Panama hat time! 🙂
Now if you are wondering how we got to Panama so quickly – there is a very good answer to that question…
Yes, that’s right – and that’s because Panama hats are NOT from Panama. It’s true – they are actually from ECUADOR. Before you start grumbling about ‘why are they called Panama hats then?’, spare a thought for the poor Ecuadorians – they make these fine hats, and everyone thinks they are from Panama.
They got their name because the hats were sent to Panama to be sold. At the time that they became really popular (the 1850s) there were a lot of people passing through Panama – and when they got back home they would tell people that they got their hat in Panama – so they became known as ‘Panama Hats’.
In South America they have always been called ‘Toquilla’, or ‘Montecristi’ hats. Toquilla because of the plant that is used to make the hats, and Montecristi because this is the place in Ecuador where the ABSOLUTE FINEST hats are made. A ‘superfino’ – the highest quality panama hat that there is – has up to 3000 weaves per square inch, and can take more than 6 months to make. A hat of this quality can cost up to $10,000 USD!!!
Needless to say, we didn’t purchase a ‘superfino’ hat – or any other hat for that matter – but we did make a very enjoyable visit to a Panama Hat musuem in Cuenca. In Spanish it was called the ‘Toquilla Straw Hat Museum’ – I’m not sure if ‘Toquilla Straw Hat’ sounds quite so exotic as ‘Panama Hat’ – so maybe I’ll call them ‘Ecuador Hats’ from now on…
On the way into the museum, we saw an old-lady hatmaker taking her hats in to the museum. We wondered why the musuem might need more hats, but the museum turned out to be more of a hat shop with some exhibits than a musuem – but it was still quite interesting.
The hats are purchased from the weavers with the edges unfinished, and then the hatmaker finishes the brim, shapes it, bleaches it, and adds the band around it. A Panama hat is basically a VERY FANCY straw hat.
Inside the museum, you could check out some old hat-making equipment, and also watch people making present-day hats.
It was all very educational, and we certainly learnt a few things about making Panama Hats – but of course, that didn’t stop is from taking lots of silly tourist pictures… 🙂
We had a great time at the hat museum, and we even ALMOST considered buying a hat! 🙂