My dear friends, L and J, just returned from an adventure in Panama. Traveling into the verdant mountainous jungles, they came upon an artist known for his creative ability of transforming the leaves of the toquilla palm (Carludovica palmate) into what is known as the Panama hat.
So now, thanks to L and J, I am now wearing my “Panama” at a jaunty angle everywhere I go these days. This is a hat like no others. Even on the warmest days, with the sun directly on my head, I never feel hot. According to L and J, the positioning of the hat denotes the emotional state of the wearer.
The Panama hat plant a.k.a. toquilla palm is not a palm tree. And it grows in more places than Panama, from Central America to Bolivia. In fact the Panama hat is originally from Ecuador. Artisans were weaving the leaves into hats as early as the seventh century. When they were “discovered” by the Americans and Europeans, finished hats were shipped from Ecuador to the Isthmus of Panama before heading out to other parts of the world. And that is why we now know them as Panama hats.
On December 6, 2012, the art of weaving the traditional Ecuadorian toquilla hat was added to the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list. The more I read, the more I know how important it is to preserve this tradition. I wear this hat proudly.