Carnivals in Panama

By Juliette Darmon

Experience a Latin America Carnival in Panama! That’s the most awaited date of the Panamanian calendar, and this, since the 1900’s!

Real National Day for four days (before the Ash Wednesday), the whole country is part of the Carnival, and even the littler locality has its own animations! Dances, costumes, music, salsa, merengue and tipico, folkloric popular music are fully part of the carnival. Let’s also enjoy some colorful float, masks and confetti!

Four days of non-stop partying, dancing, singing, drinking and eating, and getting lost in the middle of the crazy crowd!  Check our Glimpse of Panama

Panama Carnivals
Carinval in Panama

The Carnival of Panama is famous for its legendary shows and fanfare, and its impressive costumes. This joyous event is also known for the “culecos” or “mojaderas” tradition: the public is sprayed with fire hose getting out of tankers, on Reggaeton and Latin music.

Tips: Take your precautions with your phone, watch and any other electronic stuff you could have with you.

You will also enjoy the polleras parade (Panamanian traditional dresses).

Of course, no Carnival without the Carnival Queen’s election! But do not be surprised if you run into two queens: it’s a Panamanian tradition named the feud. It comes from colonial days that has been converted into a battle of excess and extravagance for the fanciest costumes and most creative floats between two historically rival neighborhoods: Calle Arriba and Calle Abajo, for which each one has its queen.

The schedule is always the same: opening the Friday, international day on Saturday, the Pollera day on Sunday, costume day on Monday, Queen day and big parade on the Shrove Tuesday and burial sardine ceremony to end the carnival and the entrance in the Lent. This day is the biggest Carnival Celebration day. The party ends in the early hours of the morning for the sunrise.

Naturally, the famous Panamanian fireworks will close the Carnival!

And of course, you will find many places and trucks by street to eat and drink during the whole celebration!

In Panama City, near 25000 of visitors are expected to come, and the largest celebrations take place on the Cinta Costera.

But Las Tablas, in Los Santos province is certainly one of the best places in Panama to celebrate the Carnival!

As it’s high season, we advise you to book your trip and hotels in advance, to have enough possibilities.

Furthermore, in order to fully enjoy the Carnival in Panama, try to stay with Panamanian people, they will bring you to the best places!



Bits & Pieces: The Polleras Of Panama

by:  Louie Celerier

The traditional dress for women in Panama is the “Pollera”. This is a richly decorated dress with needlework in many designs, styles and colors. The woman wearing the pollera is further ornamented with gold and pearl jewelry. Naturally this is not every day wear but one used for special occasions. As with other national dresses in Latin America, the pollera has its origin in Spain of the 16th and 17th centuries. However, as in other parts of Latin America, in Panama it evolved into what it is today. A study as to where in Spain it originated has failed to reveal any particular location in the old country. The important fact is that its uniqueness developed in Panama and compares to no other national dress in the Americas. How did the pollera come to be the dress it is today?

a girl with Pollera in Pedasi, Azuero Peninsula, Panama

The provinces of Los Santos and Herrera jealously guard the pollera tradition, but this has not prevented the model to be adopted by all regions of the Republic. Yet, anyone who wants an “original pollera” will not wear one which is not made by the seamstresses of the two central provinces. One can appreciate the pride of a woman dressed in a pollera made in one of the two provinces and her knowledge that the outfit follows all aspects of tradition and workmanship. While no one can say for sure when the Pollera became the traditional dress of Panama, there is evidence that as early as 1846 the term was already being used. Armand Recluse, a French Naval Officer exploring the isthmus, and Darien in particular, in 1876 through 1878, mentions the “poyera” as being the dress the women of color were wearing during the Independence Day (from Spain) in 1876. He described it in the following manner, “The colored ladies wear the poyera, a skirt gathered tightly at the waist and flaring greatly at the bottom.” Later, reviewing his experiences in the Darien, he added, “the women wear the old dress of the criollas, that is, a white petticoat made of lightweight cotton, adorned with one or more ruffles on which are stamped brightly colored floral designs. Over the short sleeved blouse are three ruffles similar in appearance but so low that the upper chest and back are left practically nude.” The hair style worn with the pollera is very important. Three variations are customarily seen: one using a typical hat; one using combs; and one using tembleques, combs and other jewelry. In all three cases, the hair is parted down the middle, combed to each side and braided. Left: Pollera. Right: Montuna As to the pollera itself, there are two types: The “Pollera Montuna” has a white cotton blouse with or without needlework and a long skirt made of flowered percale chintz. The woman wearing this outfit will usually wear a “montuno” hat from Ocu or La Pintada. The “Pollera de Gala”, is the fancy one with very full skirt, beautiful handmade embroidery and Left: Pollera. Right: Montuno and Montuna colorful designs on a white background. The head adornments vary according to the wealth of the person and include fancy combs with gold and pearls and gold tembleques along with gold bracelets, earrings and necklaces. Left: Pollera. Left: Montunos and Montunas dancing. To fully appreciate the beauty of the Panamanian typical dress it is necessary to see carnival in Las Tablas when the streets of that city are full with attractive women dressed in their “Polleras” and “Montunas”. Sources: La Pollera de Panama, by Dora P. De Zarate, 1973; Explorations Of The Isthmus Of Panama And Darien In 1876, 1877 And 1878, by Armand Reclus, Officer of the French Navy.