Why are Panama Hats Called Panama Hats if they are made in Ecuador?

Blog by Terry Richmeier

In my last blog about Traditional Clothing. I came across a fact that bewildered me. The Panama hats are NOT made in Panama! What the….?

So, I dug in to find out some information about them. Here are the results:

Panama hats are Ecuador’s most iconic souvenir, yet their name is attached to the country whose strip of land connects Central and South America. The handwoven hats, made with straw from the toquilla palm plant that is endemic to Ecuador’s Pacific coast, have been made in Ecuador for centuries and can be traced back to the Incas. So why, then, are they called Panama hats?

There are several theories as to why, and it is probably true that each theory has contributed to its reputation in some way. One major factor was Panama’s position as a center for trade and transport, especially in the mid-1850s during the Gold Rush in the United States. At the time, Ecuador did not see much tourism or trade, so it exported its hats to Panama to sell from here.

Additionally, Ecuador did not have the technology to be able to mark the hats with a stamp or label that said “Made in Ecuador,” so people assumed the hats were made in the same country they were bought in.

“Panama Hats,” by capelle79 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/51252776@N04/5655872438/)

When thousands of North Americans on the east coast went in search of gold in California, many traveled by boat through Panama to get there, as it was a quicker option than traveling across the United States via land. Many of these American travelers bought the straw hats while passing through Panama and returned to the United States with their new accessory. When asked where they got their fine woven hats, people said Panama.

In 1881, the 23-year project to build the Panama Canal began. Many of the workers who constructed the Panama Canal wore the hats to fend off the strong sun, adding to its association with Panama. These hats were perfect for the job since they are lightweight and breathable. The Panama hat gained even more fame when President Theodore Roosevelt was photographed in one of the straw hats while visiting the Panama Canal in 1906. The photo was widely published in the U.S. and was mistakenly called a Panama hat; from that point on, the name “Panama hat” really stuck.

President Theodore Roosevelt in a Panama Hat

Others claim that the travelers passing through the Panama Canal over time who wore the hat gave it its name, rather than the canal workers or President Teddy Roosevelt. No matter what you believe the real origin or continued use of the term “Panama hat” for the Ecuadorian-made product is, there is no doubt that these hats are made in Ecuador,  primarily in and around Cuenca and on the coast in towns like Montecristi and Jipijapa (which is why the hat was actually technically called a Jipijapa hat).

I found this information on Vivatravelguides.com

So do as President Theodore Roosevelt did, come down, Stay with us at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast, Purchase your hats and enjoy the benefits of sun blockage, pass the Panama Canal and be a part of history! Just as we did!

Is it safe for women to travel alone around Panama?

Debra at canal

What is it like traveling alone as a women? That is a question I get asked every time I set out on an adventure. I understand for some women it would be something they would never think of doing alone for many reasons.
What always comes to mind first is will I be safe. Of course important to think about when traveling by yourself. Here are a few things I try and remember:
– Always keep a local map with you and make sure you familiarize yourself with it before leaving your hotel…most hotels offer a free map of the area
– When out at night it’s wise to take a taxi back to your hotel. Here in Boquete its costs just a few dollars
– Remember alcohol will dull the senses so do not overdue it
– Never leave with people you just met no matter how sweet and nice they appear
– I also send a quick email back home to a family member with information of where I am staying It takes only a few seconds but important for the people on the other end as well
– Know how to handle yourself in the case of unwanted attention, and that usually will happen

Debra in Casco ViejoNow about eating out alone in a restaurant. The first few times you experience it may seem a little strange. What I do is bring my ipad or a guide book so that I have something to keep me occupied. What I liked about eating out in Ecuador was that if you are alone at a table for 4, other people will come and sit with you. It’s just how they do it there and I enjoyed that. I have met some wonderful people that way and now I am not shy to do the same. Remember to be respectful of the people and customs of the country you are visiting, you are a guest in that country and so behave as one.

Also I found that staying in a B&B’s makes me feel safer and like I have a temporary home away from home. There is always someone around with useful information about the area and you don’t have to eat breakfast alone…bonus!!
Another helpful idea before you leave home is to spend time researching where your off to especially if you have limited time and want to make sure you see the things that are important to you. Book tours in advance so you won’t miss out. Also be aware of the country currency (it may surprise some people but the American dollar is not the worlds currency) and the availability of ATM machines. I never try to carry much cash and I do use ATM machines and have yet to have an issue with them.

