La Merced parade around Casco Viejo

Casco Viejo, Casco Antiguo
Panama

Check out this photo and see if you can recognize what`s going on….

I`ve written about it before, but it is always fun to see how culture in Panama works. You pick up the paper and read about so many religious fights around the world. But the prove Panamanians are just happy go lucky about anything and everything is this photo. If you read my previous post about Panama`s Caribbean culture you would probably understand what you are seeing. For those who didn`t, well, basically the guy dressed in white with a white hat is a Babalao, a priest of Santeria (African religion that probably was made famous by Cubans… another similarity between Cuba and Panama). Right behind him, a catholic priest from La Merced church. All the girls dressed in white with head covered in white are santeras.

Why both there? because La Merced was the “front cover” back in the days for black slaves whose real deities where Obatala and other orishas from Santeria. In Panama, La Merced is also related as La Caridad del Cobre (Ochun). According to their tradition, Obatala was the first orisha created by Olodumare and represents the father-mother of humanity, who brings peace, harmony, creativity and justice. Ochun, on the other side, is the orisha of love, something of an Aphrodite with all her good and bad tempers.

And then you have the catholic side of it, which probably you are more familiar with.

What a sancocho! but well, such is Panama! I believe the sancocho (Panamanian chicken soup with a big mix of vegetables) responds to the fact that this country was always a mix of cultures and we had big waves of black populations coming either from colonial times (Africans) as slaves (mostly in Portobelo, you can still see the congos there), or Afroantillians which brought their own flavor to the pot. One of the reasons why we have a special “Panamanian” accent when we talk, and we dance similar to Cubans… and very different from, lets say, Costa Ricans… (no offense! we are just different!)

And all this I could experience right out of my office in Casco Viejo.  Nowhere else in Panama you are able to do this! Love this neighborhood…

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