National Folkloric Festival of La Mejorana

Guararé, Panamá - 2017


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SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 17th, 2017  
9:00 a.m.

Traditional Junta for building the barrera (rink) for the bullfights.

In the countryside tradition, tasks such as planting, harvest, home construction, and others, which require significant labor, are occasions when neighbors come together for a work gathering (junta) to complete the task. Music, yelling, singing, cooking, eating, and drinking are part of the routine from the beginning, but once the job is done, the party will be going at full force.

8:00 p.m.

Crowning Ceremony for Her Majesty Diva Mercedes Falcón Durán, Queen of the LXVII (67th) Festival Nacional de la Mejorana, by Her Majesty Nataly de Los Ángeles Díaz Saavedra, Last Year's Queen.

Homage to Her Majesty Alexa Espino, Queen of the XLII (42nd) Festival, on her 25th Anniversary, and to Her Majesty Rosita Shajani, Queen of the XIX (19th) Festival, on her 50th anniversary.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 22nd, 2017  
10:00 a.m.

Pilgrimage to the Statue of Professor Manuel Fernando Zárate (founder of the Festival).

The statue is in front of the Festival's museum, which is a traditionally-built house just two blocks away from the main stage of the festival, walking down hill beside the church. As a historical note, the house, made of wood, mud, straw, and cañaza (a bamboo like material) was built by a junta, just like the bull fighting rink is built each year.

3:00 p.m.

First Yelling and Saloma Competition, at the Mejorana Palace (the Main Stage)

Saloma is a type of a-capella, ad-lib singing, mostly performed by men when they are working some task. It often combines melodies with lyrics with melodies without lyrics, and it is usually sung in between some periods of traditional yelling. In the traditional "tipico" group, the woman singer also sings salomas, melodies without lyrics.  

8:30 p.m.

Eighth Mejoranera Performance Competition "Gabriel Villarreal" for children, sponsored by MELO Enterprises.

10:00 p.m.

 23rd Sung Décimas Competition “Bernardo Cigarruista”.

11:30 p.m.

Performances by Folkloric and Cultural groups.

9:00 a.m.

22nd Children's Drumming Competition, at the Mejorana Palace (the Main Stage)

9:00 a.m.

The children and youth delegations will perform their regional dances as part of the Victorino Fulito Córdoba Encounter, at the Youth Performaces Stage, also known as the Children's Stage (one block up hill from main stage).

10:00 a.m.

45th Written Décima Competition Manuel F. Zárate, organized by Guararé's Lions Club and sponsored by Cable & Wireless.

10:30 a.m.

22nd Youth Accordion Competition Didio Borrero, sponsored by the Didio Borrero Espino Foundation, Banco Nacional, Directorate of Art and Culture of the Ministry of Education, and the Panamanian Society of Authors and Composers.

12:00 p.m.

41st Drumming Competition for Adults Gumercindo Díaz, sponsored by the Cooperative of Integrated Services José del  C. Domínguez, R.L.

2:00 p.m.

Presentation of Award  Dora Pérez de Zárate. Presentation of Award Orden Manuel Fernando Zárate. The late Manuel Fernando Zárate and his wife Dora Pérez were the motors behind the founding of the festival in 1949.

2:30 p.m.

30th Mejoranera Performance Competition Aristides Gil - Esteban Rodríguez, sponsored by MELO Enterprises.

The official program from the Festival de la Mejorana Organizing Committee does not list bullfights for Saturday this year.

Traditional Bullfights. In Panama, bullfights include teasing of bulls, but not killing and normally not intentionally hurting the animals. There is usually one or more hired bullfighters, but there will always be guys who are interested in showing off, and who will become improvised bullfighters or will ride the bulls rodeo-style. This can be dangerous, but it often is quite entertaining to watch. Once in a while a bull will escape the barrera (rink), which creates another particularly thrilling situation, especially when you are too close to the place where the bull breaks away. It is usually better to find a safe place from which to watch.

Guarare features one of the only two traditional bullfighting rinks in Panama. The other one is in Parita, Province of Herrera. The barrera  (rink) is built each year immediately in front of the porches of the houses that surround the empty plaza, leaving very little space for people to move around the rink, except in the four corners, where the street intersections provide more space. In recent years, people have built a few rudimentary, elevated stands (palcos) in some areas around the rink, which provide added comfort and safety; these stands are often reserved for owners and their friends.

4:30 p.m.

Festival Flag entrusted to the Flag Bearer for the Traditional Parade of Oxcarts on Sunday. This year the Flag Bearer is Her Majesty Alexa Espino, Queen of the XLII Festival.

4:30 p.m.

56th Accordion Competition Rogelio Gelo Córdoba for adults, with gold medal sponsored by Panama's Ministry of Education and prizes sponsored by Cable & Wireless.

7:00 p.m.

Salve (Hail Holy Queen) and Procession in Honor of Our Patron Saint, the Virgin of Mercy.

