This post is also available in: Spanish
The “Manito de Ocú” is probably the most famous festival of the Herrera Province. At the “Manito de Ocú” the entire region comes together to express proudly their folkloric traditions – a legacy from their ancesters – with dancing, singing and “salomas”, a special singsong used by Panamanian peasants to greet each other as well as to express their joy or sadness. The name of the festival, “Manito”, originates from a traditional greeting of the Ocú people, in which they shake each others hands and say “ta’ las manito”, which means something like “How are you doing, brother”.
Ocú preserves one of Panama‘s oldest folkloric traditions: The dance of the Mejorana (traditional music instrument, similar to a Guitar). At the “Manito de Ocú” event, the peculiarities of Panama’s rural areas are celebrated: the peasants of this area have developed a unique an authentic way of their daily duties: Based on the Spanish heritage from colonial times but with an interesting fusion of indigenous and Panamanian traditions that are all remembered at the Festival of the “Manito”.
During the festival of the “Manito”, a Peasant Wedding is celebrated, the traditional marriage ceremony of the rural areas of Ocú. Once concluded the religious ceremony at the church, the newly weds ride on a horse through the village to get to the fairgrounds of San Sebastian, where the peasant wedding celebration takes place, including all the traditional dishes the people from Ocú usually serve for the occasion.
Another very authentic folkloric expression of the festival is the representation of the famous “Tamarind Duel”. This used to be an act where a peasant from the countryside felt very brave and – usually during fairs or festivals such as Santa Rosa or San Sebastian – came down to the village with the intention to settle some old score or to look for any excuse to pick a fight. Any motive was good enough to start a fight – sometimes over a woman, sometimes over land. The peasants usually fought with saber or a machete and didn’t stop until one of them was dead.
The festive acts continue with a big folkloric parade where approximately 50 delegations represent different moments and traditions of the peasants’ lifes, such as carrying a rancho, the penitents from the hereafter, the carrying of the dead on a plank, the carrying of the sick in a hammock, the sowing of corn, the cleaning of the land, the cutting of the rice, the building of a traditional mud hut and many more.
Cubitá Tours is offering a special package for you to experience the Festival of the “Manito de Ocú” with all the necessary comfort: transportation from / to your hotel, an expert guide in Panama’s rural traditions and folklore, a reserved area at the festival and a traditional snack among others. The “Manito de Ocú” is without any doubts one of Azuero‘s most important folkloric festivals and an excellent opportunity for us to learn about the everyday life of our peasants since colonial times.
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