Internationally, perhaps one of the most widely recognized symbols of Colombia is the SOMBRERO VUELTIAO. It was also declared a National Symbol of Colombia by an act of Congress (Ley 908 of September 8, 2004).
This beautiful piece of wearable art comes from the Caribbean coast -- specifically the departments of Sucre (capital = Sincelejo) and Córdoba (capital = Montería).
With its origins in the Zenú Indian culture, this hat is made from the leaves of the palm tree called caña flecha. This palm tree grows on the edges of the rivers and swamps on the Atlantic coast. The leaves are dried in the sun -- a process that changes them from green to a light tan color -- and some even change to a near white color. Fibers from the plant are then sorted according to color. The darkest ones are then soaked in a black mud.
Once the fibers are ready, they are braided together using a Zenú technique that dates back more than 1,000 years and originally was used to represent the Zenú beliefs about the universe.
So, you want to buy a sombrero vuelitao, how do you decide which one?
There are different qualities of sombreros vueltiaos. The cheapest and most commonly available hat is the QUINCIANO or the 15. This hat is also considered of the lowest quality. It takes only 3 days to make these hats and they are loosely woven with only 15 double strands of caña flecha.
If you wish to purchase a higher quality hat, you an buy a 19, 21, 23, or 27. However, the hat that is considered of the highest daily use quality is the 21. It can be folded up and will quickly return to its original shape. This is the true test of quality. If you wish to purchase this higher quality hat, you will ask for a VEINTIUNO.
Learn how to make one on this video -- the process starts at about 3 minutes into the video: