Object of the Month

By Amanda Mather

Another month, another newsletter and another Object of the Month. This month we’ll look at shoes, namely tewas, or teguas, or tecoas.

In 1582, expedition leader, Antonio de Espejo, wrote about New Mexican footwear stating:  “Everyone, man or woman, wears shoes or boots with soles of buffalo hide and uppers of dressed deerskin.”  This type of shoe is the tewa, a word that gets its origin from the Pueblo word tecoas. Spanish colonists also wrote about them as teguas.  It seems the word “tewa” (not to be confused with the Pueblo language Tewa), was settled upon.

Pueblo peoples had relied on yucca cordage sandals for a very long time, and then around 1300 A.C.E. a change of fashion occurred.  Out with the yucca and in with the buckskin. Moccasins, and specifically tewas, were now all the rage.


When the Spanish arrived, as we can see from first hand footwear accounts, the tewa was still the shoe of choice here in New Mexico.  And as the Spanish or Mexican made shoes did what shoes do, that is totally fall apart, the tewa became their “go to” shoe as well.

At first, the tewas worn by Spanish colonists would have been Pueblo made, but as time wore on, a thriving cottage industry sprang up in New Mexico, and tewas not only graced the feet of almost every New Mexican, but the shoes were being exported to northern Mexico as well. In fact, so many of them ended up down there that the word “tegua” is still used in northern Mexico to describe a funky shoe.

By the 1790 census, there were over a dozen shoe makers in Albuquerque alone, and what they were making was tewas.  The shoe of New Mexico continued to be worn into the 1800s. William Davis, a lawyer, and author of a little book called “El Gringo or New Mexico and Her People” in the mid 1800s wrote: “A large proportion of the peasantry in the country still dress in tanned deer-skin and wear moccasins upon the feet.”

Tewas as the ubiquitious New Mexico shoe only really started to lose their grip on New Mexicans feet with the coming of the railroad in the 1880s when inexpensive, commercially made shoes became available to the Nuevo Mexicano masses.

The tewa is still with us, and at any given festival there will be volunteer Dan Goodman rockin’ his mocs like a boss!