“From our land to your hands” is the slogan of the group of Eco-Artisans in Azuero, highlighting the use of natural fibers found in the region in the production of elaborate, local handicrafts.
Traditional handicrafts in the Azuero region are symbols of culture. However, more items are being developed and designed according to the current demands without changing natural materials as the primary materials.
We have been losing the plant species used to make the handicrafts over time. Our ancestors cultivated and harvested these fibers for use and so each craftsman was equipped with the materials they needed according to the type of handicraft he developed. They started selling these fibers, but fewer and fewer fibers were used in handicrafts.
Today, there are very few people engaged in the care of these fibers. Furthermore, the ignorance of the species that are used is another aspect of the disappearance of these resources, which are becoming increasingly difficult to find.
By using natural fibers, we are rescuing these species of plants that provide us with luxury materials for the production of unique handicrafts, in addition to lowering costs by being able to grow them in our homes.
The Toquilla Palm (Carludovica palmata), also known as the Panama Hat Plant is a palm-like plant. The material for the manufacture of the Panamanian hat is extracted from this plant, among other handicrafts.
What we know as “The Bud or Cogollo” are the new closed leaves, which go through a rigorous process to reach the final material used. The process includes cutting the part where the closed leaves are located, removing these leaves and cooking them with water. After cooking the leaves, they are released and placed in the sun to dry. The bud fiber is ready to be used at the end of this process.
The bud is a natural material that has soft and flexible fibers. These fibers are durable and helpful when working with the material. For these reasons, our artisans currently use it to create their handicrafts. Some of the items they manufacture are earrings, ties and cup holders, among many others.
Today, this plant is almost no longer cultivated in the region. To combat this issue, the Pro Eco Azuero Foundation wants to grow gardens within communities where artisans can grow and readily access these materials at no cost.
One of our goals is that each craftsman has the necessary fibers at their fingertips. Another goal is to educate the new generations about the cultivation of these species and the correct way to obtain and work with them.
To learn more about the Eco-Artisans and their products based on fibers and natural materials, we invite you to follow us on our social networks @proecoazuero to stay updated.
This document was translated by: Khushmeet Chandi, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology