They Cover Everything But One Eye: Meet Las Tapadas Limenas, Mysterious Muslim Women in Peru

Islam has its roots in the current Saudi Arabia and because of that, Islam is directly linked with the Middle East. But religion should not have anything to do with origin and that is not any different in Islam. Ever heard of ‘Las Tapadas Limeñas’? Probably not. An introduction…

Muslim refugees

After the discovery of the new continents in 1492, a lot of people continued their lives there. Sometimes on a voluntary basis, other times they were obliged. Sometimes it was a combination of the two because after the Fall of Granada during the times of the Spanish Inquisition, Muslims and Jews fled to safer places to escape from the Spanish. From Spain, people mainly went to South-America, under them of course Muslims. One of the most favourite destinations of the fleeing Mores was Peru, where they had a big influence on the clothing, architecture, food and the social and political system. Because of the Christianisation of South-America, Muslims became, for fear of prosecution, crypto-Muslims. Those are people who pretend to be Christian, but remain Muslim in secret. In the second stage, many Muslims converted to Christianity. Because of this, Islam was not really present in Peru until the immigration of Palestine and Lebanese refugees in the 40s.

Las Tapadas Limenas: emancipated women

But the Tapadas Limeñas didn’t have the intention to hide. These strong, mysterious women came outside dressed with a hijab with which they covered everything but one eye. The Tapadas Limeñas or ‘the covered ones from Lima’ originally did that to distinguish themselves because they were often from a higher class. This habit was quickly taken over by Christian women. It almost became sort of a sign of emancipation because women could go outside safely and so they had more freedom.

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Mysterious and attractive

The Tapadas Limeñas were found exotic at that time and some men were even attracted by their mysterious appearance. As a consequence, the Church and some other laws prohibited these clothes. Still, women kept on wearing these clothes till deep in the 19th century. They believed it was ethical, but mainly because they didn’t want to give up their freedom.

Something that Muslim women today can learn of yesterday’s Tapadas is that it was their assertivity and strong principles which helped them to fight for their right to wear what they wanted and participate in daily life. The veil was, besides a (mainly) religious symbol, also a political symbol of resistance.

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Written by Ismail Eddegdag

Ismail Eddegdag

Ismail Eddegdag is 19 years old and studies Communication. He has an interest in travelling, current events, history, literature and foreign cultures.

  • Oya Akdogan

    Ever heard of female conservatism, put forth by Marjory Balzer? When societies find their selves in culture contact situations, women tend to be more conservative in order to ensure the cultural survival and the maintain of the ethnic identity (the reason for that can be deduced from the work of Claude Levi-Strauss, if interested). The veil being a political symbol, has always been.. Also in the formerly colonized Magreb countries, and I think nearly everywhere… (For instance today in Uyghur communities in China). However, religion and politics are very interconnected, so making the veil a religious symbol, makes it also a political one. Couldn’t help myself but to make these nuances.

  • outer_rl

    It’s not a great strategy for depth perception.

  • Voces

    That is not called Hijab, We called mantle or shawls, Las Tapadas Limeñas used to covered their heads and faces with silk shawls called “saya and mantle”, NOT Hijab