It is inferred that the toquilla straw woven began in the integration period within the “Manteña Confederation”, as in several figurines made of stone or ceramics, one can see that the men wore a sort of protective on the head -to helmet way- and may have been made with this material so common among them.
XVI Century – Early hats.
When the Spanish conquerors arrived in what today are the provinces of Guayas and Manabi on the coast of Ecuador (1532), observed native Indians using straw hats covering their ears and necks. These hats looked like “headdresses”, such as those used by the nuns or widows in Europe, then called these hats as “Toquillas” and to the straw wich these are made as “toquilla straw”. Quickly, the Spanish began to also use the toquilla straw hats.
Historically, members of indigenous cultures, such as Huancavilcas, Mantas and Caras who lived in the territory now corresponds to the provinces of Guayas and Manabi were considered as skilled weavers and workers in the textile art, of which probably were inherited the qualities that remain today.
During the colonial period, were considered as true masters of the woven straw hats, to the point where they were taken to teach this industry in other parts.
In the decade from 1943 to 1953 were obtained the highest figures for exports from toquilla straw hats or Panama hats. In 1855, in Paris opens a worldwide exposure, in which Panama participates with a collection of straw hats, prepared by Philip Raimondi, French who lived in that city. This collection made a favorable impression of European inhabitants due to the fineness of the fabric.
Despite being known as “Panama Hats”, the genuine hats are manufactured in Ecuador, not Panama. The hats took that name since it began construction of the Panama Canal, where thousands of hats were imported from Ecuador to workers.