History of Panama hats
The raw material for the elaboration of the famous Panama hat is the "Cardulovica Palmata" palm leaf, commonly known by the name of "Toquilla Straw".
This plant is grown mainly in the mountainous regions of the Ecuadorian Coast and in towns of Eastern Ecuador, specifically in the Manabí, Guayas, Esmeraldas and Morona Santiago provinces.
When the Spanish conquerors arrived to what nowadays are known as the provinces of Guayas and Manabí on the Ecuadorian coast, they observed native Indians using straw hats which covered their ears and necks. These hats looked like headdresses, similar to those used by the nuns or widows in Europe at the time. It is this similarity that gave the hats the name of "Toquillas" (headdress in Spanish) and resulted in the straw from which they were made to be called "Toquilla Straw".
According to the legend, this native hat obtained its name when Teddy Roosevelt participated in the inauguration of the Panama Canal (1913). During the event he received an Ecuadorian straw hat as a gift, and without knowing the true origin, he thanked his guests for the gift mentioning it as a "Panama Hat".
In the period from 1800 to 1900 the straw hat developed into a world know hat. It was a feature of historical episodes like the California Gold Fever and events such as the Paris Exhibition in 1900.
We know today that the "Panama Hat" is made in Ecuador with the secrets for the elaboration of the hat passing from generation to generation.
Each hat is unique, completely hand made, and thus it should be cared as a very special item.