Debra in Bocas del TorroWe here at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast welcome single travels. We know that you will feel at home and safe during your stay with us. We are happy to assist you in booking tours or giving you information about the area so you see all there is to offer.

Lastly remember it is ok to travel alone. There is not a thing wrong with it and does not mean you’re a failure in any way. People travel alone every day all around the world. Please do not let fear keep you from exploring, it’s your choice. I guarantee you will feel proud of yourself after your first adventure alone and each time you will be more comfortable and gain more confidence. I have been traveling alone to almost every province in Panama and can say with certainty  this is one friendly and safe country to spend time exploring.

Debra Boquete
There is a big beautiful world out there just waiting for you to discover. So go get started making some priceless memories today!

Remember, when traveling through Panama don’t forget to stay with us at Casa De Montaña Bed & Breakfast in beautiful Boquete.

Capture the natural beauty! – Boquete PhotoGrafia

Blog by Manzar Lari



Panama is known for its bio-diversity, natural beauty, “happy” people and of course the Panama Canal, among other things! Why not capture these moments and make them immortal for others to enjoy for years to come? The photography group (called Boquete Photo Club) is doing just that!

We recently met up with Robert, a soft spoken, genuinely nice and caring individual. Photography is his passion and it is quite evident as soon as you meet him. Robert was introduced to us through a mutual friend and we at Casa de Montaña are so glad we met. Here is what we found out about him:

Robert Brauns grew up and spent the majority of his life in the scenic northeastern United States. His appreciation and love of the outdoors, including sports fishing and skiing, led to his desire to capture all the natural beauty surrounding him on film. Retirement from a busy and rewarding career in the late 1990s, and a subsequent move to Nicaragua and then to Panama, provided the incentive and time for him to become more involved in his photographic endeavors. Living in the beautiful surroundings of Chiriqui Province in the diverse country of Panama has inspired his photographic work. In recent years, Robert has been enjoying capturing the incredibly varied bird life, the fascinating colors and textures of the local flora and fauna, and especially the vibrant life surrounding all the local festivals. Recent work of Robert Brauns can be viewed by requesting current weblinks. BoqueteFotos – email boquetefotos@gmail.com – Phone: 507-6251-9961.

We have some great pieces of photo art displayed at Casa de Montaña art gallery on the second floor. This art work is reasonably priced and depicts candid shots of local “happy” people and nature photos which are stunning and colorful. Stop by and view these works of art as well as get a tour of our Bed & Breakfast any time!

Panama Canal – Century Celebration and the upcoming expansion!

By Eliecer Andres Lay



What is the Panama Canal? It is a waterway between the Atlantic Ocean (via the Caribbean Sea) and the Pacific Ocean, across the Isthmus of Panama at its narrowest point. Its construction represented one of the greatest successes of modern engineering. It is 80 kilometers from one point to another, with a depth of 12-13 meters and a width of 90 to 300 meters, depending on the section. Panama Canal has two port terminals, one in each ocean, and three sets of locks, and one of the largest artificial lakes (Gatun Lake) in the world.


Since its opening, Panama Canal has had important effects on the transport around the world – short time and distance, maritime communication and fostering of trade. The major users of this pathway are the United States, China, Chile, Japan and South Korea, and generally the products being transported by the vessels are grain and oil, among others products. The Panama Canal website says that over 700,000 have crossed the Canal boats for 100 years. Since its opening, which occurred on August 15, 1914, it has had a huge positive impact on the economy of Panama.

The Panama Canal has greatly influenced the integration and cohesion of Panamanian territory, to consecrate the physical (economic and cultural) separation of the capital and the provinces. And this also has its history:

  • In 1931 the Thatcher Ferry put up three ferries that connected the two banks.
  • In 1942, opened a swinging bridge, which already represented a breakthrough in communications, but this only worked when no ships passed through the canal.
  • In 1962, the Bridge of the Americas, a beautiful and vital artery of 1,654 meters long and 118 meters above sea level, which runs the channel outlet to the Pacific Ocean opens.
  • In 2005 Panama began offering services of the Centennial Bridge, the second structure that allows traffic between the capital and inland populations. This is 15km. north of the Bridge of the Americas, crosses the Gaillard Cut and measures 1052 meters with an elevation of 80 meters.

