Manta, EcuadorManta, with a metro population of nearly 400,000, is the fourth largest city in Ecuador and one of its largest and most important ports.
This tourist mecca is famous for pristine beaches, sea food restaurants and Panama hats. Yes, Manta is the birthplace of the Panama hat, and they're sold all over the city.
The fishing industry is a very significant business here, and it's especially profitable for those boats searching for and catching the Pacific Ocean tuna.
Ecuador is the manufacturing epicenter of the Panama Hat business. Many of these popular hats are made in small shops, or by local family groups.
At a small family business near Manta the process begins by boiling the leaves of a local cactus plant. Once softened, the leaves are left to dry, then literally separated into long strands of fabric.
Then a woman (they seem to do most of the work) begins to weave the fabric into the shape of a hat. She bends over like this for about three hours at a time before taking a break to rest her hands.
Experienced hands at work.
The finished Panama Hats on display. Most of these hats were priced at $25, but this hard-working family was willing to negotiate.
The family producing the Panama hats lives in this modest house.
This is a part of that house, and from what I could tell it was used by the children as a bedroom.
And speaking of children, this was their little girl. She was very shy, but seemed to appreciate the U.S. dollar I gave her.
This younger man is softening the woven fabric before it is finally shaped into a saleable Panama Hat