Sig sig is a canton in Azuay, west of Cuenca, where the main activities are agriculture and artisanship. From generation to generation, the women weavers of Sigsig have learned the delicate craftsmanship of weaving straw hats. They are commonly known as “Panama Hats” but they are originally made in Ecuador.
We had the chance to talk to some of the most talented weavers last summer. We wanted to find out what they thought about this work and tradition. “It’s sad,” said Maria. “I am very old now and I am losing my sight, but I have to keep working because young girls are no longer interested in learning the process. They all want to leave Sigsig in the search for other opportunities and a chance to make it in the big cities.”
The preservation of culture and development
It is hard to reconcile development and the conservation of cultural traditions. Young girls are motivated on getting a higher education and jobs outside the province. While this is positive, there is no one to continue with the traditional craft. The loss of this tradition would be dismal.
This handmade, intricate, cultural tradition must be preserved. Why? Because clothing artefacts in a developed world have been replaced by #fastfashion, a system sustained with underpaid workers in deplorable conditions.
Here in This is Ecuador, we are keen on raising awareness of these skilled workers. They exist in the little town of Sig sig, and besides their friendliness, their work is meticulous and fabulous. Take the time to visit Sig sig and talk to these wonderful women on your next trip to Ecuador. See it with your own eyes! It is always important to understand the hard work that lies behind the product that is stocked in shelves.
If more people visit these professional weavers and purchase their products in the place of origin, these women will be encouraged to keep the tradition alive. You will inspire young girls to study this craft or return after their education. They will be motivated to work with their hometown weavers to promote local talent. And as a client, you will be happy to know that what you are wearing is exquisitely crafted, in a communal working environment that results from tradition and dedication.
This is Ecuador joins the #fashionrevolution and challenges you to ask #whomademyclothes?!