Some ponchos are rich with the cultural heritage of South America – a mixture of elements from traditional Aztec garb and Spanish conquistador uniforms.
There are many kinds of ponchos:
and even a blanket poncho!
Some ponchos are made in the mountains of Asia – carefully woven from wool produces in the highest elevations on Earth. All ponchos are unique, and they are made in the rich traditions of their country of origin. While ponchos might seem similar, they are as varied as the countries that they come from. Nearly every country has some sort of poncho design – but the wool poncho originated in the five countries listed here, so the following countries are the source of the highest quality and most authentic wool ponchos available.
Nepal is a tiny country by land area – but everything in Nepal is larger than life. From the highest mountain in the world to the largest unbroken chain of peaks, the Himalayan Mountains dominate the landscape of Nepal. With such dramatic landscape, and a climate that ranges from the sweltering valleys to the freezing mountain tops, Nepalese craftsmen have developed a uniquely utilitarian poncho that uses the wool of local animals.
Nepalese ponchos are not as brightly colored as their South American counterparts, but they are designed for extreme cold and wind exposure, so they are thick and durable. Nepal is the home of thousands of professional mountain guides that regularly climb Everest and other peaks wearing the traditional wool ponchos of their home country – so you know that an authentic poncho from Nepal will stand up to anything life throws at you.
Just South of Mexico, the nation of Guatemala is one of Central America’s hidden gems. Guatemala is the most heavily populated country in Central America, with a population that comes from all over the world. Here, cultural traditions are a mish-mash of Aztec, Mayan, and Spanish customs, with a healthy dose of Western culture thrown in. The Mayan civilization had very similar clothing to the modern-day poncho, but in Guatemala the textiles are high quality and made from some of the finest wool in the world.
Deep in the heart of the Amazonian rain forest, the nation of Bolivia emerges. Bolivia was inhabited by a combination of Inca tribes and Spanish Conquistadors following the arrival of Spanish settlers in the 16th century, and it is one of the “wildest” of the Spanish nation-states, with a huge amount of natural rainforest. The main industry in Bolivia is agriculture, and textiles are a huge part of this. In Bolivia, it is not uncommon for every family to have one member (usually an older woman) that spends most of her time creating clothing by hand – clothing that is used by the family and is sometimes exported for additional income.
When people think of Peru, they often think of the delicious steak dinners, the majestic mountains, or the foggy rainforests. When poncho-fans think of Peru, they think of the warm and soft wool of the native Peruvian llama. Peru is one of the largest llama raising countries in the world, and you can virtually guarantee that your authentic poncho from Peru will contain at least a percentage of llama wool. Llama wool is very soft, naturally water repellant, and it can be woven into much tighter designs than sheep’s wool can.
When most people think of the poncho, they think of the design made popular by the Mexican cattle ranchers in the early stages of the 19th century. These dense wool or canvas ponchos were designed to keep the sun and rain off of the shoulders of the hard working ranchers – and they were later made into festive icons of the Mexican identity. Mexican ponchos are a great value in the poncho world because they are produced in huge quantities – and they are among the most versatile since there are so many different kinds. Whether you find a handmade Mexican wool poncho or a cheaper novelty/costume option – you are sure to love the bright colors and the connection to history.