In Panama, on almost every weekend in the provinces is some fiesta celebrating something, usually the patron saint of the area or town.
Most fiestas include paegants involving panamainian folkdress, the pollera for women and camisillas folkloricos or guayabarra shirts and sombreros for men. As I described in my carneval tip, they most generally choose a queen for the fiesta, who is generally a young woman or girl who dresses in a pollera.
Bars in Panama are everywhere. Many are like one would expect in the US, a corner place you walk into with four walls and at least one door. In Panama, some bars have no walls, just a roof supported by beams and some dividers to shield the insides from the sun during the day. Many have car washes connected to them. So one can get their car washed and they can lube themselves at the same time. Panama is not very PC, drinking and driving is common here, although illegal, but then, Panamanians seem to ignore many traffic laws and vehicle codes that are enforced in the US, see my dangers tip for Panama City for more info on what to be careful about.
Bar Lorena Isabel at crnr of Calle Estudiante y Calle 3 de Noviembre in Las Tablas. They have the loudest juke box and borrachos in town! One guy who goes there every weekend, when he gets a snootfull, starts to bark! Since I live across the street, I get this free entertainment all the time!
The feast of Corpus Christi, the celebration of the gift of the Eucharist, is celebrated forty days after the Ascention, sometime in June. It is a big fiesta in Panama and most towns have a celebration on that day or the days approximating it. Here in Las Tablas, is no exception. They had an evening Mass and parade afterwards, with fireworks and dancing troupes similar to the ones I showed in the Los Santos tip similar to this one. It´s a more solemn fiesta than most, and the drinking and partying is minimal. This is more a religious than a civil holiday, and it is a more subdued celebration than most other holidays, but the Panamanians make it colorful and cheerful with the bright decorations they typically use for any type fiesta.
Panamainians love Carneval and Las Tablas is no exception! Actually, it has probably one of the most elaborate Carneval fiestas anywhere in Panama, Las Tablas has TWO Carneval queens, not one! Two rival groups have had their own queen since the 1950's. The parades are nightly the four days leading up to Ash Wednesday, and each night tries to be more elaborate than the rest. There are fireworks and bands and dances and plenty of cerveza drunk. If you come at this time, book well in advance as there are few hotels in Las Tablas. (See my hotel tips for LT). Some people will take boarders or rent their homes for Carneval, but be prepared to pay handsomely for it. Rents are usually quadruple or more than what they normally are for this time. You may want to stay in Chitre, where there are more accomodations and drive or take the bus or a taxi to Las Tablas for the Carneval celebrations.
Every town in Panama has at least one Patron Saint and Las Tablas is no exception. It's main Patron Saint is Santa Librada. Around her July 20 Feast Day, Las Tablas has a fiesta that rivals Carneval for it's pagentry and opulence. It is also very crowded as Santa Librada has a cult following not only in Las Tablas and Los Santos Provence, but in all Panama. Thousands come to the fiesta each year and for those who can't attend it is broadcast live on national television. So if you want to come to witness this annual spectacal, as with Carneval, you may want to stay in Chitre and take a bus or cab to Las Tablas to join in the festivities.
They not only have nightly parades through the town center with a decorated cataflaque with a statue of Santa Librada, but also carneval-like activites throughout the day that are not only religious-oriented, if you know what I mean!
Just in case you are curious about the story of Santa Librada, she was born about 119 to the Roman Governor of Galatia and Luisitania. She secretly converted to Christianity and in 139 she was betrothed to the prince of Portugal, but refused to marry him because he was a pagan. Her enraged father had her crucified for her impudence. She is the patron saint of anorexics as well as Las Tablas!
Every July 22nd Las Tablas hosts the Fiesta de Pollera, which is a contest of who made and wears the women's national costume the best.
If you arent familiar, polleras are an embroidered dress of lace that are handmade in this area. Some are valued at over $10K USD, they are very intricately embroidered. They take literally years to make. The jewelry and headpieces, usually made of pearls, are also very intricate and costly. Some families make a living out of renting these items out for fiestas and for private parties such as weddings and quincianeras.
There is music and dance and a paegant of the polleras. The makers of the polleras hire the prettiest girls in the area to wear their fashions. They have a queen of the festival every year and she is generally chosen to wear the dress voted best at the end of the pageant.
Polleras were first worn back in the 1600's, contests to see who made the most intricate and ornate started in the last quarter of he 19th century.
The Las Tablas pollera festival has been on July 22nd since 1961, (This yr is the 50th and will be the biggest and best, so I've been told!) decreed by national law.
The Fiesta de Pollera is part of the local folkloric festival cycle every year which also include; La Mejorana, in Guarare every September and the Festival de la Camisilla in November.
The Lion's Club of Las Tablas sponsors the Fiesta de Pollera every year.
I've got other tips on the pollera and Panamanian folk costumes and folklore, please see them for additional info.