Threads of Time: Tradition and Change in Indigenous American Textiles

Ch’uspa (Bag) with Coins

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Ch’uspa (Bag) with Coins


Before the European invasions in the 16th century, indigenous Americans did not use money. Even after Spanish colonization, coinage remained a somewhat foreign concept imposed by the new overlords. Metal had long functioned as a high-prestige medium but without a set monetary value; textiles played this role instead. However, precious metal discs were often sewn onto garments in ancient times, a tradition that continues today. This ch’uspa (coca bag) from the Candelaria community in Bolivia, created for important occasions, is adorned with Bolivian peso coins minted in the 1970s and 1980s. They are suspended from the bottom, acting as a fringe.

These coins, repurposed and effectively rendered useless as a unit of currency, add an additional layer of status to this type of bag. They likely represented a high level of wealth; the man bearing this bag had the resources to use coins as symbols rather than a means of obtaining necessary items. The sounds made by the coins when the wearer moved may also have played a role in the regional dances performed at various festivals and exhibitions of traditional culture in major cities such as La Paz.


South America, Bolivia, Department of Chuquisaca, Province of Yamparaez, Candelaria


Yampara style


20th century


Alpaca fiber, cotton, coins

Credit Line

Museum purchase, courtesy of the Bright Collection of Guatemalan Textiles

Accession Number


Photo Credit

Photo by Michael McKelvey, 2017

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