Cuenca may have a million cool old colonial churches and be close to both a national park and some Incan ruins, but that’s not the only thing it has going for it…..it’s also one of the major hat making cities in Ecuador. You see there’s this funny little hat called a Panama hat that is not actually from Panama….and here is where my story begins.
Long long ago in a far away land called Ecuador some people made hats. They called them Montecristos after the city near the coast where they were made. Skilled hat makers used different types of special reeds found only in Ecuador to weave beautiful hats. They then exported these hats to the people who were working on the Panama canal. Now the Panama canal is a famous place that many people from all over the world traveled through and seeing these workers with these beautiful hats, they thought, “Hey! I want one too!” So the smart people in Panama started selling their hats and then getting more from Ecuador. Soon these hats were being shipped all over the world and everyone thought they were originating in Panama so they called them Panama hats.
Ecuador is still a huge exporter of “panama hats” and they can range anywhere from $10 to upwards of $500….here in Ecuador (even more after they’ve been shipped somewhere I’m sure). The best hats are so tightly woven that they can hold water without it leaking and can be rolled up and pushed through a man’s ring without losing their shape (or so the guidebook says).
Cuenca has several hat making shops so we visited a few. It was a good time and somehow we ended up at home with a total of four hats. Enjoy these pictures!
Hats waiting to get dyed/trimmed/edged.
Although Alex looks quite handsome in this hat, the $300 price tag deterred us a little.