A handmade Ruana of yarn exhibited at the National and International Poncho Festival.

A ruana (possibly from Spanish ruana "ragged" or Quechua ruana "textile"[1]) is a poncho-style outer garment typical of the Andes region of Colombia, particularly in the Boyacá department and Antioquia.

Similar to other poncho-like garments in Latin America, a ruana is basically a very thick, soft and sleeveless square or rectangular blanket with an opening in the center for the head to go through with a slit down the front to the hem. A ruana may or may not come with a hood to cover the head.

Etymology and OriginEdit

The word ruana is of unknown origin but likely comes from the Spanish language "ruana" meaning woolen cloth, ragged, or street-related. However, albeit dubious, according to ProColombia (former Proexport), the official Colombian agency in charge of international tourism, foreign investment, and non-traditional exports, the word ruana comes from the Chibcha ruana meaning "Land of Blankets", used to refer to the woolen fabrics manufactured by the Muisca natives.[2]

The ruanas worn by the native Muisca (Chibcha) were apparently made of wool and knee-long, well-suited to the cold temperatures of the region where they were used not only as a piece of garment but also as a blanket for use in bed or to sit on as a cushion of sorts. Many ruanas are handcrafted with sheep's virgin wool. An 1856 watercolor shows an indigenous man in the Cordillera Occidental of Colombia weaving a ruana using a large foot-pedaled loom.[3]

Nevertheless, the pre-Columbian local origin hypothesis of the ruana is widely unacknowledged among Colombian scholars, noting that although pre-Columbian Muisca (also known as Chibcha) peoples wore garments similar to the ruana, the modern ruana doesn't seem to have evolved from these nor it shows continuity from the regional pre-hispanic garments,[4] rather the ruana appears to have been introduced after the Spanish conquest by the uprooted foreign Quechua yanakuna[5] slave-servants belonging to the defunct Inca Empire who were brought by the local Spanish hacendados in order to work the lands during the early Colonial period.

The ruana has a long history. It does not seem to be a local adaptation of the (pre-hispanic) Chibcha blankets, as Don Liborio Zerda wanted, but rather an imitation of the poncho introduced by the Quechua Yanaconas during the 16th and 17th centuries.[6]

— Colombian Institute of Anthropology

There is no evidence available to show... the transformation from the chibcha blanket to the ruana, and Liborio Zerda did not present it. On the contrary, there is an assertion in the chronicles that points out how difficult such a transition is. Antonio de Herrera observed in his "Décadas" that when the Chibchas "ripped the blankets and put them around their necks... they took it as a thing of great infamy". Today the wearing of a ruana is no longer interpreted as a "thing of great infamy", although there is still the cultural (and even natural) residue of ripping as an insult. But it is hard to believe that the local Indians made this cultural change internally. It seems that the Chibchas adopted the ruana from the poncho brought by the Quechua Yanaconas. The poncho was a foreign piece, of new style, which although it forced the wearer to run his head through the torn or open part, did not carry any stigma. The Chibchas (Muiscas) re-interpreted their own elements and held on to the poncho, ruana and bayeton with evident taste. In the 18th century, says Basilio Vicente de Oviedo, the manufacture of ruanas was already a major industry in many towns of Boyacá.[7]

— Orlando Fals-Borda, Antología

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Orosco, Eujenio del Castillo i (1877). Vocabulario Paez-Castellano catecismo nociones gramaticales i dos platicas con adiciones, correciones i un vocabulario Castellano-Paez (in Spanish). na. p. 19. Ruana, con r, es quechua tambien, quiere decir tejido.
  2. ^ Proexport. 'Retrieved December 2, 2011'
  3. ^ Paz, Manuel María. "Poncho Weaver in Cali, Province of Buenaventura". World Digital Library. Retrieved 2014-05-21.
  4. ^ Revista Colombiana de antropología (in Spanish). Instituto Colombiano de Antropología. 1953.
  5. ^ Fals-Borda, Orlando (2010). Antología (in Spanish). Univ. Nacional de Colombia. p. 8. ISBN 9789587193633.
  6. ^ Revista Colombiana de antropología (in Spanish). Instituto Colombiano de Antropología. 1953.
  7. ^ Fals-Borda, Orlando (2010). Antología (in Spanish). Univ. Nacional de Colombia. p. 8. ISBN 9789587193633.

External linksEdit