Casa Del Sombrero

Casa Del Sombrero is a Cuencan institution. Photo: Alex Washburn

Casa Del Sombrero is a Cuencan institution. Photo: Alex Washburn

Approximately four years ago I had the great pleasure of meeting the great ‘Panama Hat’ maker Alberto Pulla.

You see- Panama hats are actually made in Ecuador and have a few other names (depending on their quality) such as Montecristi, or Montecristi Superfinos. They were the head covering of choice for many men who worked on the

Alberto Pulla and I four years ago. Photo: Loni Rae

Alberto Pulla and I four years ago. Photo: Loni Rae

Panama Canal and Theodore Roosevelt was photographed wearing one when he visited the canal. It was because of this and a few other twists of fate that they became known the world over as ‘Panama Hats’.

Alberto Pulla started making Panama Hats when he was just a child and the harsh chemicals they once used in the production of the hats cost him his voice, but not his smile or his kindness. By the time I met him he was a frail man that mouthed words, but primarily relied on sketching notes back and forth with tourists to communicate.

I wasn’t nearly as comfortable with my Spanish back then so I was absolutely terrified of Mr. Pulla even though the special old-worldness of his shop was not lost on me. As Nathaniel and I trickled our way south I told him about the shop and he decided he wanted to buy a hat from Mr. Pulla. Unfortunately when we were just a few days from Cuenca I learned online the famous hatter had passed away.

Sad but undeterred – we spent an extra day in Cuenca to vist Casa Del Sombrero (they are closed on the weekends) so that Nathaniel could get his hat. The shop hadn’t changed since I last saw it, it’s an absolute time capsule and I find that a special quality to be treasured in today’s world.

Nathaniel tries on hats trying to determine which one fits best as Juan-Carlos watches and answers questions. Photo: Alex Washburn

Nathaniel tries on hats to determine which one fits best as Juan-Carlos watches, answers questions, and helps with the process. Photo: Alex Washburn

Tools of the trade - pretty much unchanged for over a hundred years. Photo: Alex Washburn

Tools of the trade – pretty much unchanged for over a hundred years. Photo: Alex Washburn

Although Alberto Pulla has passed on, his family continues running Casa Del Sombrero. Photo: Alex Washburn

Although Alberto Pulla has passed on, his family continues running Casa Del Sombrero. Photo: Alex Washburn

5 Comments on “Casa Del Sombrero

  1. Fantastic, I would go absolutely crazy there, just love those hats. Great photos Alex, keep them coming

  2. No place to comment on Peru, so I’ll leave a Haiku for you here:

    Two beautiful people
    big nothingness,
    welcome to Peru, my dear.

    • We loved the Haiku Herb! And thank you for telling us the site wasn’t working properly! Nathaniel was able to fix it after poking around for a while! Thank you for reading! We love when people we’ve met on the road check back in with us! ❤

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