La Bella Crucita – Thursday, 01/17/2019

“One week until our adventure to the Galapagos Jackson!”

“No rain yesterday and none so far today.  Another red flag day on the beach.”

“It is the rainy season – January through April, but it has yet to rain all day since we’ve been here, and we’ve been here a month already!”

“We’re going to be going to the Galapagos about the same time the malecon flooding is expected to occur once again.”

“Plans for the day?”

“A visit to the ATM after breakfast, other than that, none.”

“Remember we’re going to Montecristi on Saturday Jackson.”

“Maybe we should post something about Montecristi and the Panama hats.”

“Montecristi was settled during the early years of the Spanish conquest by those fleeing pirate attacks in Manta and officially founded in 1741.  It is located in the province of Manabi and is the capital of Montecristi Canton.”

“The reason why we are going to Montecristi is the attraction of the famous Panama hats.  The hats have been woven since the 1600s along the coast as well as in several small towns in the Andes.  The material, or straw, comes from the toquilla palm, or jipijapa palm.”

“The straw hat derived its name from the export of hats beginning in 1835, when  Manuel Alfaro came to Montecristi to establish his hat export business.  He shipped his hats through the Isthmus of Panama on their journey to Asia, Europe and the Americas.  During the Gold Rush, prospectors headed to California would pass through the Isthmus and in need of a hat for protection from the tropical sun and purchased the hats.”

“So that’s how the Ecuadorian made hat became known as the ‘Panama hat’ Nilla.”

“That’s right Jackson.  President Theodore Roosevelt visited the construction site of the Panama Canal and was photographed wearing the Ecuadorian ‘Panama’ straw hat which added to the popularity.  These days thousands of Ecuadorians make a living weaving the hats but few master weavers remain to make the Montecristi superfinos which can take months to weave.”

“I understand that there are different ‘qualities’ of the weave.”

“The quality is based on the tightness of the weave.  There are two basic weave patterns; the Cuenca or llano which is herringbone-like and the brisa which is a small diamond/square pattern and less intricate.  Some people believe that the brisa pattern hat is finer because it is a lightweight hat – the Cuenca weave utilizes slightly more straw, is more dense and generally has a smoother surface.  The grading of the hats began in 1929 at the start of the Great Depression when the government wanted to fairly place price and value on the quality of the merchandise.”

“So once the hat is woven, then what?”

“Once a weaver has completed a hat it is passed along to other craftsmen to finish the brim, shape it, remove imperfections and bleach the straw.”

“But Nilla, the market is flooded with counterfeit hats from China, buyer beware.  Some people have posted that the hats sold along the beach front are just as good as the ones you can buy in Montecristi and for a much more reasonable price.”

“True Jackson. If you want a high quality hat, you need to order it, have it custom-made and wait three to six months or so.”

“Knowing this will make the trip that much more interesting.  Be prepared for a lot of walking.”

There is some difficulty at the ATM, most likely due to lack of money in the machine, so after safeguards are confirmed, another attempt to be made later today or tomorrow.

Lunch at the Alaska Restaurant is wonderful, the best ceviches in Crucita.  Back to Las Dunas where, in hopes of a return visit to Ecuador’s Pacific coast in 2020, texts are exchanged with a realtor in San Clemente and arrangements confirmed for a visit to the properties in San Jacinto on Monday.  Just about 5:20 PM and the Trio heads up the Malecon for the usual bakery run,  they are accompanied by two female dogs who have decided to come along for the walk.

“Jackson, look at what the Ts brought from the bakery, still warm too.”

“And all for $1.25!  Yummmy bargin.!”

Back to the ATM, and success!  Dinner at Genoa, pizza.  The Trio is joined by Brian and his neighbor.  On the walk back, the malecon is quiet, a few people on the beach, a father watches his daughter’s progress on riding her bike.  Time to relax, watch the news and then go to bed.  The geckos are quiet and hiding.

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