A Tip of the Hat
By Jorge Mendez Urrea and Juliana Vegalara
Colegio Nueva Granada | Bogotá, Colombia
The hat known as a sombrero vueltiao is one of the most representative symbols of Colombia. It is made from caña flecha (arrow cane), a tall grass that grows on the Caribbean coast. Artisans transform pieces of cane into black and white strips, which are then braided to create different geometric patterns.
Sombreros vueltiaos come from the Caribbean region in the north of the country where the Indigenous Zenú live. These hats have been produced for hundreds of years, renowned for their combination of ample sun protection and intricate designs. Because each hat is made by hand, the finest ones can take a month to finish.
The name vueltiao comes from the Spanish word vuelta, which means “turn.” The artisans make many turns as they assemble the hat in concentric circles.
A sombrero vueltiao’s quality comes from its pattern and flexibility. A hat’s pattern is determined by how many colored strands it has. The greater the number of strands, the more complex, time-consuming, and valuable the end result. A sombrero vueltiao must also be flexible enough to be carried in the wearer’s pocket and emerge unharmed.
Sombreros vueltiaos have even been to the Olympics! During the 2004 opening ceremony in Athens, Greece, Colombian athletes marched proudly with black-and-white masterpieces covering their heads.
Sombreros vueltiaos have also made their way into the country’s folk music through the cumbia and vallenato traditions. Musicians often choose to wear these hats to show their cultural identity.
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- Early Elementary: Ana made five sombreros vueltiaos. She sold three of them, how many does she have left?
- Elementary: If Ana needs seven kilograms of caña flecha to make one hat, how many kilograms will she need to make six hats?
- Middle School: Ana still needs seven kilograms of caña flecha to make one sombrero vueltiao. She recently received a package containing x kilograms of caña flecha. If she figured out she would be able to make 23 1/3 hats, what is the value of x ?
- High School: There are 10 sombreros vueltiaos. Four are made by the Zenu tribe in the Caribbean, while six are counterfeits. What are the odds, assuming random selection, that you pick an original hat?
Social Justice Question
Due to the popularity of sombreros vueltiaos, street vendors try to sell cheap, foreign-made imitations to tourists. These mass-produced counterfeits deprive local weavers of profits. In the town of Tuchín, for example, 90 percent of the residents depend on income from the hats they make by hand. What would you do to fix this situation?
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