We show you the Mejorana Festival in Guararé that is celebrated in the month of September in Panama. One of the most important events of Panamanian folklore.
After dressing up in the traditional Panama costume, the pollera, I went to the Festival of La Mejorana in Guararé. In this article, we show you what you can see and enjoy in this annual event full of Panamanian folklore.
A bit of history about the festival
The La Mejorana Festival, which takes place in Guararé, is one of the great events of Panamanian folklore. It happens every month of September. Delegations from all over the country attend the festival, which is intended to preserve the traditions of Panama, the traditional costume (the pollera), traditional instruments (such as the Mejorana, which gives the festival its name).
The first festival was held in 1949 and each year a queen is elected. The festival I attended was honoring Nataly De Los Angeles Diaz Saavedra.
What is a mejorana?
The Mejorana is a stringed musical instrument originally from Panama. It is similar to the guitar and has five strings. Its exact origin is unknown, but among the different theories, it appears that the one that wins says that it comes from the Panamanian peasant.
Before arriving in Guararé I had no idea what “mejorana” was referring to. It sounded like a herb (marjoram), medicine, in short, it could be anything. But once at the festival it is clear as mejorana is seen everywhere, mainly on the queen’s crown.
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The parade begins: the music begins
As soon as we took up our positions and began to walk, the music started with a rhythm that invited us to dance. Although I’m not perfect at it, somehow I grabbed my pollera (that is, the skirt) and started to imitate the others (you know, for dancing that is the universal technique). Obviously, the others had enormous skill and ease, and it was more difficult for me, but it was fun.
Before starting to parade, I had a very nice anecdote: there was a group parading dressed as Aztecs, and I spoke with one of them. I told the man that it caught my attention to see them dressed like that, since I was Mexican and when he saw me dressed as a Panamanian and I told him I wasn’t, he thanked me for sharing his traditions, ah I felt excellent because the truth is I was somewhat afraid of looking “out of tune” among the people before arriving at the festival.
I have to say that at no time during the parade did I feel improper, one is welcome if one wants to share the party and the traditions.
Wearing traditional costumes
I had the opportunity to see different variations of the pollera, which had already been explained to me when they dressed me, but it was not the same to see it in person. In each of them, from the simplest to the most colorful, you could see the care that each person had put into displaying their folk costume with pride. I also saw the men’s suit which, as in many countries, is less showy than the women’s, but it is what it is.
An important part of the parade are the huge, colorful and eye-catching masks that come in various shapes. The diablicos stand out, the ones in the second photo, which aim to scare and boy, they do achieve it with those expressions, teeth, horns, etc. Later, I would learn how these masks are made, we can see how these masks are made here.
An important part of the parade is made up of the different carts that show a part of their city, region, etc. But there are not only regions or cities, in reality there is everything: there are also families, companies, etc. that go with their cart. You have to remember that there is a cart contest at the festival, so everyone shines to win the award. A delight for the attendees.
Ah, over there we see an exceptional cart.
The reason: the queen of the Festival is in it
The queen of the La Mejorana festival in Guararé
The queen of the festival becomes the representative of Panamanian folklore and is chosen through voting and sponsorships (that is, the one that collects the most funds wins). At the beginning of the festival, to be queen, the young woman had to be native of Guararé or the daughter of native people. These requirements have been changing. Its first queen was Fanny Correa.
Note the crown which is unique among all the other girls wear, at first, I got confused several times as other girls wear crowns too. But none wears the crown that bears a mejorana on top, the Panamanian instrument mentioned at the beginning.
See you later Guararé
And it was time to leave the festival of La Mejorana in Guararé, but yes, before that, I tasted a delicious ice cream that they sell during the festival.
Oh! And by the way, if you looked closely at one of the first photos, I came out as “waving to the sky”, well, actually I was looking at the ATP drone that was filming a video of the parade 🙂 here I show you:
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