By: Ana Teresa Benjamín, Roberto Quintero
Photos: Carlos Gómez, Noelia Vittori and Courtesy
Afro-Panamanian Conga Festival
This coming March 15, the Caribbean town of Portobelo will once again be awash in color and music as it hosts the second annual Festival de la Pollera Conga; this year’s festival highlights the African diaspora and the African culture that came to the Americas with the slave trade during the Colonial era.
The Portobelo Foundation and the Grupo Realce Histórico organize the event, which this year commemorates the enormous numbers of slaves transported from the island of Gorea (Senegal) to the United States, the Caribbean, and Brazil. Above all, the festival celebrates rebellion, the thirst for freedom, and the runaway slaves who banded together in settlements to rebuild their lives.
The festival will include a parade of watercraft on Portobelo Bay, where entries from participating towns (Cacique, Miramar, Palenque, María Chiquita, Puerto Lindo, and José Pobre, among others) will be identified by their own distinctive colors and presided over by their queens. The festival will also feature a handicrafts and culinary fair that showcases African culture. Tasty delicacies from Costa Arriba, in the province of Colón, will be served.
The Pollera Conga parade will be the focal point of the event. The deliriously colorful and energetic parade spotlights the pollera (elaborate, full-skirted national dress), considered an essential part of national folklore and the Panamanian identity, distilled from native peoples, the Conquest, and immigrant groups. First held in 2012, the festival is linked to the Festival of Devils and Congos.
International Theatre Arts Festival
Every two years, this global theater and modern dance festival takes center stage in Panama City’s Old Quarter. This year’s festivities begin on March 27 —International Theatre Day— and last until April 2.
In keeping with what has already become a tradition, outstanding international groups and companies from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Spain, Finland, France, and México will participate in the sixth year of this festival alongside Panamanian groups.
Notable participants include Histrión Teatro (Spain), which will present the production Teatro para pájaros (Theatre for Birds), written and directed by Daniel Veronese, one of the most significant figures in current Argentinean theater. Another illustrious group is the French company Dos à Deux, which will present the show Dos a dos, segundo acto, choreographed by André Curti and Artur Ribeiro.
The historic National Theater and the Teatro Anita Villalaz are the main event venues, with other productions being presented at La Casona, Espacio Calicanto, Teatro Amador, and Catedral and Herrera plazas. The festival boasts an interesting educational component consisting of theater workshops, dance classes, and discussion groups. The full schedule is available at
Green Music Culture Festival
The fifth year of this alternative music and culture encounter at Ciudad del Saber (City of Knowledge) is scheduled for April 4 and 5. In addition to offering entertainment by renowned national and international rock groups, the festival seeks to raise awareness and demonstrate and promote ways to reuse materials and create sustainable environments. Now in its fifth consecutive year, the festival has already become one of the most eagerly-anticipated and well-attended events of the season in Panama.
This year, the list of performers includes noteworthy international groups such as Zoé (México), Ana Tijoux (Chile), Standstill (Spain), and Descartes a Kant (México); indie bands like Señor Loop, Cienfue, Carlos Méndez, Orquesta Garash, Los Tímidos, Llevarte a Marte, Factor VIII, MD, and Ritmo Equis will also converge at the festival.
This year an electronic music marquee, organized by the creators of the Late Night Music collective and the Panamanian DJ duo K.E.E.N.E., will be introduced; My Favorite Robot (Canada) and six other local DJs will also participate.
Further features were still under wraps when this article went to press, so visit
International Film Festival of Panama
Organizers have scheduled screenings of some sixty-nine films from thirty-five countries during the week. These films have appeared and earned prizes at the most prestigious film festivals, including Cannes, Sundance, and San Sebastián. More than one hundred special guests will participate in the event, including renowned directors, actors, actresses, and international stars of the seventh art, who will come to Panama to present their movies and engage in question-and-answer sessions with the audiences, promoting inter-cultural dialogue and understanding.
This year, IFF Panamá 2014 will introduce the first Platino Awards for the best of Ibero-American cinema. The awards gala will take place on April 5 at Teatro Anayansi in Panama City, featuring notable regional stars. Organizers have divulged that the ceremony will be a superb production of the highest technical and artistic quality; it will be televised in all Ibero-American countries and the United States.
The traditionally opulent red-carpet galas will be held at the National Theater; there will be open-air cinema in the city’s Old Quarter, specialized discussions for cinephiles and industry insiders, parties, and the presentation of the popular Audience Award. This is one festival that should be on everyone’s calendar.
For further information, visit: www.iffpanama.org www.premiosplatino.com