Religion, music and tradition at the Santa Librada Festival

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Santa Librada

Santa Librada

The festival of Santa Librada has been celebrated for decades in the town of Las Tablas, Los Santos province. This religious event celebrates the patron saint of Las Tablas, Santa Librada, and at the same time pays homage to the national dress, “la pollera.” The event begins Saturday, July 19 with the coronation of the queen, Her Majesty, Lucía Angélica Martínez Gesualdi, who was born in Canada from Panamanian parents and raised in the area, and will end with a big fireworks display on Wednesday, July 23.

Santa Librada is the saint of the poor and the unhappily married woman. The processions are celebrated on Thursday and Friday. There are three images of the saint in Las Tablas, but the best known is “La Moñona,” because of her long, wavy hair. She has many devotees. Some of them pay tribute by bringing tokens of thanks, like jewelry for miracles that have been granted by the saint.

The statue of the saint is dressed in the traditional colors of red and blue with lots of gold jewelry and chains representing different parts of the body. The religious celebrations end with a huge mass in the church which everybody attends, however the parties continue in the street.

There are many activities over the course of the days such accordion playing, “decima” (improvisational singing), hat making and “camisilla” (Panamanian male attire) and “pollera” contests. There are also competitions for the best “pollera” jewelry and “tembleques,” decorations worn on the head that simulate flowers and insects and which are part of the national dress. At night there is a dance at the “Toldo 20 de Julio.”

The “pollera” has a center stage in the celebration.

The “pollera” has a center stage in the celebration.

On Monday, July 22, the official day of the Pollera Festival, there will be a hundred of the “empolleradas” parading through the streets of Las Tablas, while the contagious “tuna” music will animate the proceedings.

Las Tablas is about 4 hours from Panama City and 5 from David City (via Divisa).

Accommodations will be scarce and expensive in Las Tablas, therefore Chitré, which is only 30 minutes away from the festival, is an option for travelers.

 

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Pollera’s jewelry.

Pollera’s jewelry.

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