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The Life of a Panama Hat Weaver

A blog post for International Women’s Day 2015 – meet one of our hat weavers…

My name is Delfina Minchala Guaman, age 79 and 4 months. I am very proud of being almost 80. I am one of the five founding members of the Cañari Panama hat weaving Cooperative.


I was born in Guapan, Cañar. I was born here and I will die here. My father and mother wove hats to support their four daughters. I am the youngest of the sisters; the others are all deceased. When I was one year and six months old my mother died and my father alone supported us with the income from his hat weaving. He taught me to hat weave when I was six and I was paid 10 sucres (USD $0.75 cents, about 50p) for each hat. At age twelve I asked a friend to teach me how to weave fine hats so that I could earn 20 sucres per hat.

I married my neighbour when I turned 18 and we had 10 children together. We were very much in love and he was handsome. I am now widowed. Five of my children have died and the five surviving children are all professionals living in La Troncal (a town in the same province). They are two doctors, a nurse, a police officer, and one works in the Ministry of Culture. I have 16 grandchildren ranging in age from 8 months to twenty-two years old. Apart from hat weaving, I earn money raising cuy (guinea pigs). I have more than 60 cuy. I also have five roosters, three chickens, one dog, and one cat.