When I go to Mexico I like to buy a unique sombrero to shade my head. The first year I went down, I cruised the mercados and found
a large Speedy Gonzales style of sombrero. I bought it because it appealed to the clown and extrovert in me.
It was a big hit. Lots of shade, the brim was a wide as my shoulders. Mexican people loved it and were always laughing and joking with me about it. It was however too big to bring back to Mexico with me the next year, so I decided to buy a new one again when I got there.
The next year I had a problem finding one that appealed to me and had almost given up. Until one night Lyn and I were sitting in Cuates Y Cuetes on the beach and rather inebriated old mexican wandered by with 3 sombreros on his head with a bunch of crickets (Grillos) stuck in the top. He asked me if I wanted to buy one (one of the hazards or blessings of sitting on the outside edge of a restaurant). I declined the first time, but when he came back I relented and bought one. Now it’s confession time, I have a really big head. It could be brains or a thick skull I’m not sure which but finding hats that fit is a challenge. So of course the hat didn’t fit, but these hats are adjustable just like a baseball cap but way less dorky. After a few minutes of punching and pulling he managed to get the sombrero to fit, so I bought it and received a hatful of Grillos as a bonus.
The next day Lyn had to go to the Pharmacia and I went along. In front of the Pharmacia is an informal taxi stand, like most corners in Puerto Vallarta. As I was waiting outside with my new sombrero on, for Lyn’s return the taxi drivers called me over and offered me a share of their breakfast. When Lyn came out she was surprised to find me hanging out with the taxi drivers eating tacos and beans and discussing my sombrero. This immediate connection and conversation starter of a sombrero was magical. I decided this was the sombrero of choice for me.
The next year I had trouble finding the old guy that I had bought it from the year before and this type of sombrero isn’t sold in mercados. I wandered up and down the Malécon for a week until one day on the bridge over the Rio Quale, I met Yolande Barrera who was selling purses and had a bundle of palm leaves of the type used for making my favourite ‘Sombrero Magico’. I asked her if she could make me one and she said it was her husband Gabino who made them. I made arrangements to return the next day for a made to measure sombrero.
That same year I also started making a video about Gabino and his extended family, showing the work that they had created for themselves recycling pull-tabs from pop and beer cans. Gabino employs his whole family including in-laws making purses and jewelry. “A Good Life” is the video that shows how he has created a small industry, which provides money to him and his family as well as others who collect the pull-tabs for him.