The characteristic straw hat of Ecuador is an art known in the world as “Panama Hat”. The reason for this peculiar name was because at the time of the construction of the Panama Canal (1914) when hundreds of straw hats were imported from Ecuador for the workers who built the Panama Canal. At one point the President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt wore one of these hats on a visit to the Panama Canal and thus the fame of this hat spread throughout the world. Due to this, the name of “Panama Hat” was adapted to Ecuadorian straw hats.
For decades this hat was worn around the world with the wrong name, taking away the knowledge of its true origin. The straw hat carries with it a great history that dates back to pre-Columbian origins. The native cultures of the Ecuadorian coast made this hat and made it part of their daily life.
True Hat Story
The straw hat originates from the cities of Montecristi and Jipijapa, located in the province of Manabí, in the dry forests of the Ecuadorian coast. Here ancient peoples have weaved the hat for centuries. For years the fabric has been perfected and has become the fine hat it is today. The hat is made by the hand of artisans, who from childhood are trained by their parents, who transmit the knowledge of weaving to them. This has been the case for generations, the fabric is still alive for the families that continue transmitting the wisdom of how to make a hat to the new generations.
But not everything has been so simple, as the years have passed, the interest of the new generations to learn the weaving of a fine straw hat has been lost. This happens because the hat is not fully valued yet. Weavers are not properly valued for the immaterial knowledge they carry. Economically it costs them a lot to subsist and they look for other different alternatives to generate income. Few artisans manage to subsist on weaving and it is because there are companies that export hats and sell them around the world. Also, the number of tourists that year after year visit the cities where the famous hats are made and buy from artisans.
In recent years, campaigns have emerged to promote awareness of the “Panama hat” or better known as the Montecristi Hat. Bring this art to the whole world, but making its true history known. Its true origin. A hat whose unique qualities are fascinating both from the moment it is made until it reaches its owner.
Elaboration Process of a Fine and Elegant Hat
The fiber used to weave the straw hat comes from the plant called Palma Toquilla (Carludovica palmata). A plant located in the forests of the equatorial coast. It is extracted by hand and carefully from the forest and then it is cleaned and cooked in sulfur water, to remove the chlorophyll and give it the characteristic natural beige color. After cooking, the leaves are dried in the environment so that they can be free of moisture. When the toquilla leaves are dry, they are collected and the fibers of the leaf begin to be divided into delicate strands that, depending on their thickness, are used in the manufacture of the different types of hats. For example, a fine hat uses fine strands that will be carefully interwoven. The aim is to obtain a cool hat, very easy to wear and with a perfect finish.
Continuing with the elaboration of this beautiful hat, once the fibers have been obtained. A craftsman begins the work of weaving. Starting from the top of the hat to the wings. The time that the elaboration lasts depends on the quality of the hat, it can be from three to six months. They use several hours a day to knit a hat. They do it in an awkward position, because they are standing, hunched over, resting their chest on a special stool that holds the hat and allows the craftsman to knit the hat. This is the most special thing about the hat. This art carries with it the hard work of artisans, their parents, and their children. A life delivered to the perfection of a fabric of hundreds of years of existence. Once the hat is finished, a ribbon is placed to give it its characteristic design. The value of the hat is usually expensive due to the dedication of time spent by the craftsman and his complex weaving.
An Ideal Destination to Discover a Culture
Its landscapes, people, and tradition are unmatched. Ecuador is a small country located in northwestern South America. Despite being a small dimension of territory, it has a great biodiversity of flora and fauna, unique animals, and varied ecosystems. You can tour the entire country in a short time, go from the sea to the volcanoes with snow, and then enjoy the Amazon jungle is a formidable experience.
There is an ancient culture that is so old and so current to this day, in a country full of traditions that live every day in the lives of its people. You can allow yourself to discover the mysteries that revolve around this hat and other precious treasures that exist in this country. Get to know first hand its origin, its people, and the hands that dedicate all their lives to making this art. Get to know its landscapes where the large toquilla straw hat appears. The experience is unforgettable and apart from enjoying and getting to know a new culture, you can help artisans continue weaving hats.
This country has countless unique wonders. Traveling through the landscapes of the magical and diverse Ecuador will fascinate you. Nature in its pure and preserved state. Its warm people welcome you, not only with its art but also with its stories and the undoubted flavor of its gastronomy. You can live an experience alone or with your family. Allow you to enjoy the tranquility that Ecuador can offer you. Dare to live a different adventure. For more information about Panama hats visit EcuadorianHands.