ColombiaOne.comCultureIndigenous Zenu, Weavers of the Colombian Vueltiao Hat

Indigenous Zenu, Weavers of the Colombian Vueltiao Hat


Zenu indigenous Colombia vueltiao hat
Member of the Zenu indigenous community with vueltiao hat. Credit: Ocha Colombia/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Zenu, an indigenous community in Colombia, have safeguarded the art of weaving for centuries, a legacy reflected in the iconic vueltiao hat—an emblem encapsulating the essence of the country.

Across generations, this technique has been passed down, fostering identity and rootedness in their homeland.

Origin and meaning of the vueltiao hat

The vueltiao hat, originating from the savannas of Cordoba and Sucre, is crafted from the fiber of the “caña flecha” (gynerium sagitatum), a native plant. This hat is more than a mere accessory; it symbolizes the history, traditions, and worldview of the Zenu.

The term “vueltiao” denotes the unique weaving technique employed in crafting the hat, wherein strips of caña are meticulously woven to create a lightweight, flexible structure. The intricate design and craftsmanship of the hat showcase the traditional weaving skills passed down through generations.

Zenu indigenous Colombia vueltiao hat
A traditional sombrero vueltiao (vueltiao hat). Credit: Jennifer Poole/Public domain

In the past, women wove these hats to shield their husbands from the sun. They were believed to signify the transition to adulthood, even warding off rain or wild animals. The braiding technique, rooted for over a millennium, not only showcases craftsmanship but also embodies cosmogonic elements inherent to Zenu culture. Each weave tells stories, carries ancestral meanings, and preserves an identity that transcends generations.

Zenu culture

Rooted in their territory, the Zenu have a strong connection to their sacred sites and nature. Throughout history, the influence of Christianity melded with their traditions, manifesting in festivities and rituals.

Their traditional medicine relies on plant usage for various purposes, from brews aiding childbirth to rituals warding off malevolent spirits. The healing power of plants combines with prayers and incantations, forming an integral part of their worldview.

Music and attire have also evolved. Music, previously linked to natural sounds, now encompasses fandango and cumbia rhythms. Traditional attire, influenced by climate and labor, has transitioned into a mestizo adaptation, where the vueltiao hat remains a significant hallmark.

While men once wore “parumas” and women, long skirts, their attire has modernized. The vueltiao hat remains a deeply rooted symbol in their identity, carrying an ancestral tradition within a contemporary context.

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