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What you think of as a "Panama" hat is in reality a sombrero de paja toquilla and was undoubtably made in and around the city of Cuenca in Ecuador. The strands of palm fiber this woman sells (toquilla) come from a palm which grows on the coast (carludovica palmata). It is this palm, and only this palm, which is used to make these light, soft, flexible and durable hats.

So why are they called Panama? Here's one story: Over a hundred years ago many workers on the Panama canal imported these hats to protect themselves from the harsh sun. They were an immediate hit and they spread from there to other parts of the world and the name Panama went with them.

If you'd like to know a bit more about how these hats are made - click HERE.