The mochila undoubtedly embodies the Latin American spirit. Woven within it are the traditions of the various indigenous tribes. The mochila is a bag that comes in a cross-body knapsack/bucket style and is carefully woven with bold patterns by the indigenous women of several tribes in South America, particularly those near the border of Colombia and Venezuela.
These beautiful and exotic bags take incredible labor to make. In fact, it takes over 40 hours to make each one. As a direct result of this craft, the indigenous women who make them earn their livelihood, improve their standard of living and sustain the community. This tradition which has been passed down through women, generation to generation, has turned out to be very fruitful and pivotal in the sustainability of many of these indigenous communities.
Two of these indigenous tribes are the Wayuu and Arhuaca. The former is located in the Northern Colombian border known as the Guajira. It is estimated that the Wayuu people amount to approx 144,000. 20.5% of the population in Colombia. The Wayuu, utilize cotton to waeve their mochilas. One of their techniques is called “osonushi”, this technique is intimately related with the life of the Wayuu. It is said that “once upon a time” the spider Wale’keru taught the Guajira women how to weave the designs, each of which tells a sotry and has a special significance to its maker. The production of these mochilas has a direct positive impact and greatly benefits the women of this tribe. The latter are located in the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta, in the north eastern part of Colombia. These women use wool to weave their original designs to the mochilas, meant to display their view of life and the world around them. To them, as they weave their mochila, they build on the human relation and give meaning to life.
Today, there are several wonderful organizations and movements to promote the mochila. The Wayuu Taya Foundation is one of my favorites. Mochilas are sold all over the world. Even large retailers like Barneys are showcasing these. Global Fashionista and many other sites online offer a wide selection.
The most influential supporter of the mochilas in the fashion industry undoubtedly was the Mochila Project launched in 2009. The Mochila Project introduced the mochila to the fashion world. As a result of the efforts of Vogue editor Lauren Santo Domingo who spearheaded this wonderful project back in 2009, 12 of the world’s top fashion designers were given the task of redesigning a mochila. The results were amazing.
Recently, the mochila has become something of a cult item, toted around town by fashion editors and It girls, and the subject of chatter on style blogs. “It seems to be the iconic tribal bag,” said Anne Slowey, the fashion news director of Elle, who has picked up a few on her travels. “The perfect mix of practical, exotic and chic.”
The secret is out…what are you waiting for?