Tomás Lago y el Arte popular chileno

Tomás Lago and Chilean Popular Art

In these times of #stayhome, we want to invite you to read and learn about our traditional crafts. Today we want to share with you a book by Tomás Lago (1903 - 1975), researcher and cultural manager, pioneer in the protection and dissemination of cultural heritage. Thanks to the Chilean Memory portal and the National Archive, you can view and download the complete book in pdf format at this link . We share the index and a brief introduction so you can get an idea of ​​the valuable content!

Universal Hand Skill
Manual suitcase folklore
Customs of the grandfathers chiefs and captains
Folklore: what the people know and what is known about them
Bases of Chilean customs

National clay art
Something about indigenous ceramics
Pomaire Pottery
Procedures in manual practice
Pomaire formalisms
About the jugs and callanas of Cauquenes
Quinchamalí Ceramics
Practices of the trade
Typical figures of Quinchamalí
Florida Work
Between the Itata River and the Toltén River
Agriculture and ceramics in the land of the Araucanians

Plant net up embroidery
Basketry predates ceramics
The decorated pieces that were lost
Today's manual work
Hualqui basketry to today's aduja
Other colored decorative works. weird art
Rectilinear boxes of colored straw. What is the pilhua?

Coat and decoration fabrics
Works of cloth, jargons, ballets and blankets
The miscegenation woven from north to south
Locations of current activity
Cloth clothing of primitive peasants
Mapuche women always weave
The Araucanian loom. Blankets, ponchos, choapinos, trarihues
This is Chiloé
Chamales of Doñihue

equestrian equipment
The typical Chilean costume
Horse riding. Ways to ride a horse
The mounts
wooden stirrups
The current Chilean huaso

Forging of metals. Other things
Araucanian silversmithing
About the first impression. Roots of plastic folklore
Painted pottery of the nuns
Pyrography gourd mates

Something remains in the popular expression. Applied art
Popular painting. Coquimbo conchuelas

Ancient festivities of today
Collective festivals from north to south

Universal Hand Skill


The greatest attraction for a tourist returning after a trip abroad is among the objects they take out of their suitcases from other countries, other climates, and other customs. Sometimes it is about other races and other languages ​​that in some way are represented in these events, they communicate, they give sensations.

Those who return from Chile, in South America, at the foot of the great mountain ranges, also take out very curious things: ceramics (baked clay objects), basketry (colored and non-colored baskets) of all sizes and shapes; fabrics of many kinds, for clothing and adornment, on the body or as carpets, and objects for horses and riders: spurs, bits, stirrups. Feminine ornaments, musical instruments, tools, toys, religious images, etc.

An aspect of folklore, a true field of manual art worthy of understanding in its starting points, in the most extensive consideration of general culture, is what is called popular art in this case.

We must add that there are new interests in this matter throughout the world. What is typical of each country according to its geography, its climate and its racial population is disappearing every day due to the increase in industry and the expansion of communications of all kinds due to the progress of science, telescopy, radio broadcasting. , television. Newspapers, magazines and films, by establishing the unity of all countries in the immediate knowledge of their lives, diminish the local strength of traditions. From this arises the increasing importance of traditional objects from all areas of the world. They are accessible curiosities as testimonies of travel, survivals of history that previously only appeared in classic books and are now easily found in municipal markets.


What is happening in Chile in this regard?

It is a part of South America within the continental shelf. The racial groups that existed before the arrival of the Spanish, to conquer the territory for the Spanish monarchy, left many traces of their primordial cultures in the collective customs, in the ceramics, the basketry, the primary weavings that maintained their practice in the new population of Creole mestizaje. Indeed, the Spanish conquerors, dedicated to the warrior expansion of their army, suppressed their own manual labor, subjugating the indigenous people who thus maintained their manual tradition.

It is not very easy to understand what has been said, because in the current territory of the country there is a unit of population and state that did not exist before. In effect, within the current limits of the nation there were several racial nuclei or groups with different developments, each more or less primary, even with different languages. A succinct explanation may give some insight into the matter.

From north to south, a minimal vision establishes the following: What pre-Hispanic groups were there? From the Loa River to Copiapó was the Atacama culture. Then until
Choapa there were other people in the same lands today: the Molles and Diaguitas. In a confusing terrain, due to the subsequent invasion of the Incasian Empire, what was called the Araucanian race appears next, historically fixed between the Itata River - at 36 degrees - and the Toltén River - at 39 degrees -. Now, on the seashore, from Cobija to the mouth of the Bío-bío, there lived the changos, wandering fishermen who sailed on their rafts of inflated wolf skins. Nomadic tribes of hunters can be added that crossed the mountain ranges throughout the country.

We are only talking about an atmosphere. The current extension of the national State follows the ocean coast to Tierra del Fuego.

The Creole people acclimatized in four centuries are determined by the Spanish mixed with the natives, showing a fairly even social character in their traditional customs. Collective tastes and uses generally come from there. We can add that the previous peoples affirm certain preferences and customs in certain agricultural regions of permanent life.

The social influence of Peru on popular life established over time has been very noted. Indigenous uses and typologies that have been maintained in Chile in certain cases have been considered Peruvian, that is, Inca. History in its later ethnographic impacts has come to point out, however, that the forces of that Empire only came less than a century before the Spanish and no more than as far as the Maule River.


A summary still reduces some of what has been said so briefly. You have to remember it. There was no interest in civilization last century to give importance to skills
primitives of the popular classes until the knowledge or study of folklore was expressed. It happens that this science existed under its own name until 1846, when it was used in London for the first time, to point out the importance of knowing “the traditional wisdom of the uneducated classes that exist in civilized nations.” Around that, the words folkfore and volkskunde were talked about, that is, what the people know, and what is known about them.


The customs of today's Chilean people have been formed and maintained over the time that has passed in their colonization and miscegenation. The conquest was delayed and was limited to the fight between the Spanish conquerors and the indigenous groups of the long and narrow territory. Diverse groups, diverse formations and races, from the valleys and slopes of the mountains, united to fight in defense of their freedom against the domination of war.

The alternatives to history in this sense are many. It is only appropriate in these pages to make an allusive summary.

Along with the forced dominion of the conquerors, from the beginning there was the distribution of lands in the encomiendas (fiefs) to establish agriculture and the livestock of European animals (oxen, horses and sheep). The constant struggle managed to reduce the colonization introduced to the central area, further north of the Bío-Bío River. Now, the more or less sustained stability of these populations gave an aspect to Creoleism in its national development. In the long run, mestizaje managed its own development, achieving the transfer of new uses. In his mix he dressed differently, took advantage of new foods, little by little he submitted to the introduced religion.

There were different ways of dressing in the indigenous tribes according to their state of development; People covered their bodies with tangles of plants, animal hides or fabrics, depending on the climates inhabited from the mountain slopes to the sea. For two or three centuries they were incorporated in one way or another into the clothing of the Spanish.

We can add that the colonial history is very eventful and of strong adaptation to the new life through a system of struggle of the tribes that were difficult to surrender to the conquerors. Wars and uprisings by indigenous groups intercepted the new racial state.

Defeated, subjected to slavery, or adopted by habitable lands, they were forced to work in a very harmful way. In the first period they had to serve in the gold mines and panners during periods of extreme hardship; work in rudimentary forced labor. There is agreement today to understand how the members of the tribes were reduced to more than the warrior extermination: new diseases such as smallpox during the 16th century, the obligation of gold mines and other work, unpaid and without food, the extermination of the agriculture.

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