Canonized in 2002, Juan Diego Cuahtlatoatzin is the first Indigenous American Saint.
Cuauhtlatoatzin means “the eagle that talks” in náhuatl.
On Saturday morning, December 9, 1531 Juan Diego witnessed the apparition of on Tepayac Hill of the Lady of Guadalupe, who is today considered the patron Saint of the Americas. In a time of social struggle between Indigenous Mexicans and Spanish the news of the apparition spread quickly through Mexico; and in the seven years that followed 8 million people were converted to the Catholic faith.
This oil painting of Juan Diego Cuahtlatoatzin was painted by Miguel Cabrera sometime before 1768 and also includes possibly the earliest depiction of the ‘Pata de Gallo’ Huarache.
At a recent exhibit called ‘Yumanos – Jakultat, el Mundo y la Serpiente Divina’ at the Museo Nacional De Antropologia in Mexico City, I was introduced to traditional footwear from the indigenous groups from North Western Mexico.
With an abundance of raw materials, fiber sandals were worn by many indigenous groups living in the mainly dry areas of the North American continent.
These ‘Jnaw’ sandals are from the Kiliwa aboriginal people of northern Baja California. From the Michael Wilken Collection.
The ‘Mil kiulu’ sandals below are from the Cucopa people, part of the Yuman indigenous group who live inland between Ensenada, Baja California and Oceanside, California. Although Cucopa men also wore rawhide sandals, they used these ‘noiseless’ woven agave fibre sandals for hunting.
An interesting book titled ‘Primitive Technology 2′, by David Wescott gets into alot of detail about these agave fiber sandals, explaining how:-
The Southern California and Baja Fiber Sandals unlike indigenous Braided Yucca sandals from Arizona and New Mexico are constructed from a Two-Wrap-Base made with desert agave (Mescal) fibers, the same used locally for nets and cordage.
Sandals were worn by men and women and were not made for wearing around the camp, but rather for collecting wood and on long journeys and no spares were carried as they could be made when necessary.
The sole is reversible in 2 ways, the upturned end heel of the sole can be flipped to protect the toes and for even wear the sole turned over every now and then.
Below are similar ‘Mil kiulu’ sandals from the Pai Pai people who live between the Kiliwa on the south and the Cucopa to the north.
Some interesting photos and diagrams of these sandals from ‘Primitive Technology 2′, by David Wescott.
Although rare, Southern California and Baja Fiber Sandals are still made and can still be found for sale, go to www.kumeyaay.info for more info.
Below is an excellent movie about that site’s featured Fibre Sandal artisan Teresa Castro and Pai Pai history, the movie also shows her making Fibre Sandals.
In my Huarache research I have often wondered if you could draw an imaginary line across the American continent, separating the traditional use of Moccasins from that of Sandals (Huaraches).
It seems that woven footwear and sandals similar to Huaraches were also used by Native Americans in California and Oregon. This indicates that if a line were drawn it would probably start much further north than the existing US-Mexican border.
These 2 ‘Pata de Gallo’ type sandals are from Mojave and the more southern Chemehuevi in California. The photos are from the Phoebe A Hearst Museum of Anthropology.
The photo below is of Native American sandals from 1932 in Weldon, California.
This is a fascinating 1907 Klamath or Modoc, WOVEN tule moccasin, from Oregon!
Whether made from leather or natural fibers, these photos are a confirmation that woven footwear was also used by Native Americans in the North West and the South West of present day USA.
The yucca sandal below on the right was found in Zion National Park, Utah and is part of the Zion Park Museum Collection.
The photo above on the left of the woven Klamath-Modoc tule moccasin comes from the Crater Lake Institute.