Panama and the History of Hats
This week I had the opportunity to sit down with Maria and talk to her about Mindo Hats. Owner, Maria Alejandra was born and raised in Panama City and inherited her love of hats from her father. As we chatted before the taped interview began, she talked about her home and her father – she was emotional and she has put that emotion and love into her business.
The History of the Hat
The fine thread straw hat has a long and storied history in Ecuador, South America. In 1849, Manuel Alfaro, a Spanish merchant, took over 200,000 hats to Panama in an effort to expand trade into the North American continent. The Panama Canal project is where the popularity of the hat began. The love began in 1906 when President Theodore Roosevelt was photographed wearing the hat.
The Panama Hat begins it’s life as a Toquilla Palm which is native to Equador. Young stems are chosen and harvested for production by using a percise machete cut that requires craft and skill. The technique is used to ensure the plant is unharmed and able to produce for the next year.
Weaving the Panama Hat is considered an art. It is a pure manual process that does not employ many tools beyond the skilled hands of the weaver. The skill is so rare that the Panama Hat has been added to the UNESCO Intangible cultural heritage list.
Mindo Hats was founded in 2021 and is based in Fernandina Beach FL. The name Mindo comes from a town in the Andes mountains of Ecuador where Maria has fond memories of her family. With a personal commitment to delivering the highest quality hats that best represent her culture and honors her fathers legacy.
Maria chooses her vendor partners with care. By choosing only the most skilled artists she is able to bring the finest hats to Fernandina Beach. The Ritz Carleton shops and the Hawaiian Soap & Trading Company in Fernandina Beach both carry Mindo Hats. Each Saturday Maria is at the Ritz location to educate, custom fit and share her love of hats with all that come in.
What’s Next for Mindo Hats
The fall of 2021 will expand Mindo Hats with a variety of fine wool hats. It was clear that Maria was excited about her new collection – I have to say that I love Panama hats and hers are exceptional. The new wool line is sure to be another amazing addition to our community.