The Flamenco manton, also known as Mantón de Manila, is a vital part of the bailaoras outfits. The name originates in the city of Manila, an important port and capital city of the Philippines, where Flamencon Mantons made of China silk were abundant during the XVI century. Sailors and tradesmen used to bring these exquisite pieces from such a remote place to Spain, where prominent ladies would snatch them off their hands. Thus, mantones would almost go around the globe to be in the possession of Spanish women, from Manila to Veracruz, in Mexico, and then finally to Spain.
Mantones can be true pieces of art. Usually they are hand broidered, with joyful and delicate motifs, such as birds, flowers or arabesques. First mantones were ornamented with typical Chinese motifs, such as pagodas, or dragons. But soon enough, mantones de manila became the heart and soul of Andalusian bailaoras.
Mantones are supposed to be big, at least long enough to allow bailaoras to pass it under the arms, when they are dancing feverishly, so as not to lose it on the way. Mantones are also supposed to be light, hence they silk composition was perfect. The idea is to decorate, but not to overheat dancers.
There are as many manila shawls as there are dancers, in different colours and with different patterns. The common denomination is that they have transformed, over the passage of time, from a daily outfit to a piece of equipment which is most representative of Southern Spain traditions. There is even a local holiday in Ramales de La Victoria, a small town in Cantabria, devoted exclusively to the manton, which is around June. Mantones have definitely turned into a big part of Flamenco Music History, as it should be.