Wednesday, December 8

Panamanian artisans keep our traditions alive

Florentina Moreno estimates that she has made more than 100 skirts and hats for the National Manito Festival. Everyone knows her as the “Manito Ocueña” and everyone knows that when they want a decent skirt for the occasion, she is the most suitable for the job.

She only attended the first grade of primary school, but in terms of sewing she is a professional. Their hands have been perfected to make the best gala and montuna skirts that are produced in the Ocú district, Herrera province.

So much so that he has been sworn in at the festival of his town. This artisan also makes the white ocueño hat. He knits them 15, 16 and up to 24 laps. Making a skirt can take up to 15 days and if it is a hat up to a month.

He spends much of the day among scraps of cloth, dry plant fibers, and needles. Everything he makes is done in his workshop, which is also his home, a humble simple two-bedroom house, without luxury and provided only with the basics.

When he is about to weave a hat, he arms himself with patience, while arranging the pieces, mostly vegetable threads, which he places on a round wooden base known as a last to be braided with millimeter precision.

Something similar happens with skirts. In a worn-out “Singer” machine, she gives free rein to her imagination to make luxury skirts.

The process to make a hat is complex: you have to get different plants, scrape, dye, dry and weave the fiber, which together with basting can take up to 30 days. The result is a fine white ocueño hat that can cost from 100 to 200 balboas.

At 15, she learned the ins and outs of sewing by watching her mother and he has done it until his 83 years without wearing glasses. In her hands there is a lot of knowledge, tradition and culture that makes her feel proud of what she is and what she represents for her community.

Florentina is one of the 1,623 older adults who were never able to contribute social security in the Ocú district.

The outbreak of the pandemic paralyzed the last two versions of the Manito Festival and with it the demand for skirts and hats. Those were difficult days for Florentina, who is used to sewing and knitting to generate income.

“All my life I dedicated to sewing, with this profession I raised my six childrenThat’s why I was never able to contribute social security, much less pay a retirement fee ”, he confesses. Florentina was born in 1937, her story comes to us with the collaboration of the Ministry of Social Development (Mides)

The entry Panamanian artisans keep our traditions alive was first published in – Financial News from Panama.