Hatmaking in Ecuador

Ecuador is a beautiful and fascinating country with a perfect climate for banana, mango, pineapple, watermelon and coffee plantations.

The Panama hat, weaved from toquilla palm leaves, is a magnificent product of Montecristi culture but it cannot be separated from the history of Cuenca, a city that is now a Unesco world heritage site. In the late nineteenth century the governor ordered all its inhabitants to weave hats in order to meet the demand that was by then flooding in from all over the world. What had happened? Simply that Napoleon III had worn a straw hat at the inauguration of the Paris International Exposition.

Giuliana Longo, who has travelled to Ecuador's important centres of hat production to meet the dozen-or-so hat-weaving masters, is always happy to recount the history of the Panama Hat to visitors to her shop.

A Panama Hat keeps the sun off your head

...and the dust off your brain.