May 2011

Poncho Fashion

Cecilie Winström explores the European trend for a traditional Andean garment: the poncho.

Cecilie Winström
Projects Abroad volunteer
Vedbæk - Denmark


For hundreds of years, the native South American population has been wearing ponchos to keep warm in the chilly highlands. Although they are a traditional garment, ponchos are still frequently worn. But the poncho is more than just a garment, and the women in La Cancha go as far as to call their ponchos art, and very typical of Bolivia.

The poncho is a must-have because it gives you the ability to show off lots of different styles

The poncho became a hit in Europe during the 70s, in all kind of colors and shapes. But during the 80s the trend slowly began to die, and people only wore simple monochrome ponchos, if they wore them at all. Now, after many years out of the fashion spotlight, ponchos have made their way back on the European runways.


As has been previously mentioned, ponchos are available in tons of different colors and materials. A big factor is the quality, and this is where the price begins to matter! In La Cancha you can get lots of different ponchos at reasonable prices, but bigger, higher quality brands are also available in Bolivia.

In La Cancha, you can get a nice looking poncho for around 100.- Bs

If you ask the sellers in La Cancha, the only difference between their ponchos and the more expensive ones is the price and the look. “The difference is that the ponchos are cheaper here,” says one woman, while another says “In La Cancha you get typical ponchos, while the ones you can buy in stores have flowers on, or something like that”. But according to fashion experts, it is precisely that very diversity that put ponchos back on the runways.


Since it is not really a question of the print, or of the native South American look, your poncho can have dots, stripes, flowers or even llamas. In La Cancha there is a lot of diversity: most of the ponchos are made by machine. Normally in La Cancha, you can get a nice looking poncho for around 100 Bs. In Europe, the price for a traditionalstyle poncho is sky-high, and therefore the mass-produced ponchos are more common.


You would think that, given the poncho’s return to the fashion world, the sellers at La Cancha would experience an increase in sales. This does not appear to have been the case for most of the stalls: “there haven’t been enough tourists,” says a saleswoman. However, Europe, the big French and Italian brands have created amazing, luxurious ponchos or poncho-like coats that appeal to the market. All of this means more competition for the original South American ponchos, known as chalequitos or chalecos.

Organic pest control

The best pest control is constant care for the garden. A well fed and strong crop is less likely to be attacked by pests. A strict watering regime that allows plenty of moisture and avoids drying out is the most important rule. The plants also need to be on a healthy diet by applying organic fertilizer (preferably your own compost). These gardening techniques are called natural control.

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