Jipijapa or Panama Hats
Surely you’ve seen this type of hat in artisan stores, boutiques, or just passing by in street stalls. I love them, they protect you from the sun while adding a stylish touch to your outfit. Although Panama hats are well-known in Yucatán, they actually have their origins in Bécal, a small town in Campeche.
The Panama hat plant is processed with special care through an intricate process that will define the final quality of the hat. First, the palm must be dried, peeled, and woven in humid environments, such as caves. However, the quality will depend on the second step: a good Jipijapa hat is made from palms that have been peeled lengthwise more than twice, in Spanish these are called Partidas. The very best hats are made with plants that have been peeled four times, resulting in flexible, natural colored strands that are ideal for weaving. Are there colored hats? Yes, there are artisans who boil the palm with natural dyes. Be careful: some merchants use spray paints to customize the hats they buy and resell.
To determine if a hat is of good quality, it can be rolled up and will return to its original shape without cracking. There are stores that will not let you do this, however, you can always test their flexibility and be guided by the price. The cheapest Jipijapa hats range from $500 pesos (one Partida, direct purchase from an artisan) to $2,500 pesos (two Partidas). Hats made with four Partidas can go up to $5,500 pesos.
When it comes to embroidery, there are multiple techniques that can be used, but the most famous is the cross stitch. When this is done by hand, you’ll be able to see knots and stripes on the back. It’s extremely time consuming, so not many artisans do it. Depending on the complexity of the pattern, it can take up to two months to complete a piece. The price of a cross stitch blouse is $1,200 – $2,000 pesos.
A more common technique today is machine embroidery. Be very careful when purchasing these blouses, as there are programs that replace the human hand. Trusted options will always be artisan workshops – such as the ones in Maní – or stores that work with them directly, such as Taller Maya.
In both techniques, artisans create their own designs and some even customize patterns to suit the customer’s taste. The most expensive blouses are embroidered on linen with tight stitching. Shading – the number of colors used to form a subtle gradient – also has an effect on the price. The more colors it has, the more expensive it will be.
Editorial by Olivia Camarena
Yucatecan communicologist. Your favorite Assistant Editor. Writer, blogger, and bookstagrammer in her spare time. She also experiments with TikTok.
Photography by Olivia Camarena for its use in Yucatán Today.
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