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Ecuador 2009 – A bicentenary celebration

November 2009

Photo: WIPO/S. Castonguay

The first day of the WIPO Assemblies was crowned with a colorful glimpse of Ecuador’s rich artistic and cultural heritage. During an evening concert, Ecuadorean folk dancers, Nuestro Manantial (“Our Spring”), and the talented band of musicians, Siembra (“Sowing”), that accompanied them captivated ministers, delegates and staff with their striking costumes and rhythmic and joyful performance – given added zest in the context of the country’s celebration of its bicentenary (1809-2009). These performances offered vibrant demonstration of the wealth and diversity of Ecuador’s folklore.

The event also marked the opening of a unique exhibition with images, smells, flavors and fine textures that offered a window on the richness and diversity of Ecuadorean art and culture – both traditional and modern. Featured alongside a selection of works by contemporary artists Alegia Polit and Telmo Herera were two of Ecuador’s most famous exports, the world-renowned Montecristi hat and Cacao Arriba.

Modern Expressions

Photo: Joao Cardoso
Ms. Polit’s works were drawn from her “Mirrors” series, inspired by a belief that images reflected in mirrors identify with the soul or spirit of the person. “I see mirrors and art as a window to the spirit,” she said. “My ‘Mirrors’ are clear and simple ways of crossing into a different dimension, in which the image no longer reflects us, but simply teaches us the harsh or wonderful truth of who we are.” Her work captures a vision of a world that defines the personality and character of Ecuador’s ethnic diversity – a personality that exudes warmth, resourcefulness, hospitality, happiness and peace.
“Black Sounds,” the theme of Mr. Herrero’s selection of works, reveals the power of the artist’s imagination. His abstract creations depict the force, passion and spontaneity that should characterize our lives. Mr. Herrero’s creative journey is rich with experience. Drawn to the arts from an early age, he became a prolific poet, novelist and storyteller. His passion for creativity then led him to the theatre, inspiring him to fulfill his life-long ambition to paint and develop his unique abstract style.
Photo: WIPO/Martinez Dozal

Echoes of the Past

Montecristi - The Prince of Hats

The finely woven Montecristi hat, often referred to as the “Panama” – where it was worn by laborers hewing out the Panama Canal at the beginning of the 20th century – or the prince of straw hats, is considered to be one of the most fashionable summer hats around. Made by skilled weavers in the small town of Montecristi, revered by European royalty, statesmen and film stars alike, the Montecristi gained popularity in the 1940s when it became the fashion choice of Hollywood stars, featuring in film classics such as Gone with the Wind and Casablanca.

Hat weaving, a skill passed down from generation to generation, has flourished along the coast of Ecuador since the 1600s. The hats are made from the plaited leaves of the indigenous toquilla straw plant “cardulovica palmate.” Each hat is unique, hand-woven by a single weaver from eight strands of fiber and, depending on the quality required, can take up to five months to weave.

Arriba, Arriba! – Classy Cacao!

The exhibition also featured Ecuador’s first geographical indication, the world renowned Arriba Cacao, prized for its earthy, floral aroma and flavor. Its unique qualities put it in a class of its own.

Legend has it that Ecuador’s “fine aroma” cacao is called “Arriba” because when a Swiss chocolatier navigating the River Guayas in the 19th century asked workers unloading a cargo of cocoa beans from their canoes where the rich aroma he smelled came from, they responded, “del río arriba” meaning “from up the river” (from cacao trees, pods and seeds, we get cocoa beans, butter and powder).

Ecuador’s “Arriba” cacao has since come to be synonymous with high quality. Capable of satisfying the most demanding of palates, it has become a strategically important element in the chocolate industry. Barely 5 percent of the world’s cocoa is considered “Fine Aroma,” and Ecuador is responsible for producing nearly 63 percent of it.

Ecuador is the seventh largest producer of cacao in the world producing over 3 percent of the global total. An estimated 500,000 hectares are currently devoted to cacao cultivation. Also known as “cacao nacional”, reflecting the symbolic importance of this crop, Arriba Cacao belongs to the “Forastero” botanical variety and is the country’s third largest agricultural export.

By Cathy Jewell, Media Relations Section, WIPO


The WIPO Magazine is intended to help broaden public understanding of intellectual property and of WIPO’s work, and is not an official document of WIPO. The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of WIPO concerning the legal status of any country, territory or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. This publication is not intended to reflect the views of the Member States or the WIPO Secretariat. The mention of specific companies or products of manufacturers does not imply that they are endorsed or recommended by WIPO in preference to others of a similar nature that are not mentioned.