Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"Tocas", the beginning...

Bahia and Manteño Cultures | Inca Empire

Along the Ecuadorian coast, Bahia and Manteño cultures were privileged to wear the first "Panama Hats". Thanks to their creativity and skill to work the finest Toquilla straw and turn it into whatever they could, we can now enjoy the most beautiful hat of all times. Before the Spaniards even came to America, the Inca Empire lived a very good life in a well structured society.

The way they dressed says it all, it was very important to characterized each individual from the rest and they were very creative at custom making accessories and cloths. Bahia and Manteño people worn straw head gear, loincloths, and jewelry. Along the region, head gear protected shoulders and ears from the bright equatorial sun, and it also distinguished these cultures from other Inca tribes. Each culture had a sense of style, pride, and uniqueness. These are some of the Pre-Colombian culture pottery pieces where you can see that a "hat" has been used for many generations.  

Bahia Culture
Chorrera Culture

Guangala Culture

A History of Trade along the Americas

The Spondylus Shell | Red Gold of the Incas
The Spondylus or better know as the "Red Gold of the Incas" would predict times of shortage and abundance. Its beauty made it sacred, it was the shell welcomed for trade all along the Inca Empire in South America and the Mayas and the Aztecs in Central America.

Incan sailors used Balsa-wood that grew wild along the coast to build sailing boats. Balsa-wood is a great natural resource, ideal for navigation; its the lightest of all woods. Inca sailors went from Ecuador to Central America many times bringing pottery, fabrics and jewelry for trade or to give them away as gifts. It is undoubtable that the first Panama Hats were traded as well. Today, there is clear evidence in Mexico along the Yucatan peninsula. 

Becal - Campeche | Yucatan Peninsula - Mexico
Hat weavers that still live are proof that there has been a connection for thousands of years between these cultures. Inca weavers passed their knowledge to Mayan weavers; Mayan weavers use Jippi a plant from the peninsula very similar to Paja Toquilla to do their weaving.  

Doña Chari weaves a Panama hat in an underground cave
in her backyard in Becal, Campeche, Mexico.
Photo by 
Jennifer Pritheeva Samuel