National Hat Day: The Panama Hat is Actually Ecuadorian
National Hat Day: The Panama Hat is Actually Ecuadorian. Freepik

One popular choice to showcase on this National Hat Day, which takes place on January 15th in the U.S., is the stylish Panama Hat, known for its tropical charm and appearances in numerous movies (although maybe a bit less so this year, as the country grapples with a massive polar wave.) But here's the plot twist: the hat is not Panamanian; it's Ecuadorian, and advocates are on a mission to give credit where it's due and update its name.

Hats have held various meanings throughout history. In the Middle Ages, they symbolized social status. In the military, they indicated branch and rank. Today, they continue to be a fashion statement and a reflection of personal style.

The 'Panama Hat,' initially used to shield workers from the intense sun during the construction of the Panama Canal, gained popularity in the U.S. after President Roosevelt was seen wearing one in 1906.

However, contrary to what its name suggests, the Panama hat is a product of Ecuador's cultural history. Its origins date back to pre-Hispanic times, with Indigenous people in the region pioneering weaving techniques using toquilla straw.

This material, which comes from palm fronds found in the Andes Mountains, was initially used for crafting baskets, textiles, and ropes. In the 1600s, during the colonial period, European colonizers introduced hats to the region, resulting in a fascinating fusion with the existing weaving techniques.

In 2012, UNESCO recognized the traditional craft of weaving toquilla hats as practiced in Ecuador as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity. The detailed handcraft tradition means that it takes nearly a full day to complete each hat.

A Petition to Change the 'Panama Hat' Name

In 2022, Cuyana, a company renowned for its handcrafted accessories and founded by Ecuadorian entrepreneur Karla Gallardo, initiated a petition on to ask retailers to change the name of these hats. The campaign seeks to restore the hat's rightful heritage and acknowledge the indigenous weavers of Ecuador.

The petition explains that "newspapers and the global markets erroneously labeled it a 'Panama Hat' in the early 1900s. Back then, Ecuador exported this hat to the world through the Panama Canal and thus, many buyers on the other side assumed the hat was made in Panama. In addition, the hat gained further popularity when it was photographed on Teddy Roosevelt at the Panama Canal inauguration and newspapers credited Panama for its origin."

And continues: "After over a century of using the incorrect name, we are demanding action. It is time to change the wrongful name of the Panama* Hat and finally end the misrepresentation of Ecuadorian indigenous weavers."

© 2024 Latin Times. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.