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Preparing for the Manito Festival

Pre-manito event at she school. The women are wearing what is called a montuna and you can see a sombreo pintao hat, with the single band which is specific for this region of the country. The small shells are called totumas, made from the fruit Calavazo and were used for serving water and food.

It is now Thursday afternoon. Tonight, the Manito festival will officially be opened. During our interviews, we have learned more about the festival and its origins It is a celebration of the traditions and customs of people living in this area, in particular those outside the towns, working the fields in remote hilly regions. This title can be seen as both the diminutive of hermano, brother, which was a nickname for peasant people, and also of hand, mano. Thereby, it references the group it celebrates, the people from the country side, and symbolizes helpfulness and cooperation, as in holding hands or lending a hand. In the beginning, the festival may have had some element of the towns people of Ocú wanting to showcase the peasants. However, the people living in the surrounding areas are now fully involved in the organization and running of the festival. In a way, the festival has been part of creating pride in the agricultural and peasant traditions. Talking to a folk musician, we also discussed the nature of any connections between reviving folk music as featured in the festival, and the development of a more solid national Panamanian identity after being colonized by Spain, being part of Colombia, and a quasi-U.S protectorate.


The three days leading up to the opening of the festival, performances of folk music and dance takes place at the town square. The girls seen in the video below are princesses of the festival, chosen after a competition on their cultural knowledge and potentially musical abilities. This is something we will be learning more about.

Pre-manito at the school

This morning, we attended a pre-manito event at the local school. Having been funded by teachers, there is significant focus on sharing the festival and the traditions embedded in it in schools across the district. The kids and several parents and teachers were dressed up in the traditional attire, including the Montuna .

Instruments and handicraft were on display, and food served in each classroom.

In fact, I had to learn to say "I've already eaten" in Spanish as there was no end to how much food they thought the gringas should have. We tasted items such as delicious chorizo sausage, thick corn tortilla, sweet rice pudding, and grilled pork. To your left, Sashur is savoring the dishes.

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