Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

jueves, enero 22, 2009

About the Chullo

Captain Haddock (l) , person wearing chullo (r), llama in center

A chullo is an Andean hat. It seems to be in fashion this winter in New York. Confirming this, we have an article by my neighbor, Verlyn Klinkenborg, about the chullo in today's New York Times. He's critical:
If there’s a political statement in the chullo, it’s a little hard to decipher. Perhaps it signals indigenousness, international-ness. But what it mostly says is, I don’t care how I look as long as I’m warm. I’ve seen chullos that look like one cup of a knit bikini top and some that make their wearers look like mittenheads, complete with dangling strings. The other day I saw a fur-lined chullo that looked as though it had eaten the elder George Bush’s Russian hat. You can give a fedora a rakish tilt. You can wear a hoodie with sinister élan. But it’s impossible to wear a chullo stylishly. It is to the noggin what a golf club cover is to a 3-wood. It is a bag for the head.

In a way, seeing so many chullos in New York is a little like seeing so many baseball caps on Peruvians and Bolivians — a token of our global inclusiveness, like the Andean musicians you hear in the subways playing what you think is Paul Simon but is really a Peruvian classic.

Perhaps the anti-stylishness of the chullo — its simple functionality — is its politics. The fact is that really cold weather eclipses style. I see men and women wearing earmuffs that look like noseplugs. They are clearly trying to keep their hair kempt. It’s a lost cause. Your hair is not truly your own until warmer days and higher humidity return. Until then, there is no better way to get hat hair than a chullo.

Well, well, well. I've been to Peru, and yes, I have a few chullos. Don Francisco told me that a favorite green one I was wearing was more for a woman (because it wasn't red). The lined one I'm wearing as I type this, the one with the llamas on it and the mountains, isn't from Pisak or Ollantaytambo or Aguascalientes, it's from a local ski shop where I bought it about 3 years ago. It was-- I know this is hard to believe-- made in the US. It is the most comfortable head and ear covering garment I own, more comfortable than those authentic ones. It's not that I don't care if it gives me a rather permanent hat head. It's just that, bless its pointed little head, it works really well.

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