In Central America, 16th century, a unit used to describe the size of pieces of cloth. One pierna was about ¾ vara wide and 4 varas long. So, for example, a 4-pierna manta would be about 2.52 meters by 3.347 meters, that is, 4 strips sewn together side-by-side.
Villaneuva states (page 27) “In 1557, the audiencia fixed the measurements of a length of cloth (pierna) at 5 × 3 to 4 varas and the weight of a manta at 4 pounds.” It is difficult to see how cloth even 3 varas wide could be woven on a backstrap loom, but the reference to a ruling by the audiencia needs to be followed up. Perhaps “3 to 4” is a mistaken reading of 3/4.
Relacion de la ciudad de Merida, 8 Feb 1579.
in Jose Maria Asensio.
Relaciones de Yucatan.
Madrid: Est. tip. "Sucessores de Rivadeneyra", 1898-1900.
Margaret A. Villaneuva.
From Calpixqui to Corregidor: Appropriation of Women's Cotton Textile Production in Early Colonial Mexico.
Latin American Perspectives, vol. 12, no. 1 (winter 1985).
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Last revised: 14 April 2007.