A belt is an ancient item used by all the nations around the world. Most often, belts serve to support the clothes and as a decorative piece. But in the Andean region, the Quechua people wear their woven belts not only for that. Their belts are needed for health. Let’s ask the local expert Cesar Cotacachi from Ecuador about the real purpose of Quechua belts.
Cesar Cotacachi, Ecuadorian expert in national costumes, will share his knowledge about the traditional clothing of Quechua people. He actually owns and runs a store that sells folk clothing. So, let’s listen to his story.
There are many indigenous nationalities in Cotacachi, and the biggest one is the Quechua nation, located in the Andean region. This nationality includes 27-28 ethnic groups and 4 of them are located in the Cotacachi province.
We present the ladies clothes here because it’s probably more colorful than the male attire. The characteristic feature of these costumes is the embroidery. You can see the embroideries – each ethnic group has different styles, patterns, and techniques. It can be very complicated and very interesting. Usually, the patterns depict various flowers and medicinal plants that the indigenous people use in different communities.
The Quechua people often use woven belts. They are called “chumpi”. The local women tie their skirts with these belts, but they work not only as a decorative element. The main purpose is much more important – belts serve to protect a woman’s back.
According to the indigenous Quechua customs, women use 2 belts: a mother belt and a baby belt. Such belts are used to give more strength to women. You see, in the Andean region, husbands often go to the cities for different jobs and women stay in the community to look after their children, domestic animals, to care for their farms, and to do all the household chores. So, the woman needs to be very strong.
Also, the woman uses her belt in her work: she carries things, she does things. The belt doesn't only work as a beautiful clothing piece but it actually works to help her with her back, to support her back. She usually carries a baby, she carries things, so it serves as a weight belt actually.
Quechua men also wear woven chumpis to give their back extra support.