Las tapadas Limeñas

23:29 NovataSL 2 Comments

Las tapadas Limeñas were a common sight in Lima during the period of the Viceroyalty of Peru until the early days of the Republic, this statement was unique as the entire body of the woman was covered and only one eye was visible. The garments worn by these women were the saya and manto. The saya was a dress that covered the wearer from the feet to the waist and was usually made of silk, the colours varied but the most common colours were black, blue or green. The manto was a long piece of silk usually black that was tied around the waist that came up the back and covered the face leaving one eye exposed. The origin of the the saya and the manto is still not quite understood however, some historians believe its roots are from the Moors but the use of the vail had an entirely different meaning. The origins were also written about in the book “Tradiciones Peruanas” a collection of writings written by Ricardo Palma (February 7, 1833 – October 6, 1919) he wrote: 

"When one wants to leave the winning paths and talk about the origins of something very old, this phrase springs to one's lips: it is lost in the mists of antiquity. When one wants to write about the saya and the manto, one notes that they have never figured among the clothes of any province of Spain or of any European country. They grew up at Lima as spontaneously as mushrooms in a garden. In what year did this mushroom grow? I have done a lot of research, but have been unable to find out. However, I dare to assert that the shawl and the skirt came into existence in 1560. Now let us look at reason on which my assertion is based. I hope the reader will not find them too advanced. Lima was founded in January 18, 1535, and there were no more than ten native Spanish women who came to inhabit the capital. One could almost name them. So it is clear as a crystal that only from 1555 to 1560 could there have been women of Lima, daughters of Spanish fathers and mothers, capable of forming a nucleus that could produce a fashion like the saya and the manto.”** 

(** the works of Richardo Palma can only be taken with a pinch of salt as Palma wrote based on historical reconstruction mixed with fiction and imagination.) 

So what were some of the reasons this fashion become so popular? Well in a book called Peregrinations of a Pariah (1838) written by the French/Peruvian writer Flora Tristan (7 April 1803 – 14 November 1844) who travelled to Peru in 1833, wrote that the saya and manto gave a freedom and liberation of anonymity, allowing women to move freely in society without the constant supervision of a man. She wrote “She puts on the saya without corset, lets her hair fall, encloses her body with the manto, and goes outside where ever she wants....

She meets her husband in the street, who does not recognize her, she intrigues him with her gaze, with her expression, she provokes him with phrases, and they converse. She is offered ice cream, fruit, cookies, a date. She leaves, and in a moment she’s chatting with an officer who’s walking down the same street. She can take this little adventure as far as she likes without ever having to take off her veil.” In this passage we can understand that women could flirt, taunt, and commit whatever indiscretions she pleased without danger of staining her reputation. Ricardo Palma once again wrote “The vexing saya y manto had the hidden ability to wake up women’s cunning, and one would be able to fill an entire tome with the mischief and schemes that these women tell.” This behaviour brought it to the attention of the government and the Catholic Church as they feared it would lead to immoral behaviour. So in 1561, Diego López de Zúñiga y Velasco, the fourth viceroy of Peru ordered a ban on the saya and manto however, it failed but this did not stop several more attempts to ban it. In 1582 and 1583 the Council of Lima proclaimed that anyone wearing the saya and manto was committing an offense and in 1601, Toribio de Mogrovejo, Archbishop of Lima also attempted to push a ban on the grounds that the saya and manto facilitated anonymous flirting. In one petition to the Council of Lima it stated: “The father could not recognize his daughter, nor the husband his wife, nor the brother his sister.” The saya and manto also removed the distinction of class or status because while wearing the saya and manto if a gentlemen or person paid a commplimet to a woman, they could not tell if it she was for example poor and old. It was also common for some women to take there slaves or maids with them who also wore the same garments. 

For three centuries the saya and manto symbolized power and independence for women in Lima however, the saya and manto faded into history during the Guano Era of Peru when new French fashion became more influential.

Written by: GringoPeru