Woman's wedding mantle (lliclla) with interlace and tocapu design (detail). Peruvian, late 16th–early 17th century. Tapestry weave, cotton warp and camelid weft; Overall: 50 1/2 x 45 1/2 in. (128.3 x 115.6 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1908
Spain was one of the first European nations to master the navigation of the Atlantic Ocean basin and colonize the "New World." By the seventeenth century, it controlled a vast region that stretched from northern California through South America and across the Pacific to the Philippines. The extensive maritime trade routes taken by the Spanish fleet covered much of the globe. Asian and European textiles were brought into the Americas, and valuable local commodities, such as the textile dyestuffs indigo and cochineal, were exported along with the silver that fueled Spain's empire.
In Peru prominent Spanish men and high-ranking native women married to secure their social positions, as ancestry was often linked to status within colonial communities. These couples commissioned traditional tapestry-woven garments from highly skilled local weavers that now included a combination of Incan and European designs signaling nobility and reflecting the integration of cultures. Under Spanish rule, these same weavers were also commissioned to create large, resplendent tapestries displaying a mixture of European and Peruvian characteristics, and sometimes even Chinese motifs. In Mexico immigrant Spanish craftspeople formed workshops, teaching local artisans to create extraordinary embroideries, initially for the Catholic Church. By the eighteenth century, Mexico's vibrant embroidery tradition had expanded to include brightly decorated clothing and household furnishings.