Antonio de Ulloa and Jorge Juan y Santacilia were two officers in the Spanish navy. In 1735, they joined French scientists on a royally sponsored expedition to South America. Their trip lasted 11 years and took them to Panama, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, and Chile. Their account of Spanish America, written principally by Ulloa, was widely read throughout Europe upon its publication in 1748. As this excerpt shows, it is fresh and insightful, perhaps because they saw Spanish America from the point of view of outsiders.
Visual Culture
Ulloa offers us a rich and detailed account of clothing across the social spectrum, particularly in the ways that clothing signals social status. While everyday clothing is usually such a mundane part of life that it escapes comment, Ulloa was a foreign visitor, and he saw the costumes of Quito with a fresh and observant eye. From Ulloa's account, we see that elites in Quito adhered to styles of dress set by Europe, but others, particularly Indian women, layered themselves in garments that were indebted to pre–Hispanic styles.

While Ulloa tells that elites in Quito mimic Spaniards in Spain, he also makes clear that clothing in Quito could never be mistaken for Spanish clothing, particularly in its extravagant display of wealth. From this description, we get a taste of the heterogeneous visual display of dress that would have been seen in 18th century Quito. Indigenous women, dressed in acsus and llicllas, would have stepped passed men in tailored coats and breeches, as social classes of all kind mingled in the streets of this polyglot provincial capital. But while Ulloa does divide Quiteños into three broad social classes (Spanish, mestizo and Indian), he also suggests that the bounded categories of a caste system, signaled by clothes, and neatly pictured in the casta paintings, were not so tidy as Spaniards and Creoles in the New World wished them to be.

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