The cross-cultural love of Anayansi and Vasco

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A sketch of Anayansi and Vasco Nuñez de Balboa.

A sketch of Anayansi and Vasco Nuñez de Balboa.

The University of Santa Maria La Antigua (USMA) folkloric dance troupe “Costumbres y Tradiciones” (Customs and Traditions) has presented a ballet to commemorate the first sighting of the Southern Sea [Pacific Ocean] and the 500 years foundation of the first diocese in the mainland called “Travesía por Panamá” (Voyage through Panama).

The ballet, shown for the first time last month, narrates the love story that took place between Vasco Núñez de Balboa and Anayansi, daughter of the Chief Careta, who dominated the territory which is known today as the Darien province. The dancers’ precision, together with costumes, created a moving picture of the discovery and the foundation of the Catholic Church’s mission on the mainland Americas, under the patron saint Santa Maria La Antigua.

Anayansi, a 13-year-old native beauty, conquered the hardened heart of Balboa. According to Universidad de Panamá founder and historian, Octavio Méndez Pereira, the Indian princess taught her lover that the difference between the two races were minimal.

Unlike other conquerors, Balboa’s behavior towards the indigenous population was always kind and humanitarian, seeking alliances rather than violent confrontations, a trait historians suspect could have been due to the love he felt for his Anayansi.

Their love story has been retold in countless ways in paintings and in books and now in a ballet. What a wonderful way to pay homage to a 500 year old romance that will be forever intertwined with the Pacific Ocean’s discovery.

Anayansi, the daughter of Chief Careta, fell in love with Spanish Conquistador Vasco Nuñez de Balboa.

Anayansi, the daughter of Chief Careta, fell in love with Spanish Conquistador Vasco Nuñez de Balboa.

Vasco Núñez de Balboa’s discovery of the South Sea put in evidence for the first time Panama´s geographical importance as a land bridge between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The Spaniards utilized this route to ship the riches of Peru to Europe.

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