Legend has it that a common straw hat, that favorite accessory of both the leisure class and field hand, ushered in a revolution – or maybe even three. It was a businessman named Eloy Alfaro who used his vast wealth to modernize public transportation in his native Ecuador, arm rebel soldiers, secularize Catholic institutions and bring an end to the conservative ruling party, all because his family made a fortune selling what is widely known as the Panama hat. This handcrafted accessory was the economic bedrock of Ecuador since 1835, though its future seems uncertain.
Monthly Archives: April 2011
Basket weaving is the oldest and most widespread art in the history of human civilization; from Native Americans to diverse African clans to the American Shakers, many cultures have practiced this art over the centuries in their own unique, characteristic manner. Materials utilized for baskets include reed (also known as rattan), oak, hickory, willow, grass, animal hide, hair and byproducts like porcupine quills, various woods, grasses and stems—basically anything that can be plied, bent and woven.
At first glance, there are many drawbacks to growing up in the wilds of New England. For one thing, the weather leaves something to be desired. Then there’s the mass of dour-faced, eternally pessimistic inhabitants and the undercurrent of puritanical repression. Regardless, my hometown in Berkshires is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in the country, blizzards and heat waves be damned.