Toquilla Straw History

On December 5, 2012UNESCO included the traditional weaving of the Ecuadorian toquilla Straw Hat on the Representative List of the Cultural Heritage of Humanity



The Ecuadorian coast has a huge land full of toquilla plantations, which grows in one of the best hot and humid climates by nature. Several centuries ago the Ecuadorian natives had the need to avoid the strong bright sun, that is how the art of weaving was born, turning a gift from nature into the ideal material to create a hat, the most emblematic symbol of Ecuador.



Since the 1600s, Ecuadorian artisans have wove several handicrafts, with a plant native to these lands called “Carludovica Palmata”. At the end of its long stems fan-shaped leaves grow, which are still cut off shoots to later provide the fiber of the straw for the realization of the hat, handbags or other products. The most important plantations are found in the provinces of Manabí and Guayas; and also in areas of the Amazon region.




In 1906 the President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, wore one of these hats while visiting the construction of the Panama Canal and it was an instant success. The toquilla straw hat was in great demand, because of its qualities it is ideal to protect yourself from the sun. From Panama the hat became international and people began to call it “Panama Hat” even though the place of origin is Ecuador.




It starts with the characteristic initial button on the top of the hat, called “plantilla”, using only a few pieces of straw and subsequently adding more until reaching a size of 2 to 4 inches in diameter. The next step is to weave the top part of the hat, called “copa”, using a rounded wooden block to guide the weaving process until it reaches the lowest part of the hat, called “falda” – or skirt in English. Finally the “remate” – finishing-off. It uses a special interweave, that leaves long strands of straw poke out at the edges of the hat.