Primo Panama Hats, a Dying Art in Ecuador
Despite their name, Panama hats are not made in Panama -- they're are made in Ecuador, and are woven by hand from a plant called the toquilla palm.
And the finest of these hats is actually woven in a hill village near the coast, where the few remaining master weavers get little recognition -- and even less money -- for headwear that can be sold for thousands of dollars in the United States.
It takes as many as six people to make a perfect Panama, each with their own special skill. The final process is often undertaken in the town of Montecristi, where the the hats are cut and the brim back-woven.
It's a way of life that's slowly disappearing as demand for the hats wane. Still, there's a lucrative worldwide market for a superior Panama hat, where the finest specimens can fetch thousands of dollars from discerning customers.
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