The history of the commercialization of the Tagua is truly fascinating. The "vegetable ivory" was consolidated in the late nineteenth century as a precious export product, much in demand in Europe and produced by Germans who migrated to the country in the interwar period, in search of better opportunities.
The powerful German Tagua House (Handelgesselschaft) discovered in South America, particularly Ecuador, a large source of raw material supply, which led to the creation of various agencies in Manta, Bahía de Caráquez, Machalilla and Esmeraldas. The material was transported on board merchant sailing ships that sailed from Ecuador and crossed the Strait of Magellan to advance towards the African coasts and finally disembark in Hamburg.
The first shipment of Tagua left from Manabí in the year 1865. From that moment on it became the product par excellence for the manufacture of quality buttons destined to the haute couture firms. In this way the Casa Tagua Handelgesselschaft becomes the exclusive supplier of the raw material for the main Italian keyboards.
Incredibly the origin of the Tagua was a secret well guarded by the Germans for almost 50 years. This due to the mistaken belief that the "corozo", so similar to the animal ivory, came from the horns of animals as was the case in Africa. This is how a German marketing monopoly was created that obviously bothered the Italian manufacturers, since they did not know the origin of it, they had to stock up on the raw material in Germany.
To unveil the origin of the Tagua, the Zanchi family, prestigious Milan bottoneros for generations, decided to send one of its youngest members, Giovanni Zanchi Pesenti in search of the corozo. Giovanni embarked to the African continent, where he spent 17 years guided by the certainty that the German sailboats went up the coast of Africa to later go to the port of Hamburg. Finally through the indiscretion of a drunken sailor he got the secret: Tagua only happened in Ecuador, in South America.
This is how Don Giovanni Zanchi came to the city of Manta for the first time in 1914, where he eventually created a company for the production of Tagua buttons. Other events that marked the end of the German monopoly were the invention of the boats propelled by propellers and the opening of the Panama Canal, which opened the doors of the new continent to the world.
The history of the Tagua may be little known, but its relevance marked a before and after for the province of Manabí and of course, for Ecuador.