8 junio, 2024

Culture of Panama: traditions, customs, gastronomy, religion

The panama culture It combines different elements from the time of colonization that merged within its territory. The influence of Spain and Africa have been one of the main molds for the customs and traditions that are celebrated in the country today. However, many habits are also a product of Native American heritage.

It is a country of contrasts between the cosmopolitan urban area and the rural areas that still preserve part of the culture of past centuries. Panama is popular for its great annual festivities that are celebrated in style exposing the entire repertoire of traditions of the country, from music and dance, to the typical costumes of the area.

Another of the most influential countries for the Panamanian territory today is the United States. Since the 19th century, Panama has been closely linked to the North American country, especially at a political and commercial level. This link was born largely due to the interest in making a connection route that is currently known as the Panama Canal.

The Panamanian territory is an isthmus of great commercial importance, since it is the territory that connects the northern region of America with the southern part of the continent. In addition, it is also the link between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

Folklore, gastronomy and music, for their part, have points in common with other neighboring Latin American countries. Many of the recipes and musical styles enjoyed in Panama are linked to the Caribbean area.



Panamanian Carnival

It is about five days of celebrations prior to Ash Wednesday, in which multiple festive activities are carried out in the streets of Panama and that take place between the months of February and March. Music, masks, parades and dance are part of the festive elements.

During this event, the election of the carnival queen and her court is usually held, starting on the first day. Later the caravans begin. Many display colorful costumes. Musical events are also organized and it is customary to drench the crowd with water when meeting in the streets. The celebration can last until dawn on Ash Wednesday, which means the end of the celebration and the beginning of the Lenten period.

The Festival of the Skirt

It is a celebration that takes place every year on July 22, in the city of Las Tablas and is held in commemoration of one of the most important typical female costumes in the country, the skirt. The event takes place within the framework of the celebration of the Virgen Librada.

The festivity takes place between parades and music. Nearly 15,000 women gather each year to participate in this activity wearing their characteristic skirts. There is also a contest to choose the best outfit. During this time Panama receives approximately 300,000 people interested in this cultural celebration.

The typical costume consists of a two-piece dress made up of the upper part, called a pollerón, and the skirt. In addition, the «tremble» is integrated as an ornament for the head and finally includes satin shoes.

Devils and Congos Festival

It is an event that is held in honor of the Afro-American culture that has remained in the Panama region over time. This specific legacy is known as «Congo culture» and has been integrated as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2018.

As for the celebration, it takes place in the province of Colón where folk dances are performed and different passages or scenes are represented in which the struggle of black Africans, specifically the maroons, for their freedom is recreated. Colonizing Spaniards are often simulated by masked devils.

The episodes of good versus evil are accompanied by dances and music based on African elements such as percussion.

Marjoram Festival

It is a traditional festival whose beginnings date back to 1949. It commemorates a typical Panamanian instrument, the marjoram, which is similar to a guitar and has five strings. The celebration takes place every year in the town of Guararé, during the month of September.

During the event, activities take place such as the election of a queen, a typical parade, which exhibits and honors the customs and ways of life of the men of the countryside; folkloric contests such as playing marjoram, violin and more.

The origin of this tradition is attributed to Dr. Manuel F. Zárate, who during his study stay in Europe observed some festivities that revolved around a musical instrument. In this way, and after he returned to Panama, he raised the idea of ​​generating a festival that would enhance the life of the country’s fields.

Corpus Christi Festival

It is a festival that takes place 60 days after Easter Sunday and its largest centers of celebration are usually La Villa de Los Santos and the city of Parita. This event aims to exalt the Eucharist, the body and blood of Christ in the consecrated bread and wine.

Within the activities, masses and processions are held, apart from dances, among which the traditional dance of the little devils stands out, where several masked and disguised men make up two groups of devils, one of them qualified as «clean» and the other as «dirty». ”, representing good and evil.

These characters dance among people to the rhythm of the music. Subsequently, the end of the celebration is marked by a procession in which the great devil is defeated by the «clean». Corpus Christi is a festivity of religious origin introduced into the country’s culture after the arrival of the Spanish colonizers.

