Natural Fibre Sandals from Baja California

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.



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