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The Panama Hat Trail

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  165 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews

This 15th anniversary reissue of Miller's travel classic follows the making and marketing of a single Panama hat. It's a captivating story of cultures in collision, raw capitalism, and an exotic, humorous journey.

Paperback, 271 pages
Published March 12th 1988 by Vintage (first published 1986)
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Jonathan Forisha
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Next week I leave for a trip to Ecuador, so naturally I wanted to read something to put me in the mindset of a country I've never visited.

This book, while perhaps a bit dated by 2017 (we'll see once I get there), does a great job of exploring every step in the long process of turning Ecuadoran straw in the 3rd world into luxury hats in the 1st world.

There are plenty of interesting asides along the way, and Miller was always willing to stop and put things in perspective, whether it was currency
Aug 08, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, travel
One of the few books I've found about Ecuador...the book is nominally about the manufacture and distribution of Panama hats, but more a window to the Ecuadorean culture and people. And you get a description of what cuy (guinea pig) actually tastes like. And a chapter about Bemelmans--who wrote a travel book (The Donkey Inside), a kids' book (Quito Express), and a novel (Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep)taking place in Ecuador.
Andrew Hecht
Mar 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone planning to travel to Ecuador
My brother, his wife, who is from Quito, and my mom are headed down to Ecaudor in the next few weeks. For my mom and my brother, it will be their first trip to South America. I'm very excited for them, and, well, a little jealous, because I've never been to Ecuador.

I can't make it on this trip, but I will make it some day. Instead I took a virtual trip courtesy of Tom Miller's, The Panama Hat Trail, one the hundreds of unread travel narratives on my bookshelves.

The premise of the book is that M
Feb 06, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Judy by: Jim who read Miller's 2 Cuba travel books
The story of a panama hat, part travelogue, well mostly travelogue but travel writing at its best. You learn about Equador's (yes, that's where all Panama hats are made)culture and history. There's something about the tone of the book, a certain leisurelyness and trust, that made it clear it was written a few years old (originally published 1988) I can't imagine someone having the same experience today, post 911. While the "mysterious trail" angle is unnecessary and annoying (no one is preventin ...more
Apr 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have found that there are relatively few books about Ecuador, the fourth smallest country in South America. One that is worth reading is The Panama Hat Trail: A Journey from South America by Tom Miller.

For over a century, the fine straw hats woven in Ecuador have come to be known as Panamas, probably because the construction workers building the Panama Canal demanded them for their comfort. Actually, they are manufactured in Ecuador, around the city of Cuenca, using straw that is harvested by
Brooke Everett
Full of interesting tidbits about Ecuador and South America's culture. At times the tone could be a little flat, but overall this is a book that goes quickly and is a worthwhile armchair adventure. His descriptions of places, particularly Quito, were fantastic.

"'The man who doesn't like clouds has no business coming to Ecuador," wrote the Belgian Henri Michaux in 1928. 'They're the faithful dogs of the mountains."" p. 9

"Indians were 'reduced to the most abject state of servitude and bondage,' ob
Jun 22, 2011 rated it liked it
I think this book would work better if, as a reader, I'd dipped into it every now and opposed to reading it straight through. The book has charm, but not much of a narrative propulsion. I was slightly disappointed by the weak frame of the narrative (i.e. following the a panama hat from creation the storefront...I think the idea is a solid one, but the execution was too meandering. The whole third part of the book leaves the trail and just meanders around Ecuador and Colombia. Overall ...more
Mark Jamison
Not sure this book would resonate much with someone who hasn't been or isn't planning to go to Ecuador, but I read most of it in a sleepy little town in the Andes mountains in Ecuador where I'll be moving in less than a year, so the anecdotes and the bits of historical and cultural information were particularly interesting. There aren't many travel books about Ecuador, so if you're planning a visit (or a move), read this. Otherwise, maybe not.
Jul 11, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable book about Panama hats (which are actually from Ecuador!). I read most of this book before I went to Ecuador this past summer, and I enjoyed the travelogue about places I was about to visit. The writing is fine and the storyline so-so. It wasn't outstanding in its own right but somewhat fun because of my personal connection with the places.
Oct 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the best travel books ever written. While the main current of the book is the story of where Panama hats come from (hint: Ecuador), Miller explains a lot of Latin American history and culture. While often funny, the book never makes fun of Latin America. An excellent interweaving of a lot of information into a captivating and well-written narrative.
Aug 05, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you ever wanted to find out how and where the famous straw hats were made, this is the book for you. Witty, funny, and sensitively told journey of the author's search for the Panama Hat and its origins.
Glenn Pearson
Enjoyable book and I liked the style of writing -- interesting takes on Ecuador and its people. and of course we learn about the panama hat!
Roy Farol
Jul 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is not about the hat, but about the country and it's people and stories about it. I hate endings in a very good book.
Apr 21, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cool book especially if you plan on traveling to ecuador, peru etc in the near future.
Halle Butvin
Great book - a fascinating look at Ecuador through the Panama Hat supply chain (Panama Hats are actually made in Ecuador)
Audrey Stephens
A very enjoyable read, especially for those who have visited Ecuador.
David Vanness
Oct 23, 2011 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-have
library copy paper
Robin Costic
Jun 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed the travel and cultural descriptions as well as the tidbits about Ecuadorian culture.
A nice and short little tome covering Ecuador and its Panama hat industry. I just travelled in Ecuador, so it was interesting to recover some of that ground.
The book gave me the deisre to embark on the same trip until I spent time in Guatemala and saw how people drive there...A great armchair adventure
Jan 10, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-ecuador
Great book on the mis-named Ecuadorian hats... good for folks who would like to come visit! (wink wink, nudge nudge!)
May 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ah, the Panama hat: Ecuador's most famous export.
Jan 28, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not the best, but it is an OK story about the Panama hat from Ecuador.
Sep 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Awesome! I would definitely recommend it. The journey takes you to remote parts of Ecuador in the mid 80s to the source of the making of the famous Panama Hats.
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Aug 05, 2014
Katya Tovmenko
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May 12, 2012
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Mar 23, 2017
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May 21, 2014
Elizabeth Millard Whitman
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Feb 09, 2017
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Jul 31, 2010
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Tom Miller has been writing about the American Southwest and Latin America for more than three decades. His ten books include The Panama Hat Trail, which follows the making and marketing of one Panama hat, and Trading with the Enemy, which Lonely Planet says "may be the best travel book about Cuba ever written." Miller began his journalism career in the underground press of the late '60s and early ...more
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“He spoke as if he held marbles in his mouth. 'Más o menos'--more or less--came out as 'maomay.' He was on a low-consonant diet, feasting on vowels” 0 likes
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