College of Liberal Arts

Making Beauty: The Wearing of Polleras in the Andean Altiplano

Thu, Oct 5, 2017
Women in polleras gather to watch a carnaval parade in Acora, Puno District. Photo: Angela Tapia Arce.
Women in polleras gather to watch a carnaval parade in Acora, Puno District. Photo: Angela Tapia Arce.

Lucy does not smile too often. Like other women who wear polleras, she does not greet you with a wide grin, unless you are more than an acquaintance. Yet, when Lucy smiles the stars twinkle, whether or not the sun is overhead. She has two little silver stars inlaid into her teeth. However, these stars are not the only body adornments she owns. In her hair she hangs vicuña tullmas from her two braids’ ends as ornaments. She usually wears a special straw hat and jewelry, but no makeup. When she is selling “polleras style” clothing, she wears a falda (skirt). The falda, as wearers of this clothing call it, is a variant of polleras style. The major difference between the falda and polleras is that the latter are embellished with horizontal tiers in the middle of the skirt; otherwise the skirts look similar.

Although the pollera is more expensive, heavier, and more difficult to wash, this garment is still the preferred female clothing in the most important cities of the Altiplano region (Southeast of the Andes): La Paz and El Alto, Bolivia, and Puno, Peru. Academic explanations3 as to why women still wear polleras concentrate on identity issues and ties with the social group, but the aesthetic of polleras needs an examination. This article is an invitation to see “the other beauty”: How do “polleraswomen” negotiate the dominant aesthetics—especially as regards their sense of beauty—in their everyday lives?

Read the full story, written by Angela Tapia Arce, on Portal.

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