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    Land of winds > Traditions > Clothing | Issue 18 (Mar.-Apr. 2014)
    By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

Ushutas and other footwear

Ushutas and other footwear

Today's traditional Andean footwear is usually represented by a simple element: the usuta or ushuta (also huk'uta or juk'uta). This Quechua term –which has been Spanishized as "ojota", and whose Aymara equivalent is wiskhu or jiskhu– designated an open sandal, consisting of a thick hide or twined vegetable fibre sole fastened to the foot by a couple of (hide, wool, fibre) straps or bands.

At present, ushutas are manufactured in factories, though they continued to be hand- made in some parts of the Andean geography, using either the original materials or replacing it with modern ones (e.g. tyres made of a combination of synthetic and natural rubber).

Despite being the most widely known, the ushuta was and is not the only traditional Andean footwear. Archaeological evidence (e.g. the mommies found on the summit of the Llullaillaco volcano), colonial documents and chronicles (e.g. illustrations by Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala), and dictionaries of indigenous languages reveal that there was more variety of footwear in the past. In his book "El calzado en el antiguo Perú" (1973), the Peruvian archaeologist Toribio Mejía Xesspe provides a general introduction to the types of footwear likely to be encountered in olden Peru.

Among the different varieties of open Andean sandals we find the shukuy or "abarca", which consists of a cow hide sole with an ankle support and two wide strips diagonally crossed over the instep. It was used daily in peasant communities of Peru at least until the 1940s, and today it is still hand-made as part of the attire worn to some traditional dances (e.g. the huaylarsh).

Another varieties are the chapito or chápito, also named "alpargata" for its similarities to the esparto-soled sandals used in Spain; the llanq'i, llanki, llank'i or llanke, secured with several straps over the instep; and the seq'o, a type of sandal found in the Central Sierra of Peru, only during the rainy period.

In addition to sandals, shoes similar to moccasins have also been discovered in several archaeological burial sites. Among them there were the p'ullqu or pollqo and the kawkachu or wakachu, made of deer, Andean camelids or sea lion hide. The former were the finest and were mostly used in urban contexts, while the latter were work shoes used by cattle drivers and even today they are regarded as "rough, rustic footwear, made of badly tanned hide".

Article. "Los calzados de los Incas 01", in Cultura de Montaña [es].
Article. "Los calzados de los Incas 02", in Cultura de Montaña [es].

Picture 01. Pollqo found on the summit of the Llullaillaco volcano.
Picture 02. Llanq'is found on the summit of the Quewar volcano.
Picture 03. Different models of sandals.
Picture 04. Llanq'is found on the summit of the Quewar volcano.
Picture 05. Pollqos found on the summit of the Llullaillaco volcano.
Picture 06. Pollqo found on the summit of the Llullaillaco volcano.

Picture A.

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