The Art of the Panama Hat (Mexico)


close up of hands weaving panama hat
woman weaving a panama hat

Doña Chari weaves a Panama hat in an underground cave
in her backyard in Becal, Campeche, Mexico.

The Art of the Panama Hat
Campeche, Mexico. 2009. Medium format.

Doña Chari runs a small family business from her home where she makes Panama hats by hand that are then sold throughout the world. Panama hats are the main export of Becal, a town of about 6,000 in the Campeche state of Mexico. Doña Chari and her family have woven hats for generations, growing the jipijapa plant in her yard then cutting the leaves finely before drying them in the sun. The dry strips are then brought to the underground cave in her yard where the natural humidity of the earth softens the fibers so that they can be woven into intricate patterns and designs without breaking. It is here, underground, that she weaves the hats that go on to be sold throughout the world.

About the Artist

Jennifer Pritheeva Samuel is a Sri Lankan-American photographer and filmmaker based in Brooklyn, NY. Samuel's personal work uses documentary photography and film as tools to link her own experiences to socio-political issues within Diaspora communities. She has produced short films for UNICEF and worked on many independent documentary films for PBS FRONTLINE. Samuel completed her B.A. in Anthropology at New York University in 1998 and was a Peace Corps volunteer in Dominica for two years. Samuel received her Master of International Affairs from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs in 2005.


9 people recommend this


Comments (4)

United States

I love the closeup on the hands.

Stephanie Matthews
United States

My first thought upon seeing these images was music! Rhythms! These are beautiful captures!

Thank you so much for your comments! Interesting that you saw music and rhythm in these images. so happy that it came through - in terms of just the rhythm of Dona Chari doing something she is so accustomed to doing that it's becomes like a meditation - where she's just doing without thinking.

Little Angel


Log In

RSS Story Feed