Saturday, August 11, 2012

Panama National Artisan Fair

Once a year there is a large artisan fair held at the main convention center in Panama City.  Our pal, Michael, has enjoyed it in years past.  This time he hopped into our truck and we three got to the site to walk all the aisles.  Each region of Panama is represented and there were hundreds of booths filled with crafts, trinkets, molas, and art.

In addition, groups present aspects of the diverse cultural life of Panama, both past and present.  The well-known polleras waved from the hands of dancers.  Wikipedia explains.

In Panama and Colombia, hand made polleras evolved during time to a very elaborate piece of clothing. Currently it is the National Costume of Panama. Girls and women would generally own two polleras during their life: one before age 16 and one at adulthood. A single pollera can cost from several hundred to several thousands of dollars and take up to a year to create. The gold and pearl mosquetas and tembleques that accompany a pollera are generally passed down as heirlooms through generations.
One other bit of cultural life in evidence was the drawing of the numbers for the national lottery.  This is televised weekly with thousands watching expectantly.  The cameras were set up on risers to catch the action as the young child reaches into the ball cage to make the selection.  An adult at full voice calls out the lucky numbers on the PA.  In Panama the volume on the amp is set to where the sound is distorted and then turned up one more notch to make listening painful and conversation impossible.

Michael explained that this year the show had expanded into adjoining side rooms.  One stage showcased dancers, wearing fascinating costumes with animal masks, acting out folk stories.  Some of the hundreds of handmade items were submitted into a judged competition.  And there was an extensive food court.  We three sampled the strawberry batido, a type of smoothie, which was ample enough to suffice for lunch.

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