The pollera, meaning skirt, is a fancy and beautiful traditional dress, and its best tailors are found in the Azuero region, mainly Santo Domingo, El Carate, San José de las Tablas, and Guararé. The pollera was introduced by Spanish women in Colonial Times as daily attire, but was modified to the isthmus’ style, subtropical climate, and beauty of the region. The tembleques, traditional head adornments, so named because of the vibrant movement that comes from the rhythm of dance, represent the richness of the flora and fauna of Panama; made to resemble butterflies and flowers that pose in Panamanian gardens. The precious jewelry made by renowned craftsmen of the area show the stock of gold found by the Spanish in the Isthmus, and represent aspects of religion, labor, and fancy jewelry worn by Panamanian women in the past. The Lapajuela is, for example, a gold piece that commonly accompanies the tembleques, and represents the Spanish dagger that was then modified by our culture.
The pollera montuna, or mountain pollera is simpler, and is known as a work dress, because in the past it was used as clothing for the work season.
The clothing for men is simple. A formal outfit consists of a white shirt called a Camisilla, black pants, a chácara, chinelas, which are simply black and white shoes, and a sombrero pintao (painted hat). Mountain clothing consists of a shirt, Coleta, made from a cloth called manta sucia called, jean pants, a work hat, and the cutarras made of tanned leather. It is important to point out that in Tonosí the dress shirt is called Tonosieña.
The manito ocueño uses a different article of clothing that consists of a wide shirt with fringes and embroidery, accompanied by short pants with fringes and embroidery, both made from the manta sucia cloth. This outfit is accompanied by a cane. The women dress in elaborate white skirts, a straw hat, and ribbons woven into their hair in braids, or moños.
Author: Irving Vergara