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Cultural authorities at UNESCO have recognized the artisans of Panama for their distinctive woven hats. No, not those hats; the famed "Panama hat" comes from Ecuador. Panama's real contribution to the world's hat heritage is the pintao, or painted hat, handmade from five different plants and a healthy dose of swamp mud.Artisans of the truly Panamanian pintao hat start with the fibers of several plants that are cured and then woven into braids that are wrapped around a wooden form and sewn together from the crown of the hat down.Authorities estimate that 4,000 of La Pintada's 25,000 residents work creating or selling the hats.Pedro Mendoza, a 50-year-old hat-maker, hopes that the UNESCO recognition takes the pintao hat beyond the country's borders.
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