The Importance of Peruvian Hats

The Montera

The flat red felt hat known as a montera

Some Peruvian hats appear to serve little function.  However, they often tell other locals where the hat wearer is from and their family heritage.  The red felt hat is called a montera and can be filled with flowers, fruit and other adornments.  These are worn by Quechua women throughout the Sacred Valley.  When worn at such an angle, it may also tell others she is a widow.

Hats in the Bustling Marketplace

What initially appealed to me about wandering the marketplace we were driving by in our taxi is that it is put on by locals, for locals.  No tourists are expected or needed.  During our walk through this marketplace, not a single other tourist was seen.  So we likely stuck out like a beacon.  Some vendors seemed equally interested in us as we were in them, but mostly we were just ignored by the busy shoppers.  Market day is also a social event.  Whatever food products the women were selling they seemed to be casually eating while waiting for their next customer, dipping their hand into the bag and munching away.

Women’s hats in a fast paced Peruvian marketplace

With so many different hat styles, it is apparent that the choice of hat is not taken lightly.

While the above hats do not seem to be true ‘bowler’ hats, bowlers are very popular with Peruvian women.  The story of the popularity of bowlers begins with their invention in England in about 1850.  One English company wanted to supply the railroad workers of Bolivia and Peru with bowler hats.  However, upon their delivery it was discovered the hats were much too small for the working men.  Instead of throwing them away, they were sold to the women after convincing them it was a European fashion statement to wear such small hats.  The bowlers popularity began.


With no guide to explain the various hats, I’m left to research the Internet and the travel blogs of others.  Tall white hats made of thatch are said to suggest a person is of mixed Inca and Spanish heritage.

Traditionally, brown or green hats made from sheep’s wool indicate a women of Andean heritage.  The woven cloth on the lady’s back is called an lliklla.  It is used as a backpack for goods as well as children.

Green felt hat

Lady with green felt hat and lliclla carrying her child.


Brown felt hats of slightly different styles.

Selling small potatoes

Selling small potatoes

The market was quite large and grouped by product.  Fruits were in one section, vegetables and clothing in another.

Fruit section of the market

Traditional Dress

This style of hat was not seen in the marketplace, but rather in Cusco where I think they were worn more for the benefit of the tourists than as a standard hat.  Every Internet article I found about these hats simply said they were traditional.

This Little Lamb went to Market

When driving off from the market in our taxi, I was surprised to see several sheep in the back of a sedan.  I quickly asked Jaime to stop so I could take a photo of these sheep in the back of a Toyota.  Much horn honking ensued, but Jaime persisted so I could take some blurry photos.   While I do not know what happened to these sheep, they may not have enjoyed market day as much as I did.   


Trying to Find Unique Photos when Traveling

This photo of the sheep in the car also serves to show why a local person who has not done a lot of traveling cannot direct a photographer like me to great photographic sights.  Jaime likely has seen this sight most weekends all his life and it does not appear out of the ordinary to him.  He would also never think to take me to the market, which he has seen every weekend as long as he can remember.  He does not know how different it is from a Walmart or a Safeway store.  That which appears so unique to the US traveler is often very commonplace to the locals.  If you want some strange looks, take a picture of a common Peruvian door.  The locals walking by had no idea what the heck I was doing.

The doors simply seemed unique and beautiful to me.


Next BLOG stop is Easter Island.

13 thoughts on “The Importance of Peruvian Hats

  1. Harold:

    To have my coffee in hand while viewing your pictures and reading your blog on a Sunday morning is very enjoyable.
    I liken it to what follows, which is, Sunday Morning, the CBS news show which I also tend to enjoy.
    Compared, the commentary is great, the pictures great, the topics educational.
    Thank you

    • I too enjoy watching the Sunday Morning TV program. I really liked the “On the Road with Charles Kuralt” segment. Great videos on mundane topics in small town America. Now THAT WAS a good time.

  2. One of your best posts yet Harold! Fantastic photos and great narrative with interesting facts well delivered in a very conversational style. You could easily sell this work to a travel magazine. I’ll eagerly await your next “article.” Happy Trails!

    • Thank you for saying that Rick. With no pretty landscape scenes in this post so I thought it would get much less attention. I like the elderly lady’s portrait at the top of the post. I’ll bet she has some stories to tell…

  3. Harold – A tip of the hat for such an enlightening article…..
    Enjoying the weekly travel posts, THANK YOU.

    Joanne and Jim Mackie

  4. This one’s a fun read. I wasn’t too surprised to hear about the flowers in hats; however, when you mentioned fruit, my mind immediately went to apples, oranges, and bananas, and I thought about the stability of such a situation. One advantage of consumables in your hat is that if it’s well secured to your head, it’s mass would serve as a good neck and shoulder exercise that we typically don’t get in everyday life, and as you consumed the fruit throughout the day, the hat load would get lighter for a more appropriate end game cool down.

    I like the more brilliant colors in the clothing and the doors. I seem to associate those colors with South American cultures, although I don’t know if they are popular in just the few images I’ve seen from the limited number of countries I’ve observed.

    Now, to go shopping for a hat.

    • I already did… I bought an Australian rabbit fur felt hat with a crocodile band. Now I’m looking for a 12 inch knife to help complete my look. Good on ya mate, no worries.

  5. I’ve really enjoyed your travels to Peru and your photos are amazing and wonderful! Such great travel information. I love the hats and their history. My trip will include many of the places you were at. Not so excited about the cuy. I may opt for tacos when I’m there in July! I hope you don’t mind my sending your website to the group I’m going with.
    I look forward to following your adventures. Thank you!

    • I’m very happy if future travelers to Peru get something of benefit from my blog. I hope you have plenty of time to explore the many sites, sounds and tastes Peru has to offer. Thank you for following my blog.

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