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The Majestic Manabita Weaver

 

An artist’s dream…

Entering the town of Montecristi, located just 20 minutes from Manta, in the roundabout, stands a colorful statue that really makes an impression due to its large size (15 mts high) and detailed craftsmanship. At first sight, it seems to be a fantasy of the artist (the sculptor Juan Sanchez)… a beautiful woman laying over a paja toquilla hat while she is weaving. But actually, it is a tribute to the hard work of the hat weaver woman and a homage to one of the most important cultural icons of the province, the famous “Panama Hat”.

Manabita weaver statue by Juan Sanchez, Montecristi, Ecuador

The way the woman of the statue is weaving the hat is the way it is done by dozens of women in Montecristi!

The statue is adorned in a gorgeous off shoulder dress, which happens to be an actual replica of the dress worn by the 2015 Queen of Manta the day she was crowned. The structure is covered in beautiful ceramic mosaic tiles.

Beautiful mosaic artwork

 

How it’s done…

Women and men can be found in Montecristi weaving hats over a wooden pedestal. First the straw is placed over a wooden mold where they start the process. Then the hat is held and pressed by a heavy wooden piece that goes between the weaver`s chest and the top of the hat. One by one the straws get intertwined to create the brim of the hat and the work goes on for weeks, even months until it is completely finished.  

Manabita Weaver

 

Starting the hat

 

Weaving the hat by hand

 

Hat in progress

 

Finished product

The tradition and technique is very ancient and has been taught from generation to generation. Unfortunately, now a days, fewer people are taking up this craft and paja toquilla hat weavers are becoming more scarce.

 

An interesting history…

A wide variety of handicrafts can be found in Montecristi but the Panama Hat is certainly the most relevant. Ironically, it took its name when Theodore Roosevelt wore it at the Panama Canal, but the truth is that this hat originated and is still made in Ecuador.

Teddy Roosevelt in his Panama hat

In December of 2012, this hat was named an Intangible cultural heritage of the world by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).  About 20% of hats exported from Ecuador are made in the Montecristi area. These hats can be purchased as inexpensively as $30 and can go up substantially based on the quality desired by the client.

 

So, when you contact us to come see Las Olas Ecuador, be sure to stop into Montecristi to visit one of the local Manabita Weavers for yourself!