Toro Guapo Festival highlights strange and curious traditions

A bull fight

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Antón is a land of traditions and rich cultural heritage. The Festival del Toro Guapo (handsome bull) is one of those festivities where the essence of Panama can be seen in the music, dances and the somewhat strange competitions. The event will take place this year from Thursday 15 to Monday, October 19.

The festival gets its name from the Toro Guapo which is a bull made of wood. It is believed that women constructed the first one a few centuries ago when they were not permitted to watch bullfights and, not wanting to miss the fun, they made one of wood and pretended to attack each other. An elaborate dance was created where male dancers now carry around the Toro Guapo and pretend to attack each other and any ladies who are in the vicinity.

A bull fight

A bull fight.

The festivities start on Thursday 15 with the coronation of the children’s queen, HM Keylimar Pauleth González Guevara. The following day the party continues with toy horse rides for the children. In the evening, HM Ninozhka Julissa Franco Lorenzo will be crowned and the party begins with dances and fireworks.

Toro Guapo FestivalOn Saturday 17 a series of strange and curious contests begin, such as who can carry the most firewood, remove husks from rice and perform other homemakers’ abilities such as weaving a mat or grating maize from the cob.

The traditional folkloric parade with oxen driven floats takes place on Sunday 18 from 11:00 a.m. Later there will be hat-manufacturing, best pollera (Panamanian national dress) and flower-making contests. The festival finishes on Monday 19 with a final parade around the town and more music and dancing.

Perhaps one of the most bizarre rituals of this festival, is that during the celebrations they put sandals on cows, a custom that goes back to time when the cattle rustlers used those shoes muffle hoofbeats and disguise their crime.

It takes approximately two hours by car to get to Antón. Accommodation is scarce during the festival, but a day trip is possible. There are buses departing from Albrook Transport Terminal to Antón every hour and the fare is less than $5.00.

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