Cerro Montecristi

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    • Day 6

      Montecristi Hat Makers

      April 6, 2023 in Ecuador ⋅ 🌧 79 °F

      As I mentioned in a different post, Panama hats are made in Ecuador.

      A more appropriate name for them is “toquilla hat” or “Montecristi hat” because artisans in the town of Montecristi weave them from a type of palm called paja toquilla.

      Paja toquilla palms only grow on the coast of Ecuador. In the town of Montescristi, we enjoyed a hat weaving demonstration.

      The first step for making these special hats is to shred the strands of the toquilla palm. These fine strands are boiled for 8 to 10 minutes. “Just like pasta,” Larry observed.

      After the palm fibers dry in the sun, the weaving begins. The outer leaves of the plant grow back after the plant is shredded, so it’s a sustainable practice.

      Isn’t it interesting how the weavers bend over to make the hats? Doesn’t look very ergonomic, does it? When we asked our guide why they stand like this, he chuckled and said “It’s tradition.” He then added that people can become hunchbacks after decades of hat making if they aren’t careful.

      Ecuadorians have made these hats for hundreds of years. In the past, it was considered “women’s work,” but in an effort to keep the tradition alive, guys are encouraged to learn this skill now, too.

      I used to weave wheat when I was a kid, so I can really appreciate their handiwork. And as a hat aficionado, I really hoped to buy one. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to afford one, though. They can sell for hundreds of dollars.

      Much to my surprise, the hat I fell in love with was a mere $25. It was the first one I saw. Even so, I visited all the shops in the area just to make sure that hat was “the one.”

      I will certainly treasure my Montecristi hat and treat it well!
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    • Day 6

      Unique Mausoleum

      April 6, 2023 in Ecuador ⋅ 🌧 79 °F

      Our guide told us to keep our eyes out for the name “Eloy Alfaro” during our tour.

      “You will see his name everywhere you go. He is the favorite president of Ecuador. Because of him, slavery ended. Because of him we got a railroad. Because of him, women got rights. In 1908, Ecuador became the first country in South America to give women the right to vote.”

      After watching the hat weavers, we wandered over to an unusual looking building, which turned out to be the Mayo for none other than President Eloy Alfaro.

      I’m glad to hear he is a beloved figure, because the large bust overlooking the skyline brought dictators to mind.

      A tunnel with a checkered floor leads to the lower level of the mausoleum. There is also a second floor viewing platform so you can get a different view.

      When I get home, I’d like to find more info about this mausoleum. It’s certainly one of the most unusual ones I’ve ever seen!
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    Cerro Montecristi, Q23886253

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