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ADDRESS & ACTIVITIES
ADDRESS OR VENUE
OPENING HOURS (or DATE if it is an event)
Rafael María Arízaga 7-95 street, Cuenca City, Ecuador
Monday to Friday 08:00 - 17:00
ATTENDING FOLKLORIC EVENTS
ATTENDING ARTISTIC EVENTS
ATTENDING COMMERCIAL EVENTS
A walk through the workshops and museums of the toquilla straw hat, curiously worldwide known as "Panama Hat", will make you discover that in fact it is original from and elaborated in Ecuador. One of the regions where it is woven is in the Ecuadorian Southern Andes, in the provinces of Azuay and Cañar. On December the 5th, 2012 UNESCO declared the traditional knitting of the toquilla straw hat as Intangible World Heritage.
In order to recover the historical memory of this handicraft the Municipal Museum-Workshop “Casa del Sombrero” (House of the Hat) was inaugurated in 2014, in the city of Cuenca. It is located is in an old and emblematic house that functioned as a factory of hats. The initiative is public and free to enter. The elaboration of the hat was the economic foundation of the Ecuadorian population, especially in the south of the country, during the 20th century.
Private initiatives also contribute to keep spaces where the story of the Toquilla straw hat is told. The first is the “Hat Museum” of the Paredes Roldán family (Calle Larga and Padre Aguirre, Historic Center, Cuenca, Ecuador). The factory continues operating on the site and the visitor can buy a custom-made hat. The second space is the Museum “La Magia del Sombrero” of the Homero Ortega company (Avenida Gil Ramirez Davalos 3-86, behind the Land Terminal, Cuenca, Ecuador).
In 1830 the hats were commercialized in Panama. The Ecuadorian hat gained popularity because of being: resistant, light weighted, foldable for storage, combinable with light summer clothing and because of allowing sweat to evaporate. When the Panama Canal was constructed the workers used it and in 1903 a photograph of the President of the United States, Teddy Roosevelt, wearing this hat during a visit to the canal was widely publicized, which gave rise to the name of “Panama hat”. All this history and industry is based on the work of thousands of artisans and weavers who live in the small towns near Cuenca, such as Chordeleg, Gualaceo, Sígsig, Azogues and Biblián. The hat is also known as the “Jipijapa hat” or “Montecristi hat”, towns at the Ecuadorian Pacific coast that were the original centers of its elaboration.