Handcrafted fireworks.

10:30 p.m.

Continuation of the Great Tournament of La Mejorana. Adult delegations will perform their regional dances as part of the 25th Folkloric Dance Competition Lorenzo "Lencho" Vergara.

The Great Tournament of La Mejorana consists of performances and competitions in diverse vernacular expressions, some of which do not relate directly to mejorana. The word mejorana currently conveys several possible meanings: (1) the singing of décimas in the Panamanian folkloric style; (2) the music that accompanies the singing of décimas in the Panamanian folkloric style; (3) the dancing of the mejorana music; (4) the small rustic guitar that accompanies the singing or dancing (also called mejoranera); and (5) the festival itself.

11:00 p.m.

Homage to “Cultores del Folklore” (folklore supporters). Medals sponsored by LicenciadoVentura Vega.

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 24th, 2017  
1:00 a.m.   Performances by Folkloric and Cultural groups.
9:00 a.m.

Solemn Eucharist (Mass) in Honor of Our Lady of Mercy.

10:00 a.m.

Gathering of the delegations, oxcarts, and general public, in preparation for the Oxcart Parade. This is on Carretera Nacional (National Road) in front of  Juana Vernaza School.

10:30 a.m.

Sung praises in honor of the Virgin of Mercy by décima singers and mejorana performers from the region, at the Mejorana Palace (the main stage).

Recognition to a singer of vernacular décimas. Medal sponsored by Licenciada Nedelka Díaz.

A décima (or décima espinela) is the traditional verse form used in Panama and several other Latin American countries. Each strophe or stanza consists of ten eight-syllable lines, with the strict rhyming pattern ABBAACCDDC.

11:00 a.m.

13th Children's Sung Décima Competition Félix Pérez, sponsored by Licenciado Ventura Vega and MELO Enterprises.

12:30 p.m.

Beginning of the Great Oxcart Parade led by the Flag Bearer for the Day. Two competitions will take place during the parade: the 28th Tuna Competition Martina Castillo, and the 22nd Oxcart Competition Tiburcio Saavedra, sponsored by MELO Enterprises (Stores).

A Tuna, in the Spanish tradition, is a group of musicians, singers, and dancers that parade through the streets. In the case of the oxcart parade at this festival, a tuna accompanies each oxcart. Each oxcart is nicely decorated according to some folkloric theme and usually carries one or more people representing a particular custom from life in the country. Some of these can be quite funny. The queen, princess, and other ladies dressed in beautiful polleras (the Panamanian national female dress) also have one oxcart and one tuna each.

3:00 p.m.   Traditional bullfights.
6:00 p.m.

Award Ceremony for the Winners of the Tunas and Oxcarts Competitions, at the Festival Main Stage.

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 25th, 2017  
3:00 p.m.

Día Sereno (Serene Day). Traditional cowfights. Great Atolladera (Mud Party) inside the bullfighting rink (barrera) (atollar means to put mud on - atolladera is when that happens as a group activity).

Tuna (dancing parade) with the Burlap Flag led by Her Majesty and her court and the flag bearer for the day.

It usually rains a lot in September in Panama. The second bullfights day is called the Día Sereno (Serene Day). That day the flag is made of burlap, and the queen's tuna actually goes inside of the barrera, where the cowfights stop for a while and some of the party goers will be thrown in the mud or at least partially covered with mud, for fun . The queen, her court, and others in the tuna will usually dress in white that afternoon, to make the mud on their clothes even more visible. The tradition to wear white is said to have been started by Dorindo Cárdenas, a very popular and beloved accordion musician who wrote the song "Décimo Quinto Festival en Guararé" (Fifteenth Festival in Guararé) among many other hits. That song was made popular around the world by Colombian accordion musician Alfredo Gutiérrez and in a salsa version by the Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, and it has been covered by many other musicians/bands for many years . In the seventies, Dorindo was chosen as flag bearer for the Día Sereno and Atolladera for several years. Dorindo is still one of the most renowned and sought after "típico" musicians, and usually performs for popular dances several nights at the Festival.

7:30 p.m.

17th Female and Male Work Costume Competition Professor Dora Pérez de Zárate, sponsored by Cable & Wireless. Female: Festive Montuna Pollera; Male: Coleta Shirt; Medal sponsored by Her Majesty Mirín Díaz (queen from a previous festival).



3:00 p.m.   Traditional Bullfights.
7:30 p.m.

41st Great Classical Night of Violins (the music is Panamanian folkloric fiddle music.), and 21st Violin (fiddle) Competition Escolástico "Colaco" Cortez, sponsored by Cochez and Company and Zárate-Lezcano brothers (or siblings).

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The opinions stated here are not official information from the Town of Guararé or the Festival Nacional de la Mejorana Organizing Committee. The producers and sponsors assume no responsibilty for errors or omissions in the data presented.

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