Wadda's Log Blog

November 11, 2010

Fiestas Patrias: Independence Celebrations in Panama: Mil Polleras Parade in Las Tablas

Filed under: Tales of Go — Tags: , , , — The Crew @ 4:23 am

Current Location:   Las Brisas Anchorage, Panama City
Date:  10 November 2010
Hello again to all our visitors.   We continue to make progress with the radar installation, although recent high winds have prevented completion.   According to Moe, one more trip up the mast should see the job finished.

In Panama, November is the month for celebrations of independence (from Spain) and secession (from Colombia).   Last week was the official Independence Day, followed by Flag Day (both days public holidays).   Today, the 10th November, is the anniversary of the first town in Panama, Los Santos, declaring its independence from Spain (also a public holiday).   The Secession Day from Colombia is celebrated at the end of the month, the final public holiday for the month.

There has been an embarrassment of choices of parades to attend both in the capital and in the outlying towns.   We decided a brief road trip was in order and traveled by local bus to the town of Las Tablas in the Los Santos province which forms part of the Azuero Peninsula.

The ‘Mil Polleras’ Parade used to be held in the banking district of Panama City, however it was more recently re-located to Las Tablas.   It was an appropriate move as the hand stitched dresses are made in Las Tablas and surrounding communities.   The Azuero Peninsula is the focal for Panamanian folkloric traditions (music, dancing, clothing) from the Colonial period.   On the other hand, the contrast of seeing 1000 women in traditional dress dancing down skyscraper lined streets would have been quite a sight.

The pollera is the national dress of Panama.   One story I heard about the dress was that is was a work dress typically worn whilst rounding up the back yard chooks (hence the name).   In essence, a pollera is a full circle pleated skirt with a blouse that can be worn off the shoulder.   Made from light cotton, in this tropical heat the flowing dress makes a good sartorial choice.   It is derived from the house dresses worn by women in C17th  Spain, however with the passage of time, it has become in Panama a more ‘dressy’ dress, particularly when the head piece of gold or beaded seed pearls, and numerous gold chains, are added.   When seen up close they are gorgeous items of attire from the cross stitched patterns to the lace work – and frankly far too nice for the chickens to appreciate.    Can’t see myself wearing one, but can certainly appreciate the skill involved in making one, not to mention the dancing…

The parade was not just confined to women wearing polleras – as soon as we got off the bus we became aware that we were a little under dressed as neither of us had a Panama hat to wear (Moe’s buff and my  Cancer Council sunhat didn’t quite cut it).   What many people (us included) think of as Panama Hats, are actually made in Ecuador, and made from toquilla palm.   The Sombrero Pintada, or what we called a campesino hat, a made in Panama Panama Hat, comes in various styles from plain to patterned, all broad brimmed.   The men tend to wear them with the brims folded up, giving many of them a Gomer Pyle appearance.   As the photos below will show, many of the women just know how to wear a hat.

The dancers were organized into what appeared to be village or town groups of up to 40 or so people: the dancers, both women and men; the singers (women); and the band (men).   Instruments played by band members included drums (several types), other percussion instruments, violin, and accordion.   There was also an impressive age range of participants from Kindergarten aged children, older children, teenagers, young adults, adults, to jubilados (retirees).   Our observation was that if you wanted to be involved, a place would be found for you somewhere in the group.

It was a mostly clear sunny day and the atmosphere joyous.   A big day on the bus to get there and back, but well worth the effort.    As with the dance performance at Mi Pueblito, we were able to stand quite close to the action, which was wonderful.    Sorry, no sound recordings, only photos.

So, here’s some photos from the afternoon festivities, with only some of the 1000 pollera wearing gals and their entourages.

Mil Polleras Festival, Las Tablas, Panama: A day for pretty dresses and straw hats

Little girls

A day for the whole family to join in

There's the dress, and then there's the head dress


Polleras and Hipster

Erh, smile for the camera!

Pollera and world's least functional umbrella

Street Dance, 1

Street Dance, 2

Forgot the steps

Little girl concentrating

Youngest cowboy

Poppet amongst the flowers

Different regions had slightly different styles of dress

It was a pleasure to watch this young woman go through her paces

Some women just know how to wear a hat

In the afternoon sun the fan was a very welcome accessory to the outfit

Some women just know how to wear a hat, 2

Some of the dancers had a great time

Singers and band: thirsty work!

One of the poppets leading the dance

Band, 1

More poppets stepping out

Band, 2

Street dance, 3

Singers, 1

Authentic made in Panama, Panama hats

Product placement for visitpanama.com

Ice cream break during street dance

Some women just know how to wear a hat, 3

The 3 Amigos and their hats

Street Dance, 4

Is that Mr Bean?

Some women just know how to wear a hat, 4

And the beat goes on: Band, 3

Member of one of the bands. One of the percussioon instruments: a carved gourd with a metal pronged strummer

Will you look at the work in that dress

For all age groups, 1

For all age groups, 2

Street Dance, 5

And some of the boys knew how to wear a hat too

Drummer in the moment, 1

Drummer in the moment, 2

Drummers in the moment, 3

More poppets

And another one

And still another poppet

Street Dance, 6

Singers, 2

The beat still going on: Band, 4

Street Dance, 7

Some women just know how to wear a hat, 5

Some women just know how to wear a hat, 6

Street Dance, 8 (and she also knows how to wear a hat)

Street Dance, 9

Some women just know how to wear a hat, 7

Some dance while others talk on the phone

Some girls just know how to wear a hat

Flag bearer

Street Dance, 10

Jubilado Dancer

Young Dancer

Fiddler fiddling around town

We’re off to buy hats and practise our dance moves.      So, how many polleras did you count?

Margaret and Moe



  1. cwh

    Comment by cor — November 11, 2010 @ 9:58 am

  2. Lost count!

    How are the dance moves coming?

    Comment by Ted Heise — November 14, 2010 @ 1:41 pm

    • Perhaps a little better than last year’s salsa lessons

      Comment by The Crew — November 24, 2010 @ 2:04 am

  3. Margaret–I continue to thoroughly enjoy your every episode of your blog. Very interesting and I swear you should write professionally. And tell Moe I think he looks more like his Dad every time I see a new photo.
    I really miss you guys here– no one to run things by that I care to ask. Take care Guy

    Comment by Guy — December 1, 2010 @ 1:34 am

    • Hey Guy and Sandra,
      Always good to hear from you and thanks for your encouragement. We plan to be on our way before the end of the year…oops, spoiled the surprise

      Comment by The Crew — December 1, 2010 @ 11:20 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: