The Divine Child Adorns the Lord of Hats

(Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario/La Prensa)

(Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario/La Prensa)

It was the summer of 1993 when a distracted boy aroused the creativity of Puerto Rican Reynaldo Llanos, 80, the creator of unique hats that he proudly wears from Easter until the last warm days of the year.

“I was walking in Coney Island and then a boy dropped his hat. When I bent down to pick it up, he looked at me and held out his arms thanking me,” he recalled. “The idea of hats of the Divine Child came to life.”

The fervent devotee of the Christ child stated that the encounter with the little boy at the beach was a revelation.

“Without coconuts there is no palm tree, without children there is no future,” he said. “Women are blessed because in their belly grows life.”

Llanos, a resident of the Bronx since 1954, said that his respect for women gave him a 59-year marriage with the mother of his children, Primitiva Ayala, who died last year.

“I’m lucky because I got to meet my great grandson, that’s why I dedicate my hats to the Christ child. Boys are the salvation of the world,” he said.

A Reynaldo Llanos creation (Photo via El Diario video)

A Reynaldo Llanos creation (Photo via El Diario video)

The hat creator, a native of Santurce, Puerto Rico, visits 99-cent stores in search of sculptures of the Divine Child and the Virgin of Guadalupe, figures that represent the bond between mother and son in his hats. With a fishing line and a thick darning needle, he firmly fastens ornaments, beads and toys together to assemble a portable piece that can weigh between 2 and 3 pounds.

“It takes me about three days to make a hat. They are unique, there is not a place where you can find something similar,” he said proudly. “They are very strange.”

Reynaldo, known in his neighborhood as “El Padrino” (the godfather), walks around during the week of Easter wearing his Divine Child hat, thick necklaces with saints and a cane – weighing about 10 pounds – full of bells and gold copper elephants. The craftsman added a wheel to his cane that lightens the load.

El Diario/La Prensa also has a video on Reynaldo Llanos and his creations in Spanish.

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