The Legendary Panama Hat

Did you know that the “Panama” hat actually originated centuries ago in Ecuador, even before Columbus arrived in South America? Then, in the 1800’s, the hand-woven Ecuadoran straw hats were sent to Panama for workers on the Panama Canal project to serve as protection from the hot sun.  Travelers and merchants then began purchasing the hats at Panamanian ports and the misnomered “Panama” hats began to make their way across the globe.

Today, the legendary hats continue to be hand-woven in Ecuador, home of the finest weavers in the world.  Made of the rapidly renewable paja toquilla palm straw, the eco-chic hats are lightweight and soft, yet extremely durable.   Each hat is unique and the very finest can take up to six months for a master artisan to complete – a masterpiece of fine art and tradition.

The Ecuadorian art of hand-weaving the straw hats was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2012, a designation used to define traditions, knowledge and skills that communities pass down from generation to generation as part of their cultural heritage.

Visit La Rubia in Key West and at our online store for the finest selection of authentic Panama hats for both men and women, offered in an assortment of shapes, colors and weaves; as well as fair-trade handbags, totes, scarves, palm ivory jewelry, ikat weavings, alpaca sweaters and more, all directly from Ecuador’s artisans.

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