Bleach Job

Bleach Job

5. Bleaching the Straw

Waiting for straw to dry is not an especially exciting spectator sport. Not even in a tiny village in rural Ecuador with no cable TV service.

On that particular day, the straw dried in exactly as much time as it takes a thirsty man to drink two bottles of Pilsener and swap some stories.

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“Let it lie. Just let it lie,” I told myself.


When the straw is dry, Simón takes it around back and arranges the tallos on shelves inside a wood bleaching box he built.


Simón arranges the straw in the box to his satisfaction (left), then pulls a cover over the box to close and seal it as best he can. (below)

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The Young Inspector looks on to make certain Simón does it properly.

When the box has been closed up, Simón puts crumbled sulfur into a ceramic bowl. (below)

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Then he puts burning embers onto the sulfur and slides it all under the box. (below)

The coals will burn the sulfur. The sulfur smoke will fill the closed box and bleach the straw.

The straw will be left inside the box over night.

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Next, see how a hat is born.


6. Beginning the Weaving go to

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