Nowadays, the world already knows and enjoys the beauty and elegance of the famous Panama Hats, but not everyone knows the story behind it!
The toquilla straw hat within the Andes Munay project has gigantic importance. In 2019, after conducting several market studies and defining the idea of the project, it was precisely the Toquilla straw hat the first product chosen to represent our project in Hungary. These are some of the reasons why a hat made of straw was the perfect representative:
Surely the name "Panama Hat" sounds more familiar to many, and it is because this has been the name that was given to the hat since the beginning of the 20th century, a name that continues to confuse users and clothing brands since the hat has been made and can only be produced in Ecuador.
The name of Panama Hat is closely connected with the construction of the Panama Canal that began in 1904. Toquilla Straw hats, elaborated in the city of Montecristi, Ecuador, began to be exported in large quantities to the workers in the canal. The success was so great that it even caught the attention of the president of Panama, Belisario Porras.
In 1906, the former president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, visited the construction of the Panama Canal for the first time. During his visit, the former president of Panama requested that a straw hat be made for President Roosevelt, and he wore the hat during the Canal review and the cameramen and media showed this product to the world, but failed to mention a small detail. They confused the identity of the hat by assuring that it was a representative gift from Panama without mentioning that it was a straw hat made 100% in Ecuador.
In 1944, the Toquilla Straw hat became the most exported product from Ecuador, generating a great economic impact in the country and specifically in artisan communities. The world started to become familiar with the hat and that is how it began to position itself in various markets as the finest hat made of straw.
The act of weaving the hat is so unique, skilled, respected and culturally significant that in 2012 UNESCO declared it an Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH). UNESCO’s list of ICH’s includes a diverse array of “practices, representations, expressions, knowledge or skills considered to be part of a place’s cultural heritage”.
The importance of ICH is not the cultural manifestation itself, but rather the wealth of knowledge and skills that is transmitted through it from one generation to the next.
Toquilla Straw hat production
We, as Andes Munay, decided to choose the Straw Toquilla hat as it represents our history, our artisans, and their great capacity for innovation and work. Knowing that the global market knows this hat, without understanding its origin or the history behind it, represents a challenge and a responsibility for us with our artisans to be able to show the hat not only as a garment but as a symbol of our culture and our communities that continue to work without being fairly rewarded. Through the hat, we intend to show the world the true creative hands and also expose our country, Ecuador, as a land full of culture and history.
The weavers are mostly peasant families and it’s through observation and imitation that transmission of weaving techniquesoccurs within the home from an early age. The next chapter will allow you to know much more about our artisans, the true geniuses and artists, who are the fundamental basis of this project.