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Dalama Adventures Tale of two corporate types ditching their jobs and traveling the world for 14 months... check out all photos, blogs & interesting tid bits at http://www.dalama.net

In Search of the "Mask Man"

PANAMA | Saturday, 27 October 2007 | Views [2157]

The Panamanian Province of Los Santos is rich with culture, custom and is the heart of festivals.  We've stopped off here, in search of a famous mask artist, Carlos Ivan de Leon.  We've made our way to the very tiny town on Villa de Los Santos, purely by word of mouth, and through the helpful guidance of locals who have kindly helped us navigate the world of local transport and roads here.  No one we've met speaks any English, so we're having a blast talking with all the locals and learning about their lives.  These are the most friendliest people we've met in Panama. They are so eager to find out why we are in their little town and how we like Panama.  An old woman at the road side motel we're staying in tonight says she knows Carlos personally and will bring him by the hotel with some masks for our to look at.  In the mean time, we're parallel processing, chatting it up with the locals at the only internet cafe, where coincidentally is the only spot to get a bite to eat - our $1 cheeseburger dinner rocks.  They give us tips on a local artisan market in a tiny town up the road called La Arena, and they also confirm the home of another famous mask maker, Darido Lopez who lives in another town, Parita, about 20 minutes away by bus.  Masks here are very famous throughout Panama.  They are used in special dance rituals and festivals, "Baile de los diablos sucios," (dance of the dirty devils) where hundreds of people dance in the street with masks and long robes.  

Two days and several crowded mini-busses later, a church restoration guy I met on the street points out the bus stop at Darido's home.  Darido has been making masks since 1960, and he also makes huge carnival float animals that are in high demand and used throughout the country.  Darido had makes a mask for us in only one day, his entire family participates in the process.  His house is a mask workshop, big, medium and tiny little masks line the walls and tables.  While we've seen some of his masks for sale in other shops, we're thrilled to get ours direct from the artist himself.

Our time in Los Santos province has been one of the highlights of Panama for us. It's truly a local experience.  We are the only gringos, and everyone is curious and wants to talk with us, and also practice their few English words. A young man calls us over one night into parque central and strikes up a conversation, holding us captive watching his tiny cellphone screen movies of traditional Panamanian dance from his church.  He even leaves us a note and his contact number the next day at the hotel, wanting us to come out with him.  Unfortunately we're leaving today, after my haircut at a local peluqueria... we're off to Panama City.  We've rescheduled our flights to get us to Ecuador a bit early, in hopes to catch a glimpse of Dia de los Difuntos, a celebration of that the living have for the dead throughout Latin America.

Tags: Culture


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