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Painted Hat is Authentically Panamanian

The hat is a garment which is generally used to protect us from the sun. In our country, men in the countryside use a type of hat commonly known as the "sombrero pintao,"

or painted hat. They are usually made using natural fibers from plants such as rush, a type of reed, bellota, a type of miniature palm frond or pita, similar in appearance to the aloe vera plant, which are suitable for our climate. The dark color for the stripes is obtained from the chisná plant, whose leaves are boiled along with the fibers to be dyed. This whole process is carried out by hand, using techniques passed down from generation to generation. The quality of these hats is defined by the number of times the fiber had to go around to make the hat, so the simplest hats have 15 or less rounds and very fine hats with 16 to 24 rounds, which are much more expensive. For example, a painted hat with 16 rounds can cost from about 150 to 500 dollars.

In the rural countryside other types of hats are made using different materials, such as the white hat in the central provinces, the reed or cream colored hat in Veraguas, Los Santos and Coclé and the hat from the spinning palm, in northern Santa Fe de Veraguas.

The hats are divided according to how they are colored, or painted. The Mosquito style has many black spots on the braids. The Blanco, also known as the "ñopito" hat is totally white, and according to the taste of the buyer, may have a small black coloring on one side of the crown. The Junco is very durable, named so because it is made naturally with rush fiber. The Pintao is one of the most popular, named not because it is made in the town of La Pintada, but because it is decorated with a combination of white and black colors.

The hat known as Pepita de Guate is woven by inserting the black bellota fiber in between the white bellota strands.

The Talco style is similar to the "pintao," but the difference is that the former has a double row of black decorative fibers instead of one. The so-called Tumba Hombre, perhaps referring to the swirling women's skirt that dizzied men, has a combination of round black spots on the base, crown and brim.

In addition to these, there are other types of hats, such as the Reatilla, Talco Plumilla and Talco Encontrado.

These hats have managed to become an important part of typical dress for male Panamanians. Our women also use them, for example when wearing the common dress of the pollera Montuna, as well as when they get dressed up to attend the cantaderas, festive singing and performing parades.

There are no protocol parameters for its use, as it can be used both as a garment for a gala occasion, and also for daily use, without disrupting the custom or folk pattern for use of the traditional hat.

The way to wear the hat and fold its brims reveals a cultural expression, as well as the mood of its user, according to the following peculiarities:

1. Fold the front and back brims of the hat: a characteristic made famous as the Pedra style of wearing the hat, which attributes the wearer to being a successful person at a stage of splendor and pleasure in his life, and also synomynous with masculine charm and fighting skills.

2. Fold only the back brim of the hat: its wearer is considered an intellectual person with vast knowledge in a certain area of science or knowledge.

3. Fold only the front brim of the hat: indicates that he who wears this style is a ladies' man, ready to conquer a woman.

3. No fold on the hat brim: no particular interpretation is ascribed to this style, which is used during outdoor work to protect from sunlight.

4. No fold, with the front part of the hat tilted forward: the person wearing it is feeling low, dismayed, distressed, and is very commonly used by those in grieving.

The artisans who make these hats are currently trying to organize with the aim of achieving better dividends, expanding their markets, selling their products without intermediaries and even managing to export these high-quality and beautiful hats.

It is important to note that the preservation of this legendary tradition of crafting these hats relies not only on protecting and caring for it as cultural heritage by establishing parameters and rules for conservation, preservation and dissemination, but it is also necessary to instate a policy to safeguard the flora, which is the raw material for producing the hats.

Currently a project for Bill 298 is in the National Assembly of Representatives, whose proponents are the Honorable Representatives Dana Castañeda, Luís Eduardo Quirós, Raúl Hernández and Jorge Arrocha.

We quote part of the declaration of purpose for the presentation of this bill, which states as follows:

"The purpose of the current proposed bill that we present for the consideration of this  House of Representatives is that the folk traditions of our towns shall be maintained and preserved, the 19th of October shall be commemorated as National Day of the Painted Hat, and the District of Pintado shall be established as the birth-place of the Painted Hat.

To refer to the Painted Hat is to refer to an artisan gem, created by the industrious hands of the craftsman of Pintada, who work to weave in culture and tradition with each piece. With a combination of natural fibers and talent of artisans from Pintada, a delicate weave is created, which for generations has been called the "Pintao" Hat. This beautiful handicraft is a symbol of the Panamanian culture and is one of the oldest folk accessories in the history of the Republic. No visor or hat can compete with it. With the "Pedra" style, shading the forehead, the "Pintao" hat proclaims its racial pride, fruit of labor and dedication by the hands of hard-working men and women from the village of Pintada, whom, along with their work, are worthy of admiration "

The Painted Hat constitutes an essential part of our national culture. The current generation should make the necessary effort to preserve this tradition, and also guard the conservation of flora, since if it should become extinct, with the plants will die the tradition of making painted hats and an important part of our tradition. Our commitment and efforts affect whether future generations will be able to continue appreciating and wearing this article of clothing that is the maximum expression of being Panamanian.