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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.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.
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