An ongoing personal project,
Somos Panamá are simple yet playful and vibrant illustrations of time-honoured customs, interesting facts, and special events in Panama. The purpose of the project is to celebrate and introduce my home country to the curious viewer.
These illustrations were featured in The 50
th Diplomatic Red Cross Bazaar 2017 in Thailand and all proceeds were donated to charity. Thanks to The Embassy of Panama in The Kingdom of Thailand for the kind invitation.
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La Pollera & El Montuno
Considered the most elegant and beautiful traditional dance in Panama. El Punto consists of a specific composition executed by a single couple in the centre formed by a man a woman. The origin of this dance is Hispanic, and unlike other folk dances like the tamborito or cumbia, it has a more detailed choreography and less likely to be improvised. It is quiet and graceful, with delicate moves of their arms and feet.
This layered dress is the national distinction of the Panamanian women and the product of a tradition from artisans across the country. Making a Pollera can take around one year with the design and elaboration being unique to each region. La Pollera consists of two pieces: the Camisa and the Pollerón. Along the accessories that adorn this dress are the Tembleques and the Mosquetas—family relics made of pearls and gold that take shapes from flora and fauna.
This national costume is worn by men during festivities, national celebrations, and particularly when performing traditional dances together with women wearing Polleras. A Montuno consists of a white long-sleeve shirt and closed neck (Camisilla), black long pants, traditional hand-woven straw hat with black lines (Sombrero Pinta'o), small bag hanging on the left side of the body (Chacara), and black and white shoes (Chinelas).
Etnias & Comarcas
Guna & Mola
The majority of Gunas live on small coconut islands off the Caribbean coast of Panama in the Guna Yala comarca. This archipelago has beautiful beaches, coral reefs, sunken shipwrecks, laid-back lifestyle, local traditions and crafts found in every direction. The Guna are famous for their bright colourful handmade textiles known as Molas which are used to make the blouses of the Guna women's national dress—the Dulemola.
Emberas live along the banks of rivers in the Darién province and Colombia. The distinctive black and red paint they use on their bodies is made from the jagua trees and achiote. This decorative paint lasts about 10-12 days and also protects them from mosquitoes and the sun. On special occasions, women wear silver necklaces and earrings made of old silver coins dated from the 19th century which are passed down from mother to daughter.
The Ngäbes have distinctive high cheekbones, full mouths, thick straight black hair, tanned skin, and short stature. Women and girls in this Comarca wear a traditional brightly coloured hand-sown dress that reaches down to their ankles called “naguas”. The triangles and straight lines are inspired by the jagged shapes and vivid colours of the Ngäble-Bugle rivers, mountains, and forests in Chiriquí.
Afroantillanos are the descendants of africans from The West Indies who began migrating to Panama to help build the railroad and the canal. Under French and American control, they worked and lived in appalling conditions. In spite of this, they’ve maintained a vibrant and distinct culture which has widely influenced Panamanian society. Streets in Bocas del Toro, Panama City and Colón are peppered with Jamaican slang. Their unique beliefs and customs continue to thrive. Heavily spiced Caribbean dishes permeate Panamanian cuisine, and their introduction of jazz, calipso, soca and reggae are an indelible mark on the region.
Places & Festivities