The Patron Saints of Santa Librada are the most important religious festival in Las Tablas. The Carnivals in Las Tablas attract more people, followed by this celebration that takes over the town for a week. Santa Librada, better known as ‘La Moñona’ or ‘La Chola’ is known for being a saint who helps with health issues.
I have only attended the Patron Saints of Santa Librada once and the truth is that I had a great time. I was able to walk through the town of Las Tablas and see so many colloquial activities. There were horse parades and bullfights (don’t worry, in Panama that doesn’t mean blood). People sitting outside of their houses waving friendly at the people passing by. There were also stalls selling food and crafts, apart from games.
Religious Events for Santa Librada
The mass on July 19 was conducted by the monsignor, Jose Dimas Cedeño at 7 p.m. While the mass on July 20 was in charge of Bishop Rafael Valdivieso and the religious of the diocese. “That they come with faith, which is the most important thing, not to walk for the sake of walking but bringing in their hearts the desire for an encounter with God through the intersection of Santa Librada, our patron saint,” said Carlos Rivera, parish priest of the church of Santa Librada. The church of Santa Librada is located in the emblematic Parque Porras.
Devotees offer mandas as tokens of devotion and faith. Many people make a pilgrimage (as is done on October 21 to celebrate the Black Christ in Portobelo) walking from various parts of the province. Families and members of security entities provide water and food to the pilgrims.
This festival also serves to tour the image of the saint through the different communities of the Las Tablas district. This practice is done to bring faith and devotion to the population. On the night of July 19, a procession takes place through the main streets of the city of Las Tablas carrying Santa Librada with all her clothing. These garments represent the favor of someone due to some miracle or illness situation overcome with the help of Santa Librada. This procession had not been done two years ago due to the pandemic.
Activities in the Patron Saints of Santa Librada
The main activity within the framework of the Patron Saints of Santa Librada is the National Pollera Festival, since the Day of the Pollera is celebrated on July 22. There are different contests within this festival but the main one is that of the pollera where the best pollera wins the prestigious Margarita Lozano Medal. Hat and dress shirt contests are also held. These events take place in the auditorium gymnasium in the city of Las Tablas.
Musicians pay tribute to Santa Librada
The Patron Saint of Las Tablas served as inspiration for some ensembles and singers of the typical genre. Nenito Vargas and Los Plumas Negras premiered a song called “Miraculous of my Town”. The song says “On July 20 I am going to celebrate, in the town of Las Tablas, a serenade I am going to sing to the Virgin Santa Librada.” They were inspired by Raul “Chucho” Cespedes and by Victorio Vergara, founder of this group, who died a day after the Patronales de Santa Librada in 1998. Eury De la Rosa sings while Nenito Vargas plays the accordion and Eira Gonzalez does the saloma.
Jhonathan Chavez is another singer of typical Panamanian music who paid tribute to Santa Librada with his song titled “Back to Las Tablas”. This piece was composed by Omar Bultron and accompanied by Madeline Pineda’s saloma. The lyrics of this song focus on the times of the pandemic when devotees could not go to the Patron Saints of Santa Librada. You can listen to both songs on the YouTube channels of the musical groups.
Queens of Carnival participate in the Patron Saints of Santa Librada
The Carnival Queens of Las Tablas walk in the procession of the Patron Saints of Santa Librada on July 19 and on July 20 they go to the Eucharist. The custom of Carnival in Panama is to divide the town in two: up the street and down the street. Calle Arriba (Up) de Las Tablas has two queens for 2024: SRM Alexandra Sofia Castillo de Bello and SM Maria Fernanda Tejada Chanis. While Calle Abajo (Down) was represented by SRM. Jennifer Massiel Gonzalez Gonzalez in the company of SM Lia Victoria III.
Both sides went with their tunas to the Patron Saints of Santa Librada in 2023. These festivities gave the queens a stage to show off their beautiful gala dresses in the procession of the Virgin Santa Librada and her novelarias. SRM. Nicolle Elizabeth Fuentes Escudero, queen of the National Pollera Festival, accompanied the queens of Carnival.