Panama’s Parade of the Thousand Skirts, 2023.
Panama celebrated a new edition of the Parade of the Thousand Skirts last Saturday in the city of Las Tablas, province of Los Santos. The cultural event pays tribute to the typical Panamanian costume and brings together locals and foreigners.
Las Tablas’ name comes from the Latin word, tabula, which refers to the material used to build the first houses in the town. Las Tablas was founded on July 19, 1671, by a group of residents who lived in Panama Viejo and fled before the looting of the pirate Henry Morgan. Legends say that a strong wind pushed the ship towards the coast of what is now the province of Los Santos.
The province of Los Santos is considered the cradle of one of the greatest expressions of Panamanian folklore, in the Azuero peninsula. Places like Guararé, Santo Domingo, La Palma, San José, among others, are recognized for their laborious work in making the typical national costume, the skirt.
Camisillas, painted hats, cutarras, and traditional footwear are also made with very high quality. The making of jewelry and accessories that accompany the skirt has become the domain of a small group of seniors who dedicate themselves to this work.
The Las Tablas district is famous for being the cradle and guardian of various rhythms of vernacular music and its categories. Some are: The Panamanian cumbia, the tamborito, religious songs, the saloma, the tenth, the murga, old verses, coplas and other musical genres.
The City of Las Tablas presents, through its crafts and the work of making skirts by local residents, a city rich in Panamanian traditions and culture.
In this district, the skirt is made, the National Costume of Panama made 100% by hand, with floral designs that are made using marking techniques (Cross Stitch, Darning and Shading (superimposition of fabrics).
In the District of Las Tablas, there are famous gold and silver workshops. The artisans are dedicated to making jewelry with typical designs of the region, becoming a family tradition that dates back several centuries. In the corregimiento of La Palma, skilled “Plateros” have reached artistic fame.
A Parade filled with Color and Heritage
“The Parade of the Thousand Skirts is one of the most anticipated events of the year for nationals and foreigners, where the cultural identity of Panamanians is highlighted,” said the general administrator of the Panama Tourism Authority (ATP), Iván Eskildsen.
The celebration is inspired by Panama’s Sustainable Tourism Master Plan, which prioritizes the conservation of living traditions and cultural heritage of Panama.
History of the Panamanian Skirt
“There is no doubt that the Panamanian skirt is on the list of the most attractive traditional costumes in the world and the evidence of this is in the number of awards and recognition it has won abroad over the years,” celebrates Panama Vieja Escuela.
The escuela describes that skirt had its beginnings in Spain in the 16th-17th century, being the official dress of Spanish women, especially in regions such as Seville and Andalusia at that time.
With the Spanish colonization, clothing gradually became part of the mestizo, black and indigenous population of Panama. By the 18th century, it was common for the elaborate skirt to be worn by women of the upper class while those of the town wore it with a simpler preparation. When the Spaniards arrived in Panama and found the indigenous women with their torsos uncovered, they put on their shirts to cover them, details Panama Vieja Escuela.
The current Panamanian national costume is the result of the combination of different Spanish dresses throughout history, adapted to the tropical climate of Panama, which has led it to experience all kinds of modifications over the years in the main regions of Panama.
The Manuel F. Zarate Museum (Guarara) currently has the oldest skirt in the country. It dates from the decade of 1820 and belonged to the Manuela Diaz de Alvarez, a tablena woman.
The Manuel F. Zárate House Museum is a folk museum located in Guararé in the province of Los Santos in the Republic of Panama. It was inaugurated on September 24, 1969 on the site where the professor and folklorist Manuel F. Zárate was born. The Museum is currently administered by the Ministry of Culture of Panama. The site is in charge of exposing the life and work of the folklorist and the folkloric traditions of the country. Its collections are made up of documents, photographs, musical instruments and typical costumes of the country dating from the 19th and 20th centuries.
Desfile de las Mil Polleras
The event exalts the skirt in its different modalities. “The celebration seeks to delight the public and showcase the Panamanian woman proudly wearing one of the most beautiful typical dresses in the world,” stated ATP, Gobierno de Panama. After three years of restriction of massive events, due to the pandemic, Panamanians celebrated their culture on a large scale.
