Panama Arts, Theater, and Traditions

By | September 5, 2021


In the country there are interesting testimonies of pre-Columbian archaeological civilizations. In the Darién, spheroidal clay forms prevail, often with high annular bases, decorated with applications, bands and incisions, and painted in red and black. There are few finds in precious material, although the ancient sources speak of golden objects in large quantities. In the Canal Zone, vases have been found that can be linked with the clay art of Santarém (Brazil). In the western part of the country, three main areas must be distinguished: in the Coclé, apart from the beautiful ceramics, the objects in gold, copper, ivory of whale tusks, agate, quartz, serpentine, bone and shell are above all relevant; in Veraguas excellent stonework, fine metallurgy and splendid ceramics; finally in the area of ​​Chiriquí, beautiful lithic figures, ceramics varying in shape and decoration, and above all jewels in semi-precious stones and refined figures cast in gold, often enclosed within frames. Various military architectures remain from the colonial period (forts of S. Lorenzo and Davis near Colón; Las Cruces Trail, La Gloria and S. Fernando near Portobelo) and numerous Baroque churches, including those of Taboga (17th century) and of Natá are among the oldest in the New World. The figurative arts, like the literary movement, they began to develop consistently only starting from the achievement of independence and with the birth of some pivotal institutions such as the National School of Arts, the Panamanian Art Institute (Panarte), the National Cultural Institute. Among the most talented artists we remember Roberto Lewis, Guillermo Trujillo (b.1927), author of a painting in search of the primitive roots of the people of Panamá but without adhering in a strict and formal way to the primitivism widespread in central-southern America, Alfredo and Olga Sinclair, Juan Manuel Cedeño (1914-1997), defined as the “graphic chronicler” of the history of the republic for his ability to tell the twentieth century of his own country.


Practically non-existent until a few decades ago, Panamanian theater had a certain development starting from the folkloric research of M. Zárate (encouraged by President Arias), which gave prominence to different forms of national spectacle (indigenous myths and legends, folk dances etc..), not without African American and North American influences. In 1949 it was stated, with La conciencia, playwright Mario Riera Pinilla (n. 1920) and then the poet Jose de J. Martinez (La mentira, La venganza, La Perrera, El juicio and other plays not free from European influences); while the avant-garde authors Sinán, Ozores and Díaz Lewis have made sporadic contributions, not without a certain originality. A dramatic art school, founded by President Arias, and experimental groups of students and amateurs have given Panamanian theater a certain liveliness.


The different traditions that give life to the cultural framework of the country find maximum and characteristic expression in the crowded calendar of festivals and events that take place in Panama throughout the year. To common Christian celebrations (among all, those of the semana santa, and the local feast of the black Christ, which attracts a large crowd in October) are flanked by real musical happenings, often also not free from mystical-spiritual components or meanings. Dances and music accompany every party with sounds and choreographies of various origins, from those of the Caribbean style to the Argentine tango to the obsessive percussion with an African flavor. The typical instruments used are drums of different shapes and sizes, cowbells, wind and string instruments. Rich is also the legacy made up of stories and legends handed down orally through the generations, especially among the people of the Kuna ethnic group. The basis of the Panamanian diet is made up of rice, corn, fish, tropical fruit and chicken; the main dishes are in fact, the sancocho, spiced chicken with vegetables and the ropa veja, beef and rice stew. The national drink is seco, a sort of liqueur made from sugar cane. Among the non-alcoholic drinks, popular are chicas (fresh fruit juices, served with the addition of milk and sugar) and chicheme (a mixture of milk, corn and vanilla). Unlike many Latin American countries, as a country located in Central America according to collegesanduniversitiesinusa, Panama does not record a dominance of football among the most popular sports; instead, basketball, baseball and boxing are very successful, a discipline in which more than one Panamanian has reached world levels.

Panama Arts