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As the traditional covering worn by the people of Peru and Bolivia living among the sacred spaces of the Andes Mountains, ponchos, scarves, shawls, and other clothing, all made from soft alpaca wool, is a ubiquitous sight in the more rugged climes of South America. The alpaca poncho is instantly recognizable thanks to its distinct shape and color as well as how common it is in the region. At one time, the alpaca wool poncho was only worn by men, but today there are alpaca wool blend ponchos available as women’s clothing as well.
Our women’s and men’s alpaca wool ponchos feature traditional Bolivian and Peruvian designs, hand crafted by indigenous artisans who have been passed down the skills and techniques for spinning wool into alpaca blankets and alpaca ponchos for generations. One-size traditional and hooded poncho variations are available in a variety of both vibrant and understated alpaca wool colors and styles, guaranteed to keep you warm and cozy as only an alpaca poncho can.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an alpaca?
The alpaca is a large animal native to the mountainous regions of South America that is raised for its wool. Part of the camel family, the alpaca bears a strong resemblance to the llama, but the alpaca is considerably smaller (and some would say that the alpaca much nicer in disposition!). Nimble and sure-footed and with a thick, wooly coat, the alpaca is perfectly adapted to living in the high elevations of the Andes. The alpaca is also easy to train and care for in comparison to other herd animals, and you’ll often see an alpaca herder, wearing an alpaca poncho, in the middle of their herd of alpaca enjoying each others’ company out in the green grassy alpaca fields.
What’s the cultural significance of the alpaca?
The place of the alpaca goes much deeper than simply being a source of wool for a poncho or other garment. In fact, the animal has a central role in Andean culture. Prior to colonization, the indigenous people of Bolivia, Ecuador, and other nearby native tribes revered the alpaca as a gift from the gods, using the animal for its meat and wool and also as a focal point in many of their shamanistic rituals. The Incas created small alpaca statuettes known as conopas, using them as ritual effigies for making sacrificial offerings, a tradition that continues today; you can find alpaca effigies on display in market squares in Peru and Bolivia, sharing space with poncho and scarf merchants.
What makes an alpaca wool poncho so special?
Alpaca wool is a lustrous and silky fiber, and is superior to sheep’s wool in that alpaca wool is warmer and contains no lanolin. This makes an alpaca poncho, scarf, or other piece of clothing hypoallergenic in addition to having a feel of superior softness and luxury. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that alpaca wool doesn’t have lanolin, which makes alpaca wool garments not quite as waterproof as those made from sheep wool, the alpaca poncho would likely be an even more well known garment than it already is!