 The authority of Panama Canal has created a website http://www.100yearspanamacanal.com/ in honor to commemorate the century of the Canal and this is what they wrote:

Panama is going to celebrate the 100th Canal Anniversary by different events throughout the year. The events will highlight the aspects that have made the Panama Canal an international symbol, but also have an eye on Panama`s future, as well as celebrate Panama’s full sovereignty over the Canal, shared the Canal administrator, Jorge Luis Quijano. First of all, the Canal management got a new name. The former brand “Autoridad de Canal de Panama” (ACP) has been changed to the less aggressive “Canal De Panama” (CDP) which also demonstrates the independence from the US. The change of the name brand comes along with a new brand logo and a new, pleasing sub title that reads “La maravilla eres tú.” (You are the wonder.) In addition to that, a temporary event logo for the CDP has been developed in order to tag the centennial year as a special event recognizable to everybody. The anniversary logo was introduced to the public while the official opening ceremony for the Anniversary Countdown on August 14, 2013 at the Miraflores Locks in Panama.

As a cooperation between Panama`s City of Knowledge (Ciudad del Saber) and Fundación Arte y Cultura Panama, a second event has also already taken place. City of Knowledge hosted an extensive book exhibition under the name “The Panama Canal and its Architectural Legacy (1905-1920)” that tried to make up a connection between the public and “those figures whose ideas and work served largely to form the character of architecture and landscape of the former Canal Zone.”


As an open space the Cinta Costera Project is already showcasing Panama`s rapid growth thereby giving a warm welcome to visitors that will be impressed by a skyline of Panama City with the international flavor of cities like Buenos Aires or Shanghai.

With Frank Gehry`s Biodiversity Museum on the Causeway of Balboa, Panama also celebrates itself as a pivot point for the past of the continents. The new “Bridge of Life”, as the architect himself refers to the unconventional building, can be seen from Panama Bay, as well as from the Canal entrance. On 4000 square meters it will host several exhibitions in the future, highlighting Panama`s extraordinary biodiversity.


Last but not least, Panama celebrates the Canal by a generous but also necessary expansion project that includes new locks, wider shipping lanes and bigger ports, all together worth over 5 billion Dollars. Nowadays, construction is underway for these third set of locks, which is a massive project to expand the Panama Canal. This extension will be the largest since the construction of the canal. The Panama Canal Authority proposed the project after years of study. Panamanian Ex-President Martín Torrijos presented the plan on April 24, 2006 and Panamanian citizens approved it shortly afterwards.

The official opening of the new Canal was set for August 14, 2014 and was going to be accompanied by several festival events throughout the city. Since this is such a huge undertaking, the completion has been delayed for a year or two. The Panamanians as well as the rest of the world are anxiously waiting to see this project come to an end and also to see what impact this will have on trade around the world.

This 100 year old Canal which manages five percent of worldwide shipments, thereby connecting more than 144 routes, 1,700 ports and 160 countries, can be considered one of the most influential human accomplishments of the past Century. Today there are hardly any Panamanians that are not affected by the Canal which brings the country billions of annual income and offers almost 10,000 local jobs.

The Panama Canal has been a fundamental part in Panama’s growing economy as well as global economy. It not only has brought benefit into our country but in the community, culture and more. It has created a multicultural, diverse and heterogeneous society in a country that was growing at that time. The country was completely transformed after the creation of the Canal. United States invested a huge amount of money in improving the condition of existing infrastructure, which improved the quality of life, especially in cities near the Canal itself.

As a Panamanian, I am excited to see how the economy and job prospects continue to improve for the average Panamanian. I am hoping that the rest of the country also continues to benefit from these canal improvements. Panama is a developing nation and the Panama Canal has been a major source of income to our people for the past century and will hopefully continue to be for the coming century! Come on down and visit Miraflores Locks in Panama City, take a cruise through the canal, take a train ride or drive the distance to see Gatun Lake and the city of Colon, visit the many museums that show the construction and history of the Panama Canal. This is my invitation to the visitors and people considering relocating to my beautiful country!




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