protection of the home, to weddings and sacrifices (cremation of textiles and other luxurious items dedicated to the American gods).

A new aesthetic and ornamental function has been growing in recent decades, associated with the expansion of rights of native communities that find in this rich artistic tradition a source of economic income related to the conservation and dissemination of their textile art, with special emphasis on orientation towards the realization of unique one-of-a-kind pieces, always through ancient artisan techniques.