Portobelo, Panama, Aug 20 (EFE).- Afro-colonial culture, its colorful costumes and traditions stood out Saturday at the 5th Congo Pollera Festival held in Portobelo, in the province of ColOn, highlighting the tourist attraction of this town in the Panamanian Caribbean.
The event, which highlights the role of black women in the preservation and strengthening of Congolese culture, since the time of slavery, brought together some 12 Congo groups from Colon invited to this festival that takes place every two years.
“We carry this in our blood, and we are going to fight to the last so that this culture is not lost, because it is a very beautiful culture,” Irma Pinilla Palma, queen of the Congolese group “Traits of my Black Race,” told EFE.
Dressed in her skirt, two necklaces and a large queen’s crown, Pinilla said it is not the dress, but the “joy and movement of the woman’s waist and hips,” who can already shout “freedom” leaving slavery behind.
Thus, each of these groups and their queen wore their best clothes in keeping with their traditions, especially the women who starred in the popular Congo skirt parade.
The skirt parade attracted the attention of dozens of tourists and nationals who gathered this day in this historic city of Portobelo, with approximately 5,000 inhabitants.
The Congo skirt had its origins among the slaves and black women, who used scraps of fabric from their masters to make costumes that simulate or copy their clothing, according to historians.
The men parade dressed as devils within the framework of a tradition that originates as a mockery by the Congos toward the Spanish who intimidated them with the devil if they did not comply with the ordinances.
The groups of Congos and devils – men with gigantic and elaborate masks with horns and fangs – dance to the rhythm of the music, a mixture of percussion and loud sounds.
The activity, which included a display of barges in the Bay of Portobelo decorated with flowers and striking colored flags, symbolizing the arrival of the freed blacks on the coast, opened with a Gastronomic and Craft Fair in the town’s central square.
The event is organized by the Patronage of the Congo Pollera, Masks and Devil Dances.
The Congo Pollera Festival complements the work carried out since 2000 with the Congos and Devils Festival, which is also held every two years to enhance traditional and national values, and tourism.
“Not only is it enhancing national values and having an economic impact through tourism, but it is also safeguarding and preserving our roots,” Culture Minister Giselle Gonzalez told EFE.
Gonzalez said children must be inculcated with that “sense of identity,” a responsibility she said “have these women as custodians of their culture and of what they represent.”
Portobelo benefits from tourism by having attractions such as customs and cannons that remain there along with the remains of forts dating from colonial times. EFE