Every year around June, Panama celebrates the traditional Feast of Corpus Christi, a catholic holiday that was introduced to Panama during the early years of the Spanish colonial era. Its roots date back 1251, when Pope Urban IV sanctioned it. In Puerto Armuelles, the celebration includes making rugs for a procession called Solemnity of San Antonio de Padua.
These days, Panama’s biggest celebration of Corpus Christi is in the town of La Villa de Los Santos on the Azuero Peninsula. In La Villa, the celebration lasts nearly two weeks and involves elaborate dances, in colorful costumes, that symbolize the battle between good and evil. Part of the celebration includes the making of “alfombras”, or carpets, along the streets where a procession will take place. Although the event was cancelled for the past 2 years, the tradition returns to Puerto Armuelles this year, celebrating Puerto’s Patron Saint, San Antonio de Padua.
Carpet making for la Solemnidad de San Antonio de Padua was last celebrated in Puerto Armuelles on June 23, 2019, when groups of youth and adults took to the streets early in the morning, in the places that had been assigned to them, to construct their works of art. A great deal of time and effort is put into the carpets. This year the event will be celebrated on June 13, 2022.
The alfombras are made of any combination of chalk, sawdust, sand, leaves, and flowers. The supplies are collected a few days ahead of time and the process of arranging the carpets begins early on the morning of Corpus Christi. Each carpet may be a meter or two in length and the subject matters vary. The church asks that the carpets remain religious in some sense, but participants have expressed themselves not only in Biblical scenes but in various symbols, national flags, and nature. The preparation lasts for several hours. At a designated time, there is a mass followed by a joyful procession from the church to the streets, where a route is followed along the symbolic carpets. The art of carpet-making is thought of as sacrificial because of the intense detail and amount of time dedicated to their creation, only to be destroyed once the processions pass.
The practice has been passed on for generations, especially within families. Pattern-making workshops are also regularly held in schools, with support from the parish and non-governmental organizations. The tradition unites the entire community and has shaped local identity.
Newcomers are welcome to participate. If you are interested in trying something new and want to experience being a part of this tradition of Puerto Armuelles (in coming years), contact the church, Iglesia San Antonio de Padua, located on Avenida Presidente Remón.
Anyone can participate in this ephemeral art of making ‘alfombras’ with which the Catholic church of Puerto Armuelles celebrates our Patron Saint ~ San Antonio de Padua.
There is an open invitation to attend a meeting on Saturday, June 11, starting at 11:00 a.m., at the San Antonio de Puerto Armuelles Parish, instructing volunteers on the making of carpets for the Solemnity of San Antonio de Padua procession, which takes place on June 13, 2022, beginning at 10 am and presided over by Cardinal Lacunza.
I look forward to seeing this year’s creations!