Unesco recognizes the real Panama Hat

LA PINTADA, Panama (AP) — Cultural authorities at UNESCO have recognized the artisans of Panama for their distinctive woven hats. No, not those hats; the famed “Panama hat” comes from Ecuador.

Panama’s real contribution to the world’s hat heritage is the pintao, or painted hat, handmade from five different plants and a dose of swamp mud.

Production of the circular-brimmed hats is still a family affair carried out on a household scale. The industry’s center is La Pintada, a district about 170 kilometers (105 miles) west of Panama City.

“They don’t have anything (artificial), no machinery; no factory as such exists here in La Pintada,” said Reinaldo Quiros, a well-known artisan, and designer who sells hats out of his home. “Each artisan in his own home makes the hats maintaining the techniques taught by his ancestors.”

The widely known “Panama hat” is a brimmed hat traditionally made in Ecuador from the straw of the South American toquilla palm plant. The hats are thought to have earned their misleading name because many were sold in nearby Panama to prospectors traveling through that country to California during the Gold Rush.

Artisans of the truly Panamanian pintao hat start with the fibers of several plants that are cured and then woven into braids that are wrapped around a wooden form and sewn together from the crown of the hat down.

Pasion Gutierrez, 81, grows some of the plants around his house in El Jaguito outside La Pintada, while others are found high in the mountains. Gutierrez, his wife Anazaria and several of their children and grandchildren make pintaos.  His eyesight doesn’t allow him to do the fine needlework anymore, but he harvests, prepares and braids the fibers.

On a recent day, Gutierrez said he’d gone out the night before to cut agave leaves because they believe the quality of the fibers is best when harvested under a full moon.

“It’s no good with a new moon,” he said.

Several bands of fiber are dyed black with the leaves from a different plant and then stuck in mud for three days. The fibers are woven into fine geometric designs and integrated into the hat giving it its name.

“The pintao hat has become an integral part of regional outfits throughout the country worn during traditional dances and community festivities,” the United Nations’ heritage arm’s statement said.

Depending on the quality of the work some pintao hats can cost hundreds of dollars. Authorities estimate that 4,000 of La Pintada’s 25,000 residents work creating or selling the hats.

Pedro Mendoza, a 50-year-old hat maker, hopes that the UNESCO recognition takes the pintao hat beyond the country’s borders.

“It’s really good what’s happened,” he said. “The hat for us is a way of life.”

Original article:  https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/unesco-recognizes-panamas-hat/4180101.html 

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An Interview with Smithsonian Entomologist: Yves Basset

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama is dedicated to understanding and studying the unique biodiversity of the tropics. STRI’s history  began with the construction of the Panama Canal and the  interest in surveying the flora and fauna of the area for the purpose of controlling insect diseases such as yellow fever and malaria. After the Canal began operating, entomologists and biologists involved in these studies establish a permanent biological reserve on Barro Colorado Island which is located in the Gatun Lake.  Today, STRI is one of the leading research institutions in the world. Every year over 900 scientist from academic and research institutions  from all over the world visit the STRI facilities to conduct scientific research and studies.

Today we had the opportunity to interview one of the prominent entomologist in the world who has his base in Panama City.  Doctor Yves Basset talk to EcoCircuitos Panama team about his work with the tropical ecosystems and the importance of tourism and conservation to protect the tropical environment.  Learn more about his work on this very interesting EcoVideo.

EcoCircuitos promotes conservation and education through the tourism industry.   For more information about our academic adventures, contact us at info@ecocircuitos.com

The ruins of Portobelo and the Transcontinental Train

Join us today on a visual tour of the ruins of Portobelo, to discover stories of Spanish conquerors, pirate attacks and times long past, and then return to the Pacific coast on the transcontinental railway. Click on the pictures to get a full-screen slideshow view.

 

If you want to see more of Portobello and the train, join us on a day tour there! Email us at info@ecocircuitos.com for more information.

Mission: VIEJO – Can Panama City’s Old Town Survive Its Own Success?

 

 

The Casco Viejo of Panama appears to be a contrast of the old and the new, development and slums.  When I visited the area in 2005, it was in sharp contrast to the rest of the city.  It was quiet, no traffic and beautifully remodeled apartments and residences contrasting with those abandoned and falling apart.  But the brick streets were still there as I remembered them from my youth.  A friend sent me a short article on this sublet written by Fred A. Bernstein and with photos by David Leventi.  The article was on a page torn from a magazine, but I found no indication as from what magazine it came.  At any rate, what I saw in 2005 continues to be the norm for the area . . . contrast. I will quote a few lines from the article:

 

The area represents . . . “the storied past and seedy present of Casco Viejo, a neighborhood Panamanians call Casco and view as both a shrine and slum.  These days, empty lots once home to squatters and stray dogs are giving way to valet parking, part of a process that may make the neighborhood more popular, if less compelling.”

 

A Manhattan businessman, Matthew Blesso opened the Tantalo hotel in the neighborhood and said, “To me, Casco is cool right now.”  When he went looking for property in Panama a few years ago, he started by looking around the new Panama.  He found it “Banal and soulless”

 

“But on his third day in Panama, Blesso saw Casco and fell in love with it.  Blesso’s 12-room hotel has an elaborate roof deck and graffiti-style murals reminiscent of his apartment in New York.  Night after night, Tantalo’s rooftop bar is packed with 20-something Panamanians, drinking until the early morning.”

 

“K.C. Hardin fell for Casco even harder.  A new York lawyer, Hardin came to Panama in 2003 to surf and never really left. Hardin’s company has opened two hotel in the district – Canal House, in 2007, and Las Clementinas, in 2010 – and next spring will open its biggest project to date: the America Trade Hotel, which will offer 50 rooms, a rooftop pool and, next door in an old bank building, a ballroom.”

 

Threatening Casco is the extension of a highway called La Cinta Costera which will surround Casco and isolate it from the ocean.  “If the extension to the highway is built, Unesco could withdraw the neighborhood’s World Heritage status, bestowed in 1997.”

 

“Though foreigners tend to be entranced – the wide variety of architectural styles, reflecting periods of prosperity over four centuries, make it more interesting than purely colonial outposts like Cartagena, Colombia, or Granada, Nicaragua, and almost as enticing as Havana – Panamanians are often surprised  that travelers are drawn to the area. Matt Landau, who co-owns a hotel in Casco called Los Cuatro Tulipanes, says that Panamanians tend to think of Casco as a place you visit for a few hours to look around, not where you spend your evenings.”

 

Since 2002, when some of the hotels and restaurants opened in Casco, travel magazines have been giving it a lot of publicity.  It is hoped that the Panamanian government will not wrap it up in concrete with the Cinta Costera highway.

 

Source: Luis Celerier

 

For interesting and educating tours through Casco Viejo, feel free to contact EcoCircuitos at info@ecocircuitos.com to plan your adventure for you.