Panama hats are made in… Ecuador
The toquilla straw hat that most of the world knows as the Panama hat was ac-tually invented in Ecuador.
The mistake dates back to the 18th century when Spanish entrepreneurs in South America recognised the quality of the brimmed straw hats and began exporting them via Panama.
During the 19th century, workers on the Panama Canal wore these hats to protect their heads from the tropical sun. On a visit to the Panama Canal construction site in 1906, US President Theodore Roosevelt was photographed wearing a Panama hat. The picture went on to appear in The New York Times and ever since then, the headwear has been misleadingly known as Panama hats.
The best Panama hats are made in and around Montecristi, a village some 90 miles from the coastal city of Guayaquil.
Look to a limpiadora
Suffering from insomnia, angst, nervous tension or depression? Forget visiting a traditional doctor when in Ecuador and look to a limpiadora (herb healer) who can cure virtually any ailment using candles, herbs, nettles and egg yolks.
While limpiadoras have been performing limpia (spiritual cleansing rituals) for centuries, in recent years, the Ecuadorean folk medicine has become increasingly popular.
This sudden surge of interest in a medicine that has been around for thousands of years can be attributed, in part, to the twenty first century wellness mantra of ill-ness prevention over the modern approach of cure. For while western medicine is high cost and high tech, something that in this age of austerity feels uncomfortably wrong, limpias cost on average US$8 meaning they are affordable - in addition to being a safe and natural form of medicine.
Words by Kaye Holland