Flower and Coffee Fair

It is a fair held in the district of Boquete during the month of January. During the event, the wide number of varieties of flowers grown in the country are exhibited and marketed. Jewelry, crafts, sweets, typical dishes and more are also exhibited. This festivity lasts 10 days.

It has its origins as an intermittent coffee fair that has been held since 1950. Starting in the 1970s, it became the Flower and Coffee Fair, held during the month of April. It was from the 1990s onwards when it was decided to change the dates to January in order to take advantage of the dry season.


hygiene and appearance

Panamanian society places emphasis on personal appearance, trying to give an image of neatness and hygiene. This is how they prevent the clothes they wear daily from being too casual. Among other things, it is illegal for people to walk around without a shirt within cities or towns.

There is no rigor for punctuality on a daily basis

Like many Latin American societies, Panama is not a country characterized by the rigor of punctuality among its inhabitants. There is a tendency to prolong meetings or some casual events such as gatherings of friends or meetings for lunch.

love for rice

Panamanians are known for their preference towards rice. During the first semester of 2018, it was recognized as the second Central American country to import this cereal. This is usually one of the favorite accompaniments in the daily meals of the citizens of this country.

Go to the sea for New Years

It is customary for Panamanians to head to the sea after celebrating the New Year as a way to get rid of the old. This is due to the belief that salt and the sea allow people to be renewed in some way for the new year that is beginning. For this reason many people go to the beaches on these dates.

The Burial of the Sardine

Within the customs practiced by Panamanians towards the end of the carnival, is the «burial of the sardine». It is a carnival parade in which a sardine is symbolically burned during the early hours of Ash Wednesday. It is a way of burying or leaving the past behind.


The gastronomy of Panama has a diversity of dishes that are part of daily life in other Latin American countries, although with details typical of its territory. One of the favorite ingredients for Panamanians is rice, which is part of the main consumer products in the country.


It is a fried food prepared with cassava dough as the main ingredient. They are shaped like a torpedo and can be filled with various ingredients such as meat, chicken or cheese. They are also typical of countries like Brazil and Colombia.


It is a fairly traditional soup in Panama, although it is part of the typical foods of some Caribbean countries. The main ingredient is chicken meat. Cilantro, oregano, onion, garlic, salt and vegetables are also added. It also includes tubers such as yams. Rice is added daily as a side dish.

Old clothes

It is a typical dish of the Central American and Latin American region, widely prepared in Panama. The main ingredient is shredded or shredded meat, specifically from the cut of meat called skirt. The dish consists of meat stewed with tomato, garlic, onion and paprika.

When served, it is accompanied by portions of rice. Sometimes patacones are also added.

Rice with beans

It is an everyday dish that is often eaten in Panamanian life. It is a simple recipe of white, black or red beans, accompanied with white rice.

Rice pudding

One of the favorite and most popular desserts among Panamanians is rice pudding. It is another popular recipe from Latin America and Central America. It consists of a creamy rice prepared with evaporated milk, condensed milk and whole milk. It is customary to add cinnamon and raisins.


The music of Panama has multiple influences that come from African culture and Spain, which began to enter its territory during the 16th century. From here come various genres and styles that are among the most popular and traditional in the country.

Within the traditional music of Panama we can highlight:

-Folk music, which contains genres such as cumbia, mejorana and la décima. Many of the instruments used within these are the ringing drum, the box, the charuca, the accordion and the triangle.

-The little drum: Very popular in carnivals, it has drums and the singer’s voice as main bases, supported by choirs. It is a fundamental part of national dance and folklore.

-Tuna: it is a joyful dance that is accompanied by drums and choirs. It is also popular within carnivals.

-Point: It is considered one of the most sophisticated styles. Its origin comes from Europe and the musical compositions of this style are created based on the dance, which occurs only in couples. It contains typical steps such as the zapateao, paseo, escobillao and seguedilla.

Among other musical preferences within Panamanian life is salsa and reggae in Spanish, both widely popular genres.


Panama is a country that approves freedom of worship and religion according to its constitution. It is also recognized…

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