"Panama Hat" a name that does not make any sense. If this hat is from Ecuador, why is it called Panama Hat? Well, here is why....
In 1835, Manuel Alfaro, a very wise businessman from Spain, settled in Montecristi where he found his pot of gold. His goal became to export the "Montecristis", another name used at that time for the finest "Sombreros de Paja Toquilla" that came from this little town in the province of Manabi. Manuel Alfaro was able to find a very effective and organized system that produced hundres of thousands of Panama Hats to satisfy the ongoing and growing demand of these masterpieces across the world.
The production in the Manabi province was not enough to satisfy demand. Therefore, the city of Cuenca located in the province of Azuay, took action and created a hat factory in 1836. Eventually, in addition to the factory, a hat workshop was built in the same city where trade and manufacturing took place.
By 1845 another wise business character join the Panama Hat industry, Don Bartolome Serrano, an Ecuadorian citizen from the town of Azogues. Serrano developed competition by producing large quantities of hats in the region of the Azuay province. However, the finests Panama Hats ever made have come and will always come from Montecristi the city where the finest weavers live until today.
Panama Hats took off in production in the middle of the 19th century. On the other hand, the world was excited about the colossal project assigned to Ferdinand de Lesseps, which will unify the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans, "The Panama Canal".
For the construction of this amazing project, Panama Hats were crucial. The enviorment where the construction crew of the Panama Canal work was hot and humid. Sunny days made Panama Hats a daily must wear head gear and some of the finest woven hats could even hold water to refresh these hard workers digging out tons of earth.
Theodore Roosevelt fell in love of these hats while visiting the construction of the Canal in 1906. His picture wearing a fine "Panama Hat" appeared in The New York Times and the world then mistaken the origin of this noble Ecuadorian handcraft. There was nothing people could do at that time to correct this now traditional name of "Panama Hats" and its amazing history. The world knew the "Sombrero de Paja Toquilla" for the name of its shipping point, Panama and not from its country of origin, Ecuador.