It is said that the pollera is the most beautiful national dress in the world. And I think that’s a difficult thing to debate. This outfit represents the history and identity of the Panamanian people. The Day of the Pollera was created in Los Santos and is now celebrated nationwide. Each province of Panama has its female dress dating from the 16th or 17th century. In those times it was an everyday dress, usually white with two or three skirts that had floral or superimposed embroidery.
Dressing in a gala pollera is not an easy task, since this clothing was used for special events. The montuna pollera is a more comfortable alternative in Los Santos. Chiriqui wears the basquiña, while Veraguas wears a pastel-toned pollera. The manita pollera is used in the fields of Ocu to dance the mejorana and in Anton they dance with montunas of printed fabric and flowers with feathers. Darien has its own pollera that is used to dance bullarengue and bunde. In Colon they dance the Congo to the rhythm of the drum. Music and clothing are fundamental in the history of the Panamanian people.
Day of the Pollera
The Day of the Pollera dates back to July 16, 1957 when a municipal decree was made establishing “July 22 as the Day of the Pollera in the District of Las Tablas”. Then in 1961 a law was passed to give a subsidy of $2,000 to the Festival of the Pollera that is celebrated in Las Tablas. In 2013 the amount was raised to $25,000.
In the year 2022, the Assembly of Deputies of Panama approved a bill that decrees July 22 as the Day of the Pollera at a national level. This date was selected because it is when the National Pollera Festival takes place in Las Tablas, capital of the Los Santos province of Panama.
National Pollera Festival
The National Pollera Festival in Las Tablas is celebrated within the framework of the Patron Saint of the Virgin of Santa Librada and on the Day of the Pollera. In 2023, S.R.M Nicolle Elizabeth Fuentes Escudero, National Queen of the Pollera, performed a great tuna before the contest. This tuna, which is a group of people walking in the streets together with musicians, left the Las Tablas fire station at 1:30 p.m.
In the contest, winners of different categories are selected to exalt the work of artisans. These categories are: Polleras Zurcidas, Polleras Regionales, Polleras Sombreadas, Polleras Montunas and Polleras Marcadas. Two medals are awarded each year at the National Pollera Festival, which are extremely important for preserving Panamanian culture and folklore. The Pablo Epifanio Medal rewards the woman with the best jewelry in the national pollera contest. While the Margarita Lozano Medal is the highest award at the National Pollera Festival.
Within the celebrations of the National Pollera Festival and the Day of the Pollera in Las Tablas other contests are also held. Men can participate in the National Camisilla Contest, which is men’s clothing. The Panama Hat (which is not the famous Ecuadorian version of the Panama Hat) has two categories: Luxury Hat (White or “Pintao”) and Junco Hat. Music is part of the event and that is why the Drum (Tamboritos) Contest, the Accordion Contest and the National Violin Contest “Climaco Batista” are held.
It is estimated that some 15,000 women wear the pollera on the Day of the Pollera in Las Tablas. Be sure to visit the capital of Los Santos for the Nacional Pollera Festival or the Parade of the Thousand Polleras in January to see that beautiful typical Panamanian dress. And at the same time appreciate the artistic, folkloric and cultural expressions of Los Santos.