Object of the Month
The object pictured here is an aparejo. Aparejos are pack pad saddles that go over the backs of donkeys and mules to form the base of the packing system, and protect the animal from injury. This particular aparejo is from the mid to late 1800s; it even still has the grass inside of it that was used as cushioning!
Large atajos (caravans) of pack mules and donkeys would travel the Camino Real carrying goods, and in the 19th century would travel west to California and as far north as Wyoming. Arriéros (muleteers) were responsible for packing and taking care of the animals, and controlled inland pack transportation in New Mexico. The caravans would be punctuated by the exclamation of the arriéros to their animals, “Arré!” In fact, the term arriéro comes from the Arabic word arré, which means “get along.”
This entire system of packing was passed on to the Spanish from the Moors of North Africa, was a guild-controlled profession in Spain, and was a very common sight in New Mexico right up to the Territorial Period.
—Daniel Goodman, Director of Education and Collections