Culture & tradition

Culture & Tradition

Festivities

Carnival

Celebrated during the four consecutive days prior to Ash Wednesday, Carnival in Panama is considered the official party of Panamanians. In several towns of Panama’s interior, such as Las Tablas, Chitré and Penonomé, Carnival Queens represent opposing hoods, such as Calle Arriba and Calle Abajo, as they parade in extravagant floats alongside ‘tunas’ with a different theme each night. During the day, people enjoy the famous ‘culecos’ in the public plazas, where they are soaked by water tankers as they dance and drink to popular music. This festivity ends around 5am on Ash Wednesday with the ‘topón’ or ‘entierro de la sardina’, where each hood competes to see who can burn the most fireworks. By many, Las Tablas is considered the best place to celebrate Carnival as it is animated by the traditional rivalry between “Calle Arriba” and “Calle Abajo” who compete for the best costumes and most original floats.

Festival Nacional de la Pollera

Celebrated on July 22nd each year in the town of Las Tablas within the framework of the Santa Librada festivities, the Festival Nacional de La Pollera honors one of the most beautiful national costumes, the Panamanian Pollera. The most famous event during the festival is the National Pollera Contest, where women from all over the country compete for the ‘Margarita Lozano’ medal by modeling their most beautifully crafted and colorful versions of this majestic national dress, some worth thousands of dollars. Grace, artisanship and authenticity are key. The festival also seeks to promote knowledge on the correct use of the pollera and highlight its craftsmanship. Throughout the festival, other contests such as the National Violin Contest, the Tamboritos Contest and the National Contest of the Camisilla and the Sombrero Pintao are also held. Numerous folkloric exhibits are open to the public.

Festival de Diablos y Congos

Expressed through a tradition of dances and interpretation of the Afro-American culture in the province of Colon during the Carnival period, this festivity’s main feature are the street performances where dances, drum beats, chants and outrageous costumes reenact the runaway slaves who fought for their freedom during the Spanish colonial era. Evoking fear and interest from spectators, the ‘diablos’ are dressed in elaborate outfits and masks as they whiplash the ‘congos’, who dance to fight them. In the end, they are saved by the Queen of Congos. A craft fair that includes typical foods, drinks and fireworks is also held as a complimentary activity.

Indigenous Groups

Gunas

Previously known as Kunas before an orthographic reform in 2010, this indigenous group can be found in Panama and Colombia. Most Gunas live on the San Blas Islands off the coast of the comarca of Guna Yala, and each one of their communities has their own political organization which is led and controlled by a Sahila. They are famous for wearing the famous molas, a colorful textile art form, and Dulegaya is their main language. Their main source of income is tourism and coconuts.

Emberá

Also known as the Chocó or Katío Indians, this group can also be found in Panama and Colombia. Most of the Emberá population in Panama (approximately 30,000 people) still lives in the region of Darién, and the river systems remain their main homelands, although now almost all Emberás live in villages, towns or urban centers. Tourism has encouraged this group to proudly maintain its traditions and share it with visitors from all over the world. They are known for wearing loincloths and eye-catching body decoration.

Ngäbe-Buglé

Collectively known as the Guaymí, the Ngäbe and Buglé are two separate groups living in the comarca Ngäbe-Buglé located in northwestern Panama, although they can also be found living in Costa Rica. This territory consists of land that previously belonged to the provinces of Bocas del Toro, Chiriquí and Veraguas. They speak different languages and make the largest indigenous population in Panama. Women wear full-length, colorful dresses called naguas while men stick to trousers and shirts.

Culture & Tradition

Festivities

Carnival

Celebrated during the four consecutive days prior to Ash Wednesday, Carnival in Panama is considered the official party of Panamanians. In several towns of Panama’s interior, such as Las Tablas, Chitré and Penonomé, Carnival Queens represent opposing hoods, such as Calle Arriba and Calle Abajo, as they parade in extravagant floats alongside ‘tunas’ with a different theme each night. During the day, people enjoy the famous ‘culecos’ in the public plazas, where they are soaked by water tankers as they dance and drink to popular music. This festivity ends around 5am on Ash Wednesday with the ‘topón’ or ‘entierro de la sardina’, where each hood competes to see who can burn the most fireworks. By many, Las Tablas is considered the best place to celebrate Carnival as it is animated by the traditional rivalry between “Calle Arriba” and “Calle Abajo” who compete for the best costumes and most original floats.

Festival Nacional de la Pollera

Celebrated on July 22nd each year in the town of Las Tablas within the framework of the Santa Librada festivities, the Festival Nacional de La Pollera honors one of the most beautiful national costumes, the Panamanian Pollera. The most famous event during the festival is the National Pollera Contest, where women from all over the country compete for the ‘Margarita Lozano’ medal by modeling their most beautifully crafted and colorful versions of this majestic national dress, some worth thousands of dollars. Grace, artisanship and authenticity are key. The festival also seeks to promote knowledge on the correct use of the pollera and highlight its craftsmanship. Throughout the festival, other contests such as the National Violin Contest, the Tamboritos Contest and the National Contest of the Camisilla and the Sombrero Pintao are also held. Numerous folkloric exhibits are open to the public.

Festival de Diablos y Congos

Expressed through a tradition of dances and interpretation of the Afro-American culture in the province of Colon during the Carnival period, this festivity’s main feature are the street performances where dances, drum beats, chants and outrageous costumes reenact the runaway slaves who fought for their freedom during the Spanish colonial era. Evoking fear and interest from spectators, the ‘diablos’ are dressed in elaborate outfits and masks as they whiplash the ‘congos’, who dance to fight them. In the end, they are saved by the Queen of Congos. A craft fair that includes typical foods, drinks and fireworks is also held as a complimentary activity.

Indigenous Groups

Gunas

Previously known as Kunas before an orthographic reform in 2010, this indigenous group can be found in Panama and Colombia. Most Gunas live on the San Blas Islands off the coast of the comarca of Guna Yala, and each one of their communities has their own political organization which is led and controlled by a Sahila. They are famous for wearing the famous molas, a colorful textile art form, and Dulegaya is their main language. Their main source of income is tourism and coconuts.

Emberá

Also known as the Chocó or Katío Indians, this group can also be found in Panama and Colombia. Most of the Emberá population in Panama (approximately 30,000 people) still lives in the region of Darién, and the river systems remain their main homelands, although now almost all Emberás live in villages, towns or urban centers. Tourism has encouraged this group to proudly maintain its traditions and share it with visitors from all over the world. They are known for wearing loincloths and eye-catching body decoration.

Ngäbe-Buglé

Collectively known as the Guaymí, the Ngäbe and Buglé are two separate groups living in the comarca Ngäbe-Buglé located in northwestern Panama, although they can also be found living in Costa Rica. This territory consists of land that previously belonged to the provinces of Bocas del Toro, Chiriquí and Veraguas. They speak different languages and make the largest indigenous population in Panama. Women wear full-length, colorful dresses called naguas while men stick to trousers and shirts.