OUR PEOPLE

OUR PEOPLE

WEAVING A BETTER WORLD

The historic exploitation of underpaid weavers by unscrupulous middlemen means that this timeless skill is under threat. The younger generation, quite understandably, have been searching for alternative ways to make a living. This has led to the community, where we work in Ecuador, having some of the highest rates of migration in the country, with 60% of children having at least one parent who now lives overseas. The destruction of family and community life has led to high rates of alcoholism, double the national rate of youth suicides and teen pregnancies are the norm.

The art of creating Panama hats weaves into the fabric of daily life for Andean mountain communities. Women weave everywhere – on the bus, walking to the market, on their way to the fields. It is so intrinsic to Ecuadorian day-to-day life that in 2012 UNESCO declared the art of weaving a Panama hat was on its Intangible Cultural Heritage* list.

Weaving a hat from paja toquilla represents the cultural heritage of an entire community. There is a campaign in Ecuador to rename the Panama hat the ‘Ecuador hat’. This movement has our full support.

*Intangible Cultural Heritage is a term used for knowledge, traditions and rituals that permeate the everyday life of a particular community. This heritage forms an intrinsic part of its identity and culture, passing from generation to generation.

WHO WE WORK WITH

Yet this timeless skill is under threat because of the continued exploitation of underpaid weavers by unscrupulous intermediaries. Quite understandably, the younger generation has been searching for alternative ways to make a living. Consequently, there is a migration problem in the Ecuadorian community where we work, with 60% of children having at least one parent who lives overseas. The destruction of family and community life has caused other socioeconomic problems such as alcoholism, youth suicides and teen pregnancies.

Most Panama hats pass through the hands of up to seven different intermediaries. These middlemen are called perros (or dogs) because of their unscrupulous purchasing practices. However, Pachacuti works directly with artisans through every step of the process – weaving, dyeing, blocking and finishing. We ensure that as much of the final value as possible remains in the hands of the artisans themselves, not with intermediaries!

TAKING RESPONSIBILITY

The average age of our weavers is 58, so we must ensure this way of life is viable for future generations. Since our business began in 1992, we have worked tirelessly to preserve and encourage traditional hat weaving skills in Ecuador.
Therefore, Pachacuti works with weaving associations to break down the price of every style of hat. We calculate the cost of the raw materials, the dyes, the overheads, the labour and the profit margin. We pay a fair price, which is monitored through interviews to ascertain the local cost of living. The cañasta básica vital, (the Ecuadorian Government’s monthly market cost of meeting basic needs for a family of four) is also a comparator.

We provide ongoing training and investment for tangible skills such as design development, weaving skills, costing of products/overheads and health and safety, and intangible benefits such as self-esteem and human relations.