Traditional costumes of Panama and some Central & South American countries

Blog by Maria Isabel Zapata.

I am a fashion lover.  It is my passion and everything about it lights my world and gets me so excited that I can’t get enough! I believe that the way we dress is the way we present ourselves to the world. It shows our personality, and our culture. Clothes really say a lot about us, and they can say a lot about a country too.  Which is why I think our traditional costumes are so important, they are our heritage and how the world sees us. Also, they are the easiest and most fun way to learn our history.

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Being here in Panama has exposed me to even more varieties of traditional costumes. Panamanians are so proud of their “Pollera” that they take every opportunity they have to put it on and walk around proudly in it. They even get started at a very young age – my kids are having “baile tipico” classes at school right now and they look so cute!

So I thought, why not talk about the traditional costumes of the Americas?

This was a hard decision for me, since Europe and Asia have amazing traditional costumes, I would love to talk about them all! But it would turn out to be a book! So I will focus on the countries near Panama. Also, most of the countries have different type of costumes depending on the region (Caribbean, Andean, etc) so I picked the ones I found most interesting:

Honduras

Honduran typical dress is really different because they have colors that vary a lot. It is their design that is able to make it unique and different from any other country. The colors of the costume of the woman vary a lot. You can choose from strong shades to soft and pastel combined with decorations that are present in both the skirt and the shirt. The fabric is highly decorated achieving a completely perfect and detailed look. Necklaces are a very important accessory for women of Honduras because they give tham a look characteristic of Central America. Women usually get a flat hat the exact size of their head to finish off the ensemble.

The men wear a completely white outfit that is characterized by being a little loose. The shirt can be decorated with some colored embroidery. Men wear elegant black shoes that highlight the contrast between the white embroidered outfits and the shoes.

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Nicaragua

Nicaragua’s “mestizaje costume” show the ostentatious Spanish influence in the garments of the villages. The woman wears a colorful skirt and sequined suit that fits the body, nicaraguawhich is also known as “luxurious Indian costume”. This is accompanied with a hat crowned with arrangements of feathers and a fan also of feathers. The man wears a white shirt with a dark coat decorated with sequins; a hat with the wing folded in front and with a red flower, plus several strips of colors falling backwards, and embombado underwear, white stockings and slippers.

nicaragua2The Peasant costume of Nicaragua is very different. These costumes depict two characters representing a man and a hard-working woman in the North of Nicaragua. The woman wears a skirt fitted snugly to her body, with a handkerchief in the waist, long sleeves cotona, handkerchief on the head, earrings and a pot of black mud in her arms. The man wears white long trousers, white cotona (or other light color) and a neckerchief, as well as a gourd for water and a Northern hat.

 

 

 

 

Costa Rica

The traditional costume for women of Costa Rica consists of a multi-layered dress. It is wide and with vivid colors. The hairstyle has braids and is decorated with flowers. Women wear sandals on their feet. As for men, there is generally a suit of basic finishes and without much adornment but in vivid colors. They use a scarf and a belt of the same color to finish off the ensemble.

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Mexico

Charros Mexicanos: The typical charro wears a tuck borough shirt with buttons, a bow tie, suede or Casimir pants, a sack, buttons made in alpaca and a “gala” hat. The pants have some variants: chaps, calzoneras, tapabalazos which are made of pelt or jargon. The more formal attire is tighter with silver buttons.
Sometimes they carry a short sack made of suede or casimir with frog closures of silver and a cotton shirt, usually white. Knitted in palma, the hat is lined with felt and is wide-brimmed and medium crown with four slits called “stoned”. In addition to this outfit, the charro carries also a belt, a sword, a gun, a rope, and spurs. The charro is covered with a striped wool zarape of many colors.

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Chiapas:
I particularly love his one. It is really beautiful and colorful and it looks like it has a lot of work done on it! The costume is eye-catching and elegant. For example, at the capital of the State, Tuxtla, you can admire all the variety of costumes that are used throughout the territory. An example of gala is the dress with wide skirt which is filled with flowers of different colors and they are hand embroidered with silk thread. Hand embroidery on black tulle, is completely handmade by Chiapas women who take pride in making their creations.

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Colombia:

This is a special one for me since I am from Colombia off course! I remember when I was a kid and we had a beauty pageant at my school and I had to dress in the traditional costume. I also remember my school dance where we danced cumbia which is the traditional music of Colombia (plus vallenato and porro).

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Colombia is a big country divided in 6 regions due to their climate, therefore the typical costumes can vary in every region. I am from the Andean region also known as “zona cafeteria” (coffee state), Antioquia to be more specific.

Theantioqueño” typical costume comes directly from the muleteer men, colonist of the XIX century and from the coffee picker women.

Male costume consist of the “sombrero antioqueño” which Is a  white hat with black ribbon; also the poncho or ruana depending on whether the climate is cold or hot; the “carriel”(man purse used by the peasants) , machete and “alpargatas” (espadrilles).
The female costume of the typical Antioquia consists of a long black skirt with some colorful prints, a white blouse and hat, all decorated with many flowers and embroidery.

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Chapolera:

 

This dress’s name comes from a species of butterfly known as the Chapora, which migrates to the coffee farms in times of collection.

The woman’s usual attire is a scarf knotted to the head. The blouse has great Hispanic influence, it has ruffles in the chest, is white, with high collar and adorned with pleats, ruches, lace and embroidery. Blouses are usually short sleeves with lace at the fist; when the sleeve is long it has lace at the elbow. The skirt can reach 20 cm above the ankle, and is made of flowered cotton fabrics. At the bottom it has one or two ruffles and always uses petticoats and an apron.  The footwear is called espadrilles. Typically a woman has her hair in braids and tied with ribbons, with long earrings and a large flower in her hair. A basket complements the dress and is fastened to the waist. The basket was originally used to transitionally hold the coffee grain the chapolera collects directly from the branch of the coffee plant. The apron protects the dress of the friction of the basket and the humidity of the honey flowing from the ripe coffee grain.

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Peru

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Peruvian men often wear the poncho and it has bright colors. There are many different kinds (depends on the region) and are used depending on its purpose. Although there are men who use it every day, typically they use it for special events.  It is also very common in Peru for men to wear hats with some special bands called “centillo”. They are colorful and very festive. The most popular hat is chullo which is handmade. It is knitted with lappets and tassels. The hat is made of alpaca, llama, vicuña or sheep’s wool. Pants are simple and made of alpaca, llama or sheep’s wool as well. The shirts are colorful and often have geometric ornaments and designs printed with animal drawings.
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The main parts of the clothing typical of women in this country are ponchos, dresses, blankets, skirts, coats and hats. Each costume or piece of clothing differs greatly between one region and another, because this way they can show the peculiarities of each city or town. For example, people ascertain if a woman is from a village or town by looking at her hat or if she comes from a rich or poor family. Women tend to wear cloths in the shoulders, which are rectangular pieces of hand-woven fabric. Both men and women wear ajotas (shoes made from recycled truck tires) which are made at home and are very cheap

Panama:

Panama’s typical costumes are some of the most elaborated and rich costumes. One such costume is called “Pollera”. It has several variations, depending on the region and the kind of festivities.  Here is a photo of it. Since Panama deserves its own blog, it is to be continued in a future blog…………..!!!

Here at Casa de Montaña Bed and Breakfast you get to know so many cultures, come and stay  with us and begin your cultural adventures!

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