The Pollera is a traditional Panamanian dress worn during celebrations. It is mostly white in color and worn with a hair piece known as tembleques, elaborate make-up is applied and gold heirloom jewelry. The garb is beautiful and Afro Panamanian woman wear it with pride.
Afro Panamanians also developed their own version of the Pollera called Pollera Congo. It features a colorful skirt, no tembleque hair pieces, minimal makeup and no shoes. The Pollera Congo was developed as a form of resistance to Spanish slave owners:
“In negotiating, navigating and outright rejecting the systems of slavery (as many slaves did throughout U.S. Caribbean and the America) the Congo developed their own dialect, dance and and wore their clothes inside out to confuse their slave masters. The style and nature of the clothing worn were an intentional mockery and rejection of the attire of the Spanish slave owners. In fact the songs and dances performed are often those of early slave resistance movements.”
Although both the Pollera and Pollera Congo were born out of Panamanian history, in January 2013 Pollera Congo-wearers were one of 8 groups blocked from participating in the National Parade of 1000 Polleras.
Are you familiar with any Afro-Panamanian/Congo traditions?