“TOTO,” a Bolivian saying, loosely translates to “cloth of the thousand hides.” A tOTO is a Bolivian phrase that literally means “cloth of the thousand hides.” Some Bolivians swear by them because they are made from hundred percent cotton, which they take from the cocoon of the yucca flower. TOTO can be woven tightly or loosely. It can be knitted, dyed or flat-weave.
TOTO is not limited to Bolivian national dress. It has found a place in many other countries as well. For instance, in Guatemala it is used to make headbands.
Toto was also famous in Honduras during the 1980s as the favored attire of the indigenous Garifuna people. They were known to weave it into cloth for protection and to decorate their dwellings. Garifuna men would wear it over their entire bodies, except for their faces. Their faces were decorated with ornately braided strips called culottes, which gave them a look similar to tapestries.
In Bolivia, toto is woven into boleros. Boleros are long, narrow strips of cloth that wrap around a pole. They are used as neckpieces. They look like large tassels, but when they are pulled tight they create a snug fit around the neck. They are also strung together with copper wires to form a rope to lash handmade soap. In rural areas of Peru the toto is tied around the wrist of a young girl to prevent evil spirits from stealing her dowry.
Toto, like many traditional fabrics, is made by hand. They are often left on a looms to dry, sometimes for months. When they reach their destination they are often woven again. Some styles have been woven hundreds of times. Today many hand woven toto are available at popular woven garments stores.
Toto, like jute, is widely used for making burlap bags. Because of its low cost, it is cheap to mass produce burlap bags. Toto is also used in making sisal rugs. These can be found in traditional Indian markets in the lower portion of the country or exported to South America, where they are used for floor coverings and decorative items. Toto has become quite a popular eco friendly product. It is used to create traditional South American handicrafts and is gradually being used to make green products all over the world.
The toto was used as an early type of bed cover in Japan. During the Edo period, from 1601 to modern day, the toto was used as an afternoon shawl. The Japanese called the shawl “mokamuku.” A mokamuku is a round cloth hanging from the ceiling.
Today the toto is still being used in the traditional Japanese ritual of practicing funerals. Often, rice wine and incense are laying out to be burned after the ceremony. The toto is also often used as a final offering to a deceased. The toto is wrapped in a sheet of white cloth and presented to the family.