Flamenco mantons are associated with the Port of Manila (Philippines), where there was an important Spanish colony of merchants who brought goods from the Far East during the sixteenth century. Actually the origin of this piece is in China. The first mantons were made of silk and generally had beautiful hand embroidered flowers or birds. At first were decorated with dragons, pagodas and bamboo designs (typical Chinese decorations).
They were really big pieces in the beginning. They were supposed to cover both arms, going around them, and covered the whole torso. The light fabric made them more comfortable to wear, in spite of their big dimensions. They would not disturb dancers and performers when performing movements or figures, and advantage which became noteworthy for Flamenco dancers in the centuries to come.
The Manila shawl is strongly associated with Flamenco and Andalusian folklore, but complements the dress worn by the singers also and also at certain times, has been used as an everyday garment. As a matter of fact, it is not unusual to see haute couture models wearing some sort of Manila shawls.
China is the place of origin of this type of embroidery shawl. The first embroidered shawls and other clothing, and kimonos, cushions or tables were made of silk and hand embroidered with floral motifs of nature such as flowers, birds, and Chinese motifs: pagodas, dragons … all set in the eastern landscape.
Although its origins lie in China, Manila is the point from where the popularity of the Manton spread throughout the world. Manila is the capital city of the Philippines, a former Spanish colony. In the Spanish imperial era (sixteenth century) maritime trade takes shape in several routes: one is the route from Manila to Veracruz (Mexico) and Sevilla (Andalucia). This is how Flamenco Mantons landed in Sevilla, their new adoptive fatherland.