Viento Frio, Panama, Oct 18 (EFE).- A peculiar, dark-complexioned Christopher Columbus makes landfall in one of three rudimentary canoes in a re-enactment of that momentous voyage staged by inhabitants of this village on Panama’s Caribbean coast.
In a tradition that now dates back more than 40 years, a large number of the nearly 500 residents of Viento Frio, a community in the north-central province of Colon, annually relive the 1492 discovery of the Americas in an open-air play titled “Juego de indios.”
With no set script and a great deal of improvisation, the locals on Saturday, Oct. 16 (Columbus first made landfall in what is now the Bahamas on Oct. 12, 1492) portrayed two failed attempts to disembark by the conquistadors, who are repelled by locals wielding sticks and stones.
The native population, represented by dark-skinned actors covered in mud from head to toe, are eventually unsuccessful and are killed or enslaved at the end of a ferocious battle.
In addition to the use of canoes instead of ships, the actors wear rudimentary costumes, wield large shells for shields and carry wooden swords and improvised clubs.
Vicente Forsythe, a long-time resident of Viento Frio who has taken on the role of Columbus for the past 11 years, told Efe that the locals are keeping this tradition alive despite a lack of governmental support.
Forsythe, who like the other actors playing conquistadors wears a type of whitener on his face, issued an appeal to the people of Viento Frio, urging them to “not let the history or tradition of the ‘Juego de indios’ die out.”
For his part, respected Panamanian photographer Jose Angel Murillo told Efe that this re-enactment of the discovery of the Americas is based on an oral account that late teacher and resident of Viento Frio Heriberto Molinar would communicate to his students.
“They say Heriberto Molinar would tell this story more than 40 years ago, and it occurred to him then to perform it live and make this a village tradition,” Murillo, also a Viento Frio resident, said.
Even so, the photographer said this theatrical performance, which was canceled last year due to Covid-19 and organized once again this year thanks to a special permit, is little-known outside the community. EFE