Throwback Thursday: Tapada Limeña

For those who know me, its no secret that I love history. As PCV, I’ve hit the jackpot with a placement in Peru. There’s so many different cultural heritages to learn about and so many great archaeological sites to visit that would make any history buff want to cry. Not to mention, there is so much more to Peruvian history than just than the Incas and Machu Picchu. So in the spirit of sharing my love for history, I decided to start a semi-regular series called Throwback Thursday where I highlight a specific part of Peruvian history on a Thursday of course. Enjoy – I hope ya’ll learn something new.


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Because Mercedez-Benz fashion started this week in New York I wanted to write about the Tapadas Limeñas. I heard about the Tapadas Limeñas a while back (on NPR I believe) and was thoroughly interested because I had never heard about it before. So here we go:

The Tapada Limeña was a name given to the women of Lima when Peru was still called the Viceroyalty of Peru (1542-1824). After the Spanish conquistadors arrived and massacred everyone, it was then time to set up shop. They soon began to bring women of “fine pedigree” to help populate the new colony. Although the exact origin of the saya y manto (skirt and cloak) is unknown, it apparently became popular very soon after women started arriving in the City of Kings. The saya as an overskirt worn tight at the waist (à la Beyonce) and raised to show off the feet and ankles ever so sensually because feet and ankles are just so sexy. El manto was a thick veil that was somehow MacGyvered to the back of the waist, brought over the shoulders and head, and pulled tautly over the face. It was pulled so closely to the face that all that was left uncovered Tapada1was a singular triangle space where one eye could peep through.

Now why the Limeñas thought it was cute and fashionable to walk around like colonial cyclopeses, I have no idea but it spread like wildfire. The Limeñas soon discovered that the saya y manto was a great way to go around town flirting with the menfolk without anyone knowing who they were. They could go out, talk to their boo thang, and come back home with their reputation intact. One Peruvian feminist wrote:

“One can go out alone and outside the home she is easily confused with all the other women. She can even meet her husband in the street and he won’t recognize her. She intrigues him with her gaze, with her expression, she provokes him with phrases, and they converse. She leaves, and in the 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.”

The Vice-royalty’s government wasn’t too happy that the Limeñas were anonymously “riding around and getting it” and tried to put a stop to the fashion trend multiple times throughout the centuries. However, every time they tried to put a law in place, the Limeñas would go on strike and neglect their domestic duties. In 1561 someone wrote:

“The domestic anarchy reined. Women disregarded completely the care of the house… the stew is bland, the children couldn’t find their mother to wrap them up or to wipe their noses, husbands walked around with torn socks and shirts that were dirtier than a dishcloth.”17 lamina73encarrujada

The style lasted well into the 19th century until French fashion swooped in and replaced the sayo y manto thus ending 300 years of creeping in Lima. The interesting thing about the sayo y manto  (besides the care free flirting) was that it was never seen
anywhere outside of Lima. I’m not even sure that many Limeños know about the  Tapada Limeñas. I asked my host mom about them and she looked at me with the blankest stare someone could ever give.  Anywho, the next time you hear TLC’s Creep or John Legend’s She Don’t Have To Know, please be sure to mentally tip your hat to the Tipada’s Limeñas.

If you’re a history buff like me and want to read more Throwback Thursday posts, click here.


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