The Quechua Indians have a population of about 2.5 million people and are the largest group of South American Indians in the world. Dramatically influenced by the Western world, many of the Quechua traditions have changed over the years to include less traditional dress and culture.
Most Quechua Indian women wear bowler style hats and ajotas, which are sandals created from recycled tires. While many of the younger Quechua Indians now wear football jerseys and track wear, older men still dress in the more traditional clothing.
Men wear Bayeta pants, which are knee-length and woven from animal wool. The men also wear the chumpi, which is a belt that is worn to protect their backs while they are working in the fields. Men traditionally wear ponchos most every day, but some villages only wear them on special occasions such as for festivals, village meetings, and weddings.
These special ponchos are normally dyed a rich red and are intricately woven with special designs. Ponchos are essential in the wardrobe of male Quechua Indians. In addition to those wardrobe pieces, the men also wear small chuspas, which are pouches that carry their coca leaves.
These pouches are often created from the wool of llamas, alpacas, guancos, and vicunas. Some of these pouches are created with beading and are very intricate in design. They are sold and used as purses and carrying pouches for travelers that come through the village.
The Quechua Indians are well known for their many handicrafts that are intricately woven from the wool of the animals that they raise. This wool is dyed using natural dyes created from vegetables, fruits, pods, and flowers and seeds. Once dyed, this wool is spun into yarn and made into beautiful pieces that are worn in different ways or even used as wall hangings.
Knitting and weaving are important to the Quechua Indians. A popular hat is created for children to wear and is called a chullo. A child’s first chullo is normally knitted by his or her father. This headwear is a knitted hat with earflaps that are sometimes decorated with beading and large tassels.
The housing of the Quechua Indians involves the use of clay to create homes. The homes are crafted from clay bricks or are made from twigs that are assembled with clay mortar. This provides a safe place for the villagers to sleep, eat, and create their woven works.
The villagers live on farms where they grow corn, potatoes, and quinoa. They also herd sheep, alpacas, and llamas. These animals provide the wool that is needed to create the beautiful clothing and crafts that they sell to travelers.
Through the years, the Quechua Indians have been greatly influenced by other cultures and now practice the religion of Roman Catholicism. Though they practice this religion, they still cling to the many beliefs that they hold in magic and mysticism. Through some of their more traditional beliefs, they make sacrifices to the mountain gods for their safety and for a plentiful harvest.