I really like sombreros. I have a collection of them. My wife wants me to get rid of them but I won’t(yet). My Abuelita bought me my first sombrero in Plateros, Zacatecas, I must have been 4 or 5 years old at the time. It made me feel important. It made me feel like a grown up. I mean, all the important looking grown-ups in my rancho wore them and I wanted to look the part. Lol
I still buy a sombrero every time I go to Mexico and I do mean every time— just ask my wife.
But did you know?
There is an actual place in Mexico with the distinction of La Capital del Sombrero.
It’s called San Francisco del Rincon and it’s located in the state of Guanajuato. It is just a short 30 minute drive from the Leon Guanajuato International Airport. (It’s situated 23 miles South West of Leon Guanajuato on highway 37)
Sombreros are sometimes made out of straw but in San Francisco they are made out of palma. The Palma was originally brought in from Michoacan but is now readily available in the area due to its cultivation there.
It’s said that the sombrero tradition in San Francisco del Rincon originated circa 1766. Two of the first sombrereros(straw hat makers) Joaquin Leon and the soon to be first indigenous Governor, Juan Isodoro de los Dolores.
As any trade, it was passed down from generation to generation. Soon, entire families and communities set up shop as local sombrero artisans. Their goods were sold throughout the region and go as far as Jalisco, Aguascalientes and Zacatecas.
In 1987 there were over 60(5-30 employee) small local sombrero factories that fashioned over 30 thousand sombreros a year. However, they’ve now consolidated to just 4 factories and only some remain family owned and operated.
It’s important to note that an entire new industry — the shoe industry — is slowly taking the place of the sombrero making. Now, instead of working with palma they mostly work with imported plastic and canvas from China, Taiwan and Japan. The demand for these goods in the US and around the world is transforming local artisans from traditional sombrero makers to mainstream shoe manufacturers.
Yet still, San Francisco del Rincon maintains its sombrero tradition and still known as la Capital Mundial del Sombrero.
So if you’re ever in Guanajuato take a short drive to visit this traditional artisan town in Guanajuato and remember you won’t find this in a guide book.