the culture of panama

The Roots and Culture of Panama

Last Updated on July 4, 2020 by Retire in Panama

This Central American country is enticing to many people due to its cultural diversity. Various cultures and traditions have been combined to come up with a unique and beautiful environment rarely found anywhere else in the world.

Cultural diversity is clearly evident in the architecture, festivals and cuisines in the country. Additionally, its traditional products such as pottery, wood carvings and ceremonial masks also bring out the diversity of Panama.

Different groups in Panama have each maintained their traditional homes which make the architecture of the country unique and outstanding. The country contains immigrants from Germany, Yugoslavia, Switzerland, America and India. All these immigrants have built contrasting homes based on their culture, dazzling those who get an opportunity to view these homes.

Local Folklore and Dance

Panama has various festivals that take place throughout the year. These festivals reflect the cultural diversity of the country. One of the best festivals where cultural diversity is the Panamanian Carnival. It is held from the beginning of Lent, before Ash Wednesday. All ethnic groups take part in this carnival.

Women are usually adorned in beautiful golden jewelry and polleras, the traditional dress for women. The pollera takes a year to complete making. It has a complicated design, but the finished product is very beautiful. The carnival consists of singers, processions and bands. The men are dressed in finery which consists of long-sleeved shirts which are embroidered and pants that are three-quarter length. They also wear a hat made of straw.

In Colón province, located in the northern part of Panama, the African tradition is prevalent. The Black Christ feast as well as Congo drums can be found in this area. In Bocas del Toro, the European tradition is prevalent, and this can be seen in the Pole Ceremony that takes place in that part of the country.

Artisan pottery styles are numerous ranging from folk images to pre-Colombian motifs. Pots, dishes and flowers of various styles are available hence travelers are spoiled for choice.


The constitution of Panama allows for freedom of religion hence the country has various religious groups. The dominant religion is Christianity. Roman Catholics make up more than 50 percent of the religious groups.

Indigenous religious groups consist of the Mama Tata among the Ngöbe and Ibeorgan among the Kuna. Rastafarians are also present although they are a small group.
Other religious groups include Hindu, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and Episcopalians among others.

Cultural Centers

This culturally rich country contains various museums including Museum of Religious Art, the Art Museum, Canal Museum, Reina Torres de Araúz Museum, Afro-Antillean Museum, Biomuseo and the History Museum.

Casco Antiguo city is one of the oldest cities in Panama. It has both historical and architectural value. The homes in this city consist of African, French and neoclassic architecture that were built in the early first century.
Some of the buildings in the city include colonial churches, the Church of San Jose and ancient ruins. Casa Gongora is another ancient building named after Pablo Gongora who lived in the building. It is considered one of the best pieces of colonial architecture in the town. The building was rebuilt due to a fire that occurred in 1756. Currently, it is the House of Culture and of Panamanian Artists.

Due to its architectural and historical importance, Casco Antiguo was declared a World Heritage site in 1997 by UNESCO.

Traditional Foods

The good thing about Panama is that each region has its own traditional food. Visitors thus have a wide variety of foods to try as they move from one place to another. Ingredients that are commonly used in foods include maize, cassava (yuca), plantains, rice, wheat flour, beef, chicken and pork among others.

Common foods in almost all areas include seafood and fish . Fu-Fu is also common and it consists of soup that is made from fish, coconut milk, green plantains and a little chombo chile, a distinctive spice condiment.

Other types of traditional foods include Carimañolas which is deep fried yucca rolls that are filled with meat, Sancocho a chicken stew.
Panama is the bridge between two continents and thus has a wide variety of herbs and vegetables that are used in cooking. It also has a wide variety of tropical fruits.

It’s more than a tour . . it’s an experience.

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