Homero Ortega Workshop and Museum – Cuenca, Ecuador - Atlas Obscura
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Cuenca, Ecuador

Homero Ortega Workshop and Museum

An Ecuadorian haberdashery that sets the record straight about the so-called "Panama" hat. 

Homero Ortega is a museum and store in Ecuador that is devoted exclusively to the lasting legacy of the famous (but incorrectly known) “Panama hat”, or as they prefer to call it, the toquilla straw hat.

Not many people know that the so-called Panama straw hat actually originated in Ecuador. The misnomer is dates back to the era when Ecuador began exporting the hats through the Panama Canal and foreigners erroneously assumed the hats came from Panama. Cuenca, Ecuador is the hometown of Homero Ortega (1916-1998), who started making the straw hats at an early age and passed down his trade to future generations who continue to manage the store, museum, and the label today. The museum features displays on the history of the iconic chapeau, the traditional manufacturing process, and the company itself.  Also, because the traditional workplace is the home, the hat factory, showroom, and museum all resemble a house, both inside and out.

Homero Ortega first opened its doors to the public in the 1970s, thanks to Homero Ortega’s wife, Isabel Salamea Delgado, who wanted to connect with the people who were actually wearing their hats. Today, the line has since branched out to include specially woven handbags and purses as well, but it’s the Panama hat (sorry, the toquilla straw hat) that continues to be a fashion staple the world over.