The Tapada of Lima,or the Use of the Niqab in America from 1560-1860,for 300 Years

| May 21, 2012 | Comments (2)

In the Muslim world there are different coverings for women:

1.The hijab / veil: the hair is covered.

2.The niqab:the face is covered except for the eyes.

3.The burqa: the whole face is covered.

The really unusual and unheard of case of the “tapada” of Lima,Peru

1.”Tapada” is a feminine word in Spanish, which can be translated as “covered woman(tapada / covered).”

2.Lima is the capital of Peru, founded in 1535 by Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro (1476-1541),who was illiterate.The name of the river that passes through the city is called Rimac.Thus Lima is a corruption of “Rimac” and there is a river in the north of the country called “Biru”, and “Peru” is a corruption of Biru.Pizarro had conquered the empire of the Incas in 1533, a young empire, founded in 1438 by Pachacuti (ruled 1438-1472),who was a military and administrative genius, without a doubt the greatest genius produced by the Amerindian peoples of America,at any time.The Incas never used the word Peru for their empire,they called it “Tawantinsuyu”.

Their capital was the city of Cuzco, at the center of the empire and a few kilometers away was the city of Machu Picchu, knowledge of its existence being lost for 400 years, until 1911. Today tourists walk from Cuzco to Machu Picchu along the Camino del Inca / Inca Road, which takes several days.

The Coya,the Inca princess

The Inca Empire was the largest empire ever of the Amerindian peoples,communistic in nature and the same size as the Roman Empire. For a century the Incas chose the most beautiful of the Amerindian girls of the empire to be the wives of the aristocracy, it was done at each generation.The aristocratic women of the Incas,of the emperor and his relatives, were called “coyas” and so after 100 years of esthetic selection, according to the testimony of the Spaniards, almost all were coyas were beautiful women. a surprising and pleasant result.

3.Believe it or not for 300 years (1560-1860) the women of Lima wore the niqab by choice.At first it was limited to aristocratic women, to white women, but the custom extended to all the social classes of the city, and mestizas(half-Amerindian,half-white), mulattas (half white,half black) and black women also wore the niqab.It happened only and only in Lima, capital of the viceroyalty of Peru.

A 1:17 minute video showing how the “tapada” of Lima looked like

More details about the Tapada

Women covered their faces when they were in the street but in a party or meeting in the interior of a house or palace,even if the men were strangers,women would not wear the niqab.It is very important to emphasize that it was utterly voluntary.Its usage was totally forbidden by the Spanish authorities,they were always against the custom, and it was repeatedly banned,completely illegal.

But it was impossible to stop the custom.Generally,in contrast to the niqab, women in Lima preferred to show only one eye,which is another suprising feature.The custom was not imposed on women by men and it wasn’t worn for religious reasons.Analizing the evidence it seems that the goal was to flirt,to seduce and to escape the vigilance of men.

A Spanish saint bans the niqab

1.St.Toribio of Mogrovejo (1538-1606) was the archbishop of Lima, the highest ecclesiastical position and the most prestigious one in the viceroyalty of Peru.

2.The viceroyalty between 1550-1740 then included what is now Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile and also most of what is now Brazil, 80% of South America.

3.In 1583 Toribio de Mogrovejo, at the First Ecclesiastical Council of Lima, banned the niqab, known over there as the “saya y manto”.

4.In 1586 that ban was upheld by the Spanish Parliament (Cortes) and by the Spanish king Philip II.And those guilty of wearing the niqab were fined 3,000 maravedies.In spite of all this it was impossible to eradicate the custom,even though after 1586 there were many other additional prohibitions against wearing the niqab.

The origin of the custom

This is undoubtedly of Muslim origin but the question is how such a custom passed across the ocean if there was a law that forbade the Moriscos (the descendants of Muslims in Spain, officially Catholic, but in secret Muslim) to settle in the New World. Muslims were obliged to convert in 1502, it was “conversion or exile” (and 50% chose exile, 150,000 people left), and they were finally all expelled from Spain between 1605-1609, that is to say 300,000 Moriscos.

Statue in Lima in honor of the Tapada

The “Saya y Manto”

1.The saya was a long skirt, and the manto was a veil covering the whole body.Women wore it as a way to escape the attention of men, to conceal the face, and also hide social rank or skin color.

2.The case was such that a husband could not recognize his wife and unknowingly flirt with her thinking she was somebody else.A father did not recognize his daughter, and a brother could not recognize his sister.

The most famous woman in Lima

It is not St. Rose of Lima (1586-1617) but Micaela Villegas (1748-1819), an actress of Lima, and a very beautiful metiza, who was the mistress and lover of Viceroy Manuel Amat, despite a difference of 40 years in age.They were together for 14 years.She is also known as “la Perricholi” because in a fight the viceroy was jealous and called her “perra chola” (mestiza dog,the word chola is a colloquialism,in standard Spanish standard it is “perra mestiza”). In French she is known as “la Perrichole”.

“La Perricholi” in literature and music

1.She is the heroine of the story “The Coach of the Blessed Sacrament” (1829) by Prosper Merimee (1803-1870). Another story by the writer is Carmen (1845), later an opera by Georges Bizet (1875 ).

2.She appears in “The Bridge of San Luis Rey / Bridge of St. Louis the King” (1927) by American Thornton Wilder (1897-1975) and the action occurs in colonial Peru.

3.The opera “La Perrichole (1868) by Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880), French composer who was also Jewish and born in Germany.

4.Ricardo Palma (1833-1919), Peruvian writer, who tells about the life of la Perricholi in his incredible “Tradiciones Peruanas”, about 400 historical tales ranging from the Inca Empire till the 19th century Peruvian republic.


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