The parade attracted over 200,000 visitors who joined to enjoy the Desfile. “After three years without the Desfile, the great fervor for folklore, demonstrated in the Panamanian skirt, returned. It is considered the typical dress most beautiful in the world. Almost 10,000 skirts participated!” said Ivan Eskildsen via Twitter.
¡Más de 200 mil personas disfrutaron el Desfile de las #MilPolleras2023!
Después de 3 años sin el Desfile se vivió el gran fervor por el folclor, demostrando por qué la pollera es considerado el traje típico más hermoso del mundo. ¡Participaron casi 10 mil polleras! pic.twitter.com/fwn38cJxTV
— Ivan Eskildsen (@IvanEskildsen) January 16, 2023
For the ATP, the Parade of the Thousand Skirts is a fundamental pillar of the conservation of living traditions and cultural heritage, which make Panama a unique destination. It is part of the Folklore Circuit, which seeks to show tourists the Azuerean identity, its gastronomy, festivals, dances, crafts and legends.
The general administrator of the ATP, Iván Eskildsen, stressed that this folkloric event is very well positioned and is one of the events that attracts the most visitors and highlights the extraordinary cultural richness of this important region of the country.
“This will be the first massive activity of 2023, so there is a lot of expectation and people wanting to visit the region,” Eskildsen stressed in preparation for the event.
The event anticipated attendance to the parade at around 250,000 to 300,000 visitors, which represents an important economic injection for the Azuero region.
“According to the local authorities, more visitors are received during this event than during the four days of carnival, so the Parade of the Thousand Skirts is good for the economy, because the hotels from Pedasí to Santiago are full; that is to say, there is an economic spillover in the industry sector,” remarked the head of tourism.
Prelude to the Parade of Las Mil Polleras 2023
The event prior to the Parade of the Thousand Skirts was held to recognize various artisans such as Susana Rodríguez, who stood out for ironing the skirts; Jacinta de Vergara, who makes and teaches how to make the skirt and Marlon Villarreal, goldsmith of the jewels that accompany the skirt.
The Most Renowned Folkloric Event
The most renowned folkloric walk in the country began with the tour of the streets of Las Tablas by the government minister, Roger Tejada, who was the flag bearer of the parade along with the delegation of the Panama Tourism Authority.
“We are from here, I am from a family of tradition, it is an honor for all those who believe in the customs and culture of the folklore of my country,” celebrated Tejada.
The new edition of this event counted with the participation of various artists such as Jonathan Chávez, Alejandro Torres and his ensemble Las Estrellas del Ritmo who rode in floats.
“This is an experience that every Panamanian should enjoy at least once in their life. Don’t miss the Desfile de las Polleras 2024!” said Ivan Eskildsen.
Reflecting on the event, Roberto Alberto Tejada had this to say: “It was a unique experience that I shared with my family and friends and all who accompanied the path of this flag. As we close the Parade of the Thousand Skirts, I dedicate it to the memory of my mother who in her life was a guardian of our folklore.”
Fue una experiencia única que compartí con familia, amistades y todos los que me acompañaron en el recorrido de esta bandera cerrando el #DesfileDeLasMilPolleras. Le dedico esta bandera a mi madre quien en vida fue una guardiana de nuestro folklore.
¡Un beso hasta el cielo mamá! pic.twitter.com/nTPyos0iCI
— Roger Alberto Tejada (@rogertejadab) January 16, 2023
Latina Republic is a reporting, research, and advocacy nonprofit organization advancing human rights in the Americas. Latina Republic fills the void in coverage of urgent social, political, environmental, economic and gender inequities affecting the Americas. Latina Republic’s mission is to inspire humane policies that fortify relations between the U.S. and Latin America. Our work is guided by peaceful international relations focused on solidarity. We believe asylum and seeking refuge is a human right. Our work envisions a world where neighboring countries are seen as partners, and immigrants and refugees don’t have to live in the shadows. Our goal is to advance peaceful dialogue by highlighting local perspectives that don’t make it into the mainstream news. Our vision is that this knowledge will assist all stakeholders in solving regional problems while strengthening ties.