A two hour, 40 peso, bus ride landed me in Becal, Campeche Mexico. From here I was swept away in a tourist ‘triciclero’ bike, heading towards the nearest caves where the Panama hats are produced. Hand made from fibers of the jippi plant that have been heated, sulfured and sun dried for days, the weavers sit in caves 10 feet below ground to avoid humidity while the hat is in production. In Becal, there are over 40 caves with working weavers. And almost every family has someone weaving hats, they say over 70 percent of the town works the trade.
Although you can buy these original hats in Merida cheaper during market days, I bought one from the maker for more. Hoping the money goes straight into their pockets. Two days of work produced a hat for $300 pesos. There are finer woven hats there for $1500 pesos, well over $100 USD. These felt like silk. All hats are bendable and roll-able, good for travel and ‘sturdy for life’ as the owner says! Time will tell!
P.S. Marcus is very passionate about the hand made shoes here in Mexico. Check out all the photos/info on his blog about the Huarache’s!