A grand fair to celebrate a humble fritter

Almojábano

Almojábano Festival in Dolega

A curious district-wide fair is taking place this week in the province of Chiriquí which pays tribute to one of the region’s little-known delicacies, the “almojábano,” a bite-sized cornmeal fritters.

The annual “Festival del Amojábano con Queso,” in its fourth edition, returns to district of Dolega to share the country’s traditional costumes and folklore dances with future generations.

The celebrations take place from Wednesday, January 21 through Sunday, February 1. The fair will be presided over by H.R.H. Katherine Barroso, the festival’s queen, who along with 500 dancers will delight parade goers with daily presentations.

What is an “almojábano”?

AlmojábanoThis uniquely shaped corn fritter is a typical Panamanian breakfast item made from boiled and ground corn blended with fresh “chiricano” cheese. For Chiricanos, it is a staple food that can accompany breakfast, dinner or any festive event. Dolega is considered the cradle of this traditional dish that has become popular in western Panama.

The event features a range of activities including presentations from Forrás Folkensemble from Hungary, visiting Panama for the first time, the Compañía de Danzas Folclóricas Flor de Café from Costa Rica and the Canta y Baila por la Paz dance troupe from Colombia.

Tuna de la Madrugada

Tuna de la Madrugada.

A “tambor” (drum) contest will take place at 3 p.m. on Friday, January 30 followed by a Cumbia singing contest and an accordion competition, both at 6 p.m. Cumbia is a genre of music inherited from Colombia with a wide array of regional variations.

At 3 p.m. the following day, a pollera contest will be held with prizes for best “Pollera de Gala” and best “basquiña chiricana.” The “basquiña” are the typical blouses from the province of Chiriquí. They are much simpler in style compared to other pollera blouses, and are adorned with colorful ribbons.

Revelers will not want to miss the “Tuna de la Madrugada,” a typical, high-energy street parade on Sunday, February 1 starting at 3 a.m. A “cart parade” is scheduled at 3 p.m. the same day to close the festival.

“Mojigangas”

“Mojigangas” are one of the region’s traditional costumes.

Attendees are likely to catch one of the region’s unique folk traditions, the “mojigangas” (female mask wearers) or “parrampanes” (male mask wearers) associated with the Corpus Christi celebrations held in the Azuero Region. The masks are donned to satirize prominent personalities such as the mayor or the town priest, or to represent a married couple. They are usually accompanied by musicians playing a drum known as the “cortacacho,” a whistle called the “atravesaso” or an accordion.

The event is organized by the José A. Corella Foundation, the Municipality of Dolega and its Mayor, under the auspices of the International Council of Organizations of Folklore Festivals and Folk Arts (CIOFF), an Official Partner of UNESCO. The country’s first museum devoted to Panama’s national costumes will be unveiled as part of the celebration, maintaining hours of 1 – 10 p.m. throughout the weekend and remaining open under a different schedule, yet to be announced, after the event’s conclusion.

For more information, visit Facebook.com/FestivalDelAlmojabano.

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