Coca Bag

About this object

History of use

The techniques, structures and some of the motifs have pre-Conquest antecedents. This type of textile conveys the most about an individual's ethnicity, sex, age, status and particular history. The exchange, offering and chewing of coca leaves is an ancient Andean custom that is practiced on diverse occasions, both mundane and sacred, including; payments to Pachamama (the earth), weddings, fiestas, during community work, and socializing after work, etc. Men carry and receive coca leaves in chuspas or bags while women use coca cloth. Coca bags are worn in a number of different ways proscribed by the status of the wearer and the occasion, such as; on the wrist, around the waist, over the shoulder or tucked inside the jacket. When a woman agrees to marry, she weaves a coca bag for her prospective husband.


Bought from Elena Quispe Flores and her husband, Domingo Quispe Cruz. Made for dancing in the Pentecost Fiesta in June. Also worn by Domingo for their wedding. Elena made the bag for Domingo as a signal of her assent to his marriage proposal. He wove and sewed a shirt as a gift to her which constituted his proposal. Domingo does not use coca leaves as it is prohibited by the Adventista church. Instead, he and other Adventistas substitute sweets like cookies for coca leaves and distribute them on occasions that traditionally require coca leaves.

Cultural context

coca use

Iconographic meaning

The range of motifs refers to local geography and landmarks, ecology, fecundity, as well as luck. The six part circle refers to the division of land into six sections on Taquile and the rotation of crops and fallow periods. The triangular motif is the wedding altar, 'lamarra casarakuy'. The profile bird is 'wallpa', chicken. The profile rodent is 'qowi', guinea pig. Elena said she wove pictures of things she wanted to have, such as; land, the wedding, chickens, and guinea pigs.

Specific techniques

Synthetic commercial yarns, z spun and plied 2-s, are retwisted before warping to make them hard wearing. Solid colours are warp-faced plain weave. Major design panel is warp-faced double cloth. Lateral design bands and strap are complementary warp weave with 3 span floats aligned in alternate pairs. The stripes with small squares have a float weave structure derived from a twined 2/1 horizontal herringbone. The bag is made from one half of a four selvedge fabric and is constructed by folding and sewing. The edges are reinforced by a tubular edging made on a separate warp. The structure combines warp twining with diverted warp movements. The weft from the edging is stitched through the bag fabric. Strap and lower tassels are sewn on.

Physical description

Bag made of red vertically striped fabric with a slender strap and thick colourful tassels along the bottom. White figurative and geometric motifs are placed in a wider central stripe, in two narrow side stripes and along the strap. Green and yellow solid stripes edge the design bands. The bag mouth and side seams have a tubular woven edging with a zigzagging diamond motif.