Edit Blog Post
Published: January 14th 2010
Town square, Becal.
These concrete hats will get you invited to one of many studios in town. Simply stop to take a picture, and you will be approached.
We're back home now. I had tried to put this post online when still in Mexico, but most of my digits got lost. While I've datelined this entry as coming from Uxmal, Yucatan, the destination of this excursion is actually across the border, in Campeche state, in a tiny town not listed on travelblog's menu of destinations. After our visit to the ruins at Uxmal, we headed for Becal — Town of Hats, "Panama" hats. The scare quotes are there to awaken any readers who don't already know that Panama hats aren't from Panama. They acquired that name during the construction of the Panama Canal, because engineers and entrepreneurs saw the locals wearing these cool straw hats, and brought them back home, where they became so fashionable.
Most of those hats sold in Panama came from Ecuador. But these same sort of hats are also made in Becal, Mexico, using the same materials and techniques. And the locals here are every bit as good at making them, here in Mexico, as the Ecuadorians are. When I was in college, my landlord, on his deathbed, gave me a "fino" Montecristo, made in Ecuador. He told me he had paid $500us for
Houses wear straw hats!
This is called a palapa. We call it thatched cottage. It's a typical home in this region, although there are more modern homes made of concrete block, too.
the hat in 1928. (At the time, I thought he was delusional.) But then I learned something about the hours and cost of making such a hat, and the middlemen who bring them to market. (The story is well-told in a book: The Panama Hat Trail.) The "straw" (palm frond) is split so fine that my old fino hat felt like it was made of linen. And I saw a few hats in Becal that were made with that same feel. A fino still takes two or three weeks to make. But I will settle for the regular weave as being much more practical and affordable.
Getting to Becal was a bit of an adventure in itself, as we went through a nearby Mayan town named Halacho, where we got lost. The main road was closed off for some pedestrian event, and our detour wasn't expected. Such small towns have few cars. Bicycles, actually tricycles, were everywhere, as they're used as delivery vehicles and taxis. And when we finally found our way to Becal, we were solicited by just such a biker and 'delivered' to a hatmaker's home via one of these pedal-powered rickshaws.
Tot: 0.079s; Tpl: 0.022s; cc: 10; qc: 50; dbt: 0.0231s; 1; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb