tamborito, Panamanian culture, native rhythms, downtown Panama City, Museum of Natural Sciences
Panamanian culture derives fundamentally from European musical, artistic, and literary traditions brought by the Spanish. Important African and Native American influences have been added to these, however, creating hybrid forms unique to Panama. The traditional dance, tamborito, for example, is descended from Spanish folkways, yet it also incorporates native rhythms, themes, and dance steps. Popular music, while influenced by international recordings, draws heavily on Afro-Caribbean music. Verse and prose are composed and published in Spanish but incorporate themes, characters, and plots that arise out of Panama’s complex experience. Generally speaking, art for the elite stays closer to European models, while that for the lower classes contains strong African and Native American overtones.
The best overview of Panamanian culture is found in the Museum of the Panamanian, in downtown Panama City. Its collection documents the evolution of human life on the isthmus from the earliest native settlements to the present. Other cultural institutions (all in Panama City) include the Museum of Panamanian History, the Museum of Natural Sciences, the Museum of Religious Colonial Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of the Interoceanic Canal, and the national institutes of culture and music.
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