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The Panama Hat Trail Paperback – November 1, 2001


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Paperback, November 1, 2001
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: National Geographic; Reprint edition (November 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0792263863
  • ISBN-13: 978-0792263869
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.6 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #402,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Though offering perhaps more about Panama hats than the reader might ever want to know, this is a satisfying travel book that tells much else about Ecuador and its peoples. The growing, harvesting, and processing of straw, the weaving of it, the finishing of the hats, exportation, and all the bartering along the way is the glue that holds this book together. Visiting the countryside and towns such as Quito, Guayaquil, Lago Agrio, and Jipijapa ("among the ugliest towns south of the equator"), Miller tells us, among other things, about the Indians and their sad centuries-long plight, expatriates, illegal Ecuadorian emigration to the United States, precarious third-class Andean bus trips, the small Jewish community, and a wild and tragic Corpus Christi fiesta. Maps, index, and glossary not seen. Recommended for most travel collections. Roger W. Fromm, Bloomsburg Univ. of Pennsylvania Lib.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Tom Miller has been writing about Latin America and the American Southwest for more than thirty years, bringing us extraordinary stories of ordinary people. His highly acclaimed adventure books include "The Panama Hat Trail" about South America, "On the Border," an account of his travels along the U.S.-Mexico frontier, "Trading With the Enemy," which takes readers on his journeys through Cuba, and, about the American Southwest, "Revenge of the Saguaro" (formerly "Jack Ruby's Kitchen Sink" -- which won the coveted Lowell Thomas Award for Best Travel Book of the Year in 2001). He has edited three compilations, "Travelers' Tales Cuba," "Writing on the Edge: A Borderlands Reader," and "How I Learned English." Additionally, he was a major contributor to the four-volume "Encyclopedia Latina."

Miller, a veteran of the underground press of the late 1960s, has appeared in Smithsonian, The New Yorker, LIFE, The New York Times, Natural History, and many other publications. He wrote the introduction to "Best Travel Writing - 2005," and has led educational tours through Cuba for the National Geographic Society and other organizations. The Arizona Humanities Council sponsors his talks about borderland literature and also Thoronton Wilder's Unknown Life in Arizona. His collection of some eighty versions of "La Bamba" led to his Rhino Records release, "The Best of La Bamba," and his book "On the Border" has been optioned by Productvision for a theatrical film.

Miller was born and raised in Washington, D.C., attended college in Ohio, and since 1969 has lived in Arizona 65 miles north of the Mexican border.

In 2008 Miller was honored in a ceremony in the Centro Histórico of Quito, with a proclamation designating him a "Huésped Ilustre de Quito" (Illustrious Guest of Quito) for his literary contribution to Ecuador, especially "The Panama Hat Trail." In 2010 Miller won first prize in the Solas Awards in the "Destinations" category for "A Border Rat in the Twilight Zone," originally published in The Washington Post.. He also won a Bronze award for "Notes on an Andean Pilgrim" in the "Travel Memoir" field.

Well-traveled through the Americas, Miller has taught writing workshops in four countries and his books have been published in Europe and Latin America as well as the United States. In recognition of his work the University of Arizona Library has acquired Miller's archives and mounted a major exhibit of the author's papers. He has been affiliated with that school's Latin American Area Center since 1990, and makes his home in Tucson with his wife Regla Albarrán.

Customer Reviews

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A great read and something to think about each time one purchases or wears a hat that has been called a Panama Hat (usually a misnomer).
Starley Talbott
Mr. Miller's style and the details he includes kept me engaged all the way through (and made me, I'd like to think, a more knowledgeable visitor and hat buyer!)
Margaret A. Cleary
So it's an interesting, well written history of the region, with well chosen quotes from different historical travelers & history books.
Janice Leinani Lind

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 21, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book draws a wonderful and accurate picture of South America, in particular Ecuador, as seen through the eyes of a Westerner. Especially for anyone who has back-packed in these areas in the seventies and eighties, the country comes alive and one finds oneself transported back there through the author's straightforward style, gentle humour and empathy with the people and landscape. The story of the making of Panama hats, from growing the straw through to retailing the product in quality outlets throughout the States is fascinating. The life styles, understanding and expectations of the various people in the chain are portrayed in a way that captures the imagination and surrounds the reader with their reality. At the same time, one's awareness is drawn in a gentle manner and without accusation, to the situation of the "plebs" of third world countries, exploited by and dependent on the West. A satisfying book to read, very interesting and an enjoyable way to learn some of the history of the area.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Fred Belinsky on December 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
My lifelong interest in travel literature began when, as a child, I read Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas's account of his travels among the Kurdish People of the Middle East. Miller's book is a good read on traveling in Ecuador (where the best panama hats are made), written by a professional writer in this genre (ON THE BORDER, TRADING WITH THE ENEMY: TRAVELS THROUGH CASTRO'S CUBA). This "hat classic" (my opinion), is Miller's first-hand account as he follows the making of Panama hats from the growing and harvesting of the plant material (cardoluvica palmata), through the process of its curing and preparation for weaving, the weaving itself, the various markets along the way, the chain of distribution of the hat bodies, their exportation around the world, the making of finished hats in a North American hat factory, and the sale to a San Diego retail hat store. The story ends when the final customer buys a panama hat in the retail store. Reading this book cannot help but seal one's appreciation for this materiel de resistance of the straw hat business.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Chagra on September 8, 2005
Format: Paperback
Being an Ecuadorian I really enjoyed the way the author captured the personality and idiosyncrasies of the people he meets along his journey. His descriptions of the countryside and life in Ecuador are very accurate.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. T. Moore on August 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
Tom Miller is an excellent traveling companion, informative, friendly, sympathetic to his hosts.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Margaret A. Cleary on July 14, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I very much enjoyed this book as a lead-up to my visit to the home of the Panama Hat, which as you should know is...Ecuador! Although the book was written a number of years ago, the information about the hats, the country and the people appears to remain accurate. Mr. Miller's style and the details he includes kept me engaged all the way through (and made me, I'd like to think, a more knowledgeable visitor and hat buyer!)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By william Gleason on September 5, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great read, provides an interesting overview of the Panama Hat industry from the grower of the palm to the retailer of a completed hat. What shocked me most was how little money the people actually responsiblefor the growth of the materials and the people weaving the famous hats actually get paid and the extremely poor living conditions they are forced to endure.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Badgett on November 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you're interested in Ecuador this is a "must read" book. I really enjoyed the book. I like hats, too, but the book is even better for its Ecuadorian history and culture. A well written book of Ecuador, its culture and history. He writes in a nice and easy style. I was disappointed in Ecuador to see very few men wearing this hat and the book explains the history behind their aversion.
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