The AEP office burst into activity on the afternoon of March 16 as Pedasí residents and visitors learned about traditional art and culture of the Corpus Christi festival (celebrated on Thursday, May 30 in 2013) with Francisco Delgado. Francisco Delgado is host of the popular Azuero radio show Enciclopedia del Aire (The Encyclopedia of the Air) on Radio Reforma and professor at the University of Panama in Santiago. Although he has experience in a wide range of ecological and cultural topics, his particular interests lie in butterfly collection, research into native bird species and promotion of the diablicos limpios dancing groups at the Corpus Christi annual festival.
Delgado’s workshop, titled “Where Tradition and Culture Meet” explored the dilemma of preserving traditional practices of Panama while conserving local flora and fauna. Delgado spoke about birds found in the Azuero, such as the Azuero parakeet (Pyrrhura eisenmanni) and scarlet macaw (Ara macao), whose feathers are used to make the fantastic masks worn during Corpus Christi. However, these birds are now in danger of extinction. As Delgado explained, “For every devil mask (diablico) that you see dancing on television, one needs 100 feathers, which, sadly, means that sometimes one must kill up to 10 macaws for one mask.” As an alternative, Delgado suggests making feathers out of colorful paper, in addition to protecting these birds in their natural habitat.
The story is similar for flowers like caracucha and veranera flowers, rose petals, acacias, and carnations used to make Corpus Christi flower carpets. Today there are few funds to buy these natural flowers. Delgado showed workshop participants how to make paper versions of these flower carpets and bird feathers using coconut palm fronds, Chinese kite paper, manila and colored paper and kabob skewers. By the end of the workshop, participants had made beautiful carpets out of paper, showcasing how traditions can be maintained through creative adjustments to the peninsula’s modern reality.
Workshop participants included Scouts Group 90 from Pedasi as well as local families and residents. Said Librada Barahona: “I learned how to make flowers and feathers out of paper because there are not enough flowers and they cost a lot. We cannot waste bird feathers because we take their lives [when we use them for these art projects]”.
Written by Sophie M. Fuchs