Panama hats are really made in Ecuador. They originated in Montecristi. Spaniards are reported to have thought they were made of vampire skin. Gold seekers heading for the California gold rush picked up the Panama straw hats on their way out west. Fifty years later, workers on the Panama Canal found them as ideal protection against the tropical sun. The hats were imported to Panama from Ecuador and thus they got misnamed.
The genuine article should hold water, and have the ability to be rolled up tight.
They are made from a local plant called the golden toquilla. The fiber is cooked in big bowls and weavers braid the hats, purses and baskets that are not necessarily expensive.
To measure the quality of Panama hats, you must observe the fineness of the weave and the number of rows on the hat's crown.
Depending on how fine the hat is the price can vary from about $10 dollars to $3,000.00
I don't know if it is true or not (because there are other reasons that it could be - like high water table or difficulty in digging), but the guide explained to us that the tombs were built above ground because the local people believed that would put the dead person closer to heaven - so that they would get there faster.