The art of weaving a "Panama Hat" is both a legacy and a tradition: it is passed from generation to generation of artisans. These artisans work with outmost care so that straw tufts become very fine hats. The cycle is repeated, by generations in Cuenca, Montecristi and close by towns.
Our artisans focus their attention on the key elements that result in a top quality hat:
- Quality of the “Toquilla” straw used: The artisans select the straw from specific varieties and treat it so as to ensure it's flexibility and durability.
- The skill and ability of each person who weaves the hat (always by hand).
- The finish and the hat style.
Brief history of the “Panama Hat”
The raw material for the elaboration of the famous Panama hat is the "Cardulovica Palmata" palm leaf, commonly known by the name of "Toquilla Straw".
This plant is grown mainly in the mountainous regions of the Ecuadorian Coast and in towns of Eastern Ecuador, specifically in the Manabí, Guayas, Esmeraldas and Morona Santiago provinces.
When the Spanish conquerors arrived to what nowadays are known as the provinces of Guayas and Manabí on the Ecuadorian coast, they observed native Indians using straw hats which covered their ears and necks. These hats looked like headdresses, similar to those used by the nuns or widows in Europe at the time. It is this similarity that gave the hats the name of “Toquillas” (headdress in Spanish) and resulted in the straw from which they were made to be called "Toquilla Straw".
According to the legend, this native hat obtained it's name when Teddy Roosevelt participated in the inauguration of the Panama Canal (1913). During the event he received an Ecuadorian straw hat as a gift, and without knowing the true origin, he thanked his guests for the gift mentioning it as a “Panama Hat”.
In the period from 1800 to 1900 the straw hat developed into a world known hat. It was a feature of historical episodes like the California Gold Fever and events such as the Paris Exhibition in 1900.
We know today that the "Panama Hat" is made in Ecuador with the secrets for the elaboration of the hat passing from generation to generation.
Each hat is unique, completely hand made, and thus it should be cared for as a very special item.