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Panamanian Culture – Panama’s customs reviewed

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The colorful Panamanian culture owes to myriad influences with the passage of time. Panamanian culture embraced the colonial era settlements, the native Indian people and not to mention the multi-race communities of the present times. The Spanish influence was inevitable as they ruled Panama for over 300 years. As a result, European artistic, literary and musical traditions found place in the Panamanian culture. North American culture came to the front in the Panama Canal region as well.

The means of living of the people of Panama is nothing but an extension of the co-existence of the scores of influences in Panamanian culture. You will find that people inhabiting the urban areas, predominantly the Panama Canal area (where the US army was based in the days when the construction work of the Canal was under progress), lead polished, sophisticated lives. Be it in the field of art, architecture, music or sports, the cities represent a contemporary society where the US influence is much-too apparent.

What’s more, the Panama countryside with its cattle ranches and horses and Spanish folk songs, carries on to be the stronghold of Hispanic culture. The native people of Panama restricted in the small land pockets here and there also continue to contribute immensely to Panamanian culture. Thus, the netted bags and beaded necklaces made by the Guaymí people and the brightly embroidered textiles called Molas (made by Kuna women) have brought Panama’s artwork and handicrafts worldwide recognition. The epic poems (extending to some hundreds or thousands of lines) of the Kuna people focus another feature of the Panamanian culture.

Dance and music also feature in the diverse Panama customs to say it all. Hence, the traditional dance Tamborito introduced by the Spanish invaders borrows steps and rhythms from native dance forms. The influence of Afro-Caribbean music and that of other popular local music like salsas cannot be missed. Though Spanish is the preferred language for compositions, the themes, plots and even characters have their roots steeped in the colorful Panamanian culture. The religion of Panama also has it’s own share of influence.

Panamanian culture is revealed in the ways of life of the Panamanians, their music, their dance, their festivities, their literature and even in their cuisine. The many festivities held year-round in Panama like the Carnaval or carnival, Festival of the Black Christ, Fair of Azuero, Semana Santa (or Easter Week), too uphold the land’s cultural diversity. Most of the festivals are excellent blending of Pagan and Catholic beliefs and rituals.

Panamanian culture is varied on all fronts much to its myriad influences. And this unity in diversity is Panama’s forte. If you visit the museums and the historical places in Panama you will know the warmth of the Panamanian culture. The diversity has brought about so much - from varied cuisines to gorgeous festivities and the list goes on.

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