Quito, august 2nd (La Calle). – In Ecuador, we know it as paja toquilla hat but if you visit another country, they probably call it a Panama hat. The history of the name of this traditional hat reflects an unfair adjudication of a product that belongs to the weavers in Montecristi, Manabí.
El País journal explained the particular history of the name. We have to go back in time to 1906 when the US president Theodore Roosevelt went to supervise the works on the Panama Canal. To protect the president’s health because of the extrem heat in that zone, they gave him a hat. It wasn’t made of felt, but of straw. The light didn’t pass the hat because of the way it was fabric.
The black and white pictures pointed out the elegance of the hat. When he came back to the States, the journalists asked about the accesory. His answer would seal the hat’s destiny forever. “It’s a Panama hat“, said.
An unintentional robbery
Roosevelt ignored that the hat he was wearing wasn’t panamanian but ecuadorian. Paja toquilla hats arrived to Panama because of general Eloy Alfaro Delgado, president of Ecuador (1895 -1901 / 1906 – 1911), who saw in the hats, an opportunity for open a selling market in that country.
The trouble with the name, actually it’s an easy name to pronounce, was the invisibility for its real origin in Ecuador and difficult process in orden to make the straw to take a cream color and the fine threads don’t let the light pass.
“You need three people to make a paja toquilla hat. First, the ‘taquillero’, the person who picks the straw, dries it and put it in sulfur. Then, the person who knits it. This process could take even 8 months, that depends on the number of knots. Finally, the person who polish and iron it”, said Modesto Maro Pachay to El País.
A new baptism
Cuyana, a company that makes this kind of hats, decided to launch a proposal in change.org with the name “It is not a Panama hat” to return the accesory to the origin.
“It’s time to change the name of Panama hat and finish the lack of recognition to the ecuadorian weavers. We have to demand a new name to honor the real history of the hat. Alow the weavers, mostly women, participate in this history and pick the hat’s name”, said the request.
Cuyana have discussed with others ecuadorian organization for making this request true. Thet have two name options. The Toquillera, for the people who make it or Montecristi hat, for the place where they created it.
Read the article in spanish: La historia del ‘Panama hat’ y la lucha por visibilizar su origen