La Girona VI

Red Insects

Precious metals were not the only loot shipped to Spain from the American colonies. Among the finds from La Girona, scarlet and yellow silk ribbons decorated the officers’ clothing. The red dye was obtained from the cochineal insect which lived on the nopal cactus in Mexico. Cochineal was imported in very large quantities by the Spanish and was in demand all over the world for its rich, carmine color.

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This silk, still darkly colored today, is testament to the stability of cochineal dye, the reason it is still coveted today yielding four times the price of synthetic dye. Today, you are most likely to encounter cochineal on your lips: lipstick and (natural) food colorant.

The bright scarlet wool cloth of the English Redcoat officers, famous in the USA from the Revolutionary War, was from cochineal. The uniforms were more suited for formal battlefield than Minuteman attacks. The more expensive cochineal scarlet made targets of the officers.

To be continued….. (Click for the first post of this series)

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