by Gretchen Craig
In 1598, Conquistadors marched up the Rio Grande Valley into the area we now call Santa Fe, New Mexico. In full regalia, they wore wool or cotton leggings, sometimes brightly dyed, and balloon trousers. The dandies wore velvet and silk, the less dandy linen and cotton canvas. And on their worst days, they wore armor. What wouldn’t they have given for Gortex!
We have a pretty good idea what the Spanish conquerors wore around 1600 from paintings and fabric remnants and fashion accounts. I imagine the men hiking through the dry lands of the Southwest were considerably less pretty and resplendent than the romantic portraits of the era, but never mind them. What were the people they encountered in the upper Rio Grande valley wearing?
The women spent several hours every day grinding corn by shoving a stone over a stone basin, the kernels trapped in between. Every one of them would have had lovely, toned arms, so the bare shoulder and arm style suited them and didn’t require buttons or brooches or buckles.
A man wore either a cotton kilt or a knee-length tunic. He tied his tunic over the right shoulder rather than the left, and cinched an embroidered belt around his waist. (Think nicely muscled arms accustomed to throwing lances or hoeing fields or drawing bows.) Other garments were decorated with tassels and fringe. On the hottest days, a man probably just wore a loin cloth, and when it was cold, he would have dressed as the women did with an undergarment and layered cloaks. He also adorned himself with pendants and necklaces.
Men worked at the looms weaving cotton. They also dressed deer skins, rabbit pelts, and the occasional bear or elk skin. Buffalo lived off to the east on the plains, and sometimes the men of the pueblo hunted that far from home. More likely, though, they would have traded obsidian or turquoise or arrow heads for a buffalo hide when the plains people (Apaches, for example) came around.
Tough and thick, buffalo hide was great for shoe soles (and shield covers), but the upper parts of boots were likely to be deer hide, often bleached white. (At night, the puebloans hung their shoes overhead so as to keep the mice from gnawing the leather.) The people of Kotyit had lovely, supple leather to work with, chamois to use for leggings, boots, tunics and cloaks.
Wolves’ teeth and bear claws made dramatic necklaces for the men and no doubt made a statement about their prowess. And among archaeological finds is a lovely iridescent conch shell tablet which had been worn around someone’s neck on a leather thong.
Using the natural materials at hand and their own ingenuity, Americans of the pueblos produced practical, comfortable, stylish clothing.
**References: The Pueblo Indians of North America by Edward P. Dozier ; Tales of the Cochiti by Ruth Benedict; The Delight Makers by Adolf F. Bandelier; The Pueblo by Charlotte and David Yue; National Geographic, February, 1964, Vol. 125, No. 2.**
With sensitivity and depth, Craig explores the clash of cultures in 1598 New Mexico. The Spanish bring new crops, animals, tools – and weapons. Facing drought and murdering marauders, the people of the pueblos strive to find a balance between submission to the powerful new invaders and resistance to their overwhelming force.
Zia would face an enemy’s sword to protect her infant son, but she learns her battle to save him requires more than physical courage. Her attraction to the Spanish conquistador leads to the most difficult choice of her life. Is his love worth abandoning her religion, her culture, and her very identity?
Diego Ortiz has yearned for a home and a family. When he meets a beautiful woman of the pueblos, he offers her not only protection for her child and herself, but also his everlasting love.
TapanAshka, ambushed in the forest, challenges death itself to achieve his two heart’s desires – finding home, and exacting revenge against his greatest enemy, the Spaniard Diego Ortiz.
Available as an e-book in Kindle and Nook formats. Fall 2010.
Gretchen Craig is the award winning author of Always and Forever and Ever My Love, both set among the Creoles and Cajuns of early Louisiana. Crimson Sky moves the reader across the country to the mesas and canyons of northern New Mexico. Based on careful research and enthusiastic exploration, Gretchen’s novels are delve into some of the most disturbing social conflicts of our country. Visit her website at www.gretchencraig.com.