It’s the end of day 3 (Culture Day!) and I’m proud to share that we’re quite immersed in Panamanian culture. As we explore language, food, art history, craft, and dance, our students are even more prepared to do meaningful work here in Chitre.

The questions we’re exploring include: What is culture? Where does culture come from? How does culture stand the test of time? Who is responsible for passing culture from one generation to the next?

The first part of our day was spent in La Arena, at a ceramics studio owned by Lucrecio Batista. This family-owned business operates on the premise of keeping community-based art alive in Herrera Province (where Chitre is located). We had a pottery lesson from Mr. Batista himself, followed by painting pots which we all get to keep.

We then had the pleasure of taking a traditional Panamanian dance class at La Capsula, a dance academy in Chitre. We learned formal partner dances which are central to celebrations in Panama. The whole group participated and, of course, we ended with an American style dance battle.

Finally, we gathered as a group after dinner to debrief and review what we learned during Culture Day. To my delight, our group had lots to say about colonialism, development, native/indigenous cultures, and the way culture shapes identity.

Some of my favorite comments and moments from the day include:

  • Matt and Alice’s epic dance moves
  • Jamal, Aissatou, Sonia, and Eduardo in traditional dress for a final ceremonial dance
  • Setting group norms – we established today that respect and safety are our top priority
  • Lucrecio’s beautiful open-air pottery studio
  • Learning about how the government supports local artisans
  • Our quote of the day: Culture is a deep exercise in identity. – Julio Cortazar
  • “Culture is like the personality of a country.”  – Gabby (Glimpser)
  • Our candle-lit reflection session where students shared what they miss most from home

I am honored to know these inspiring young people and can’t wait to see what they can do together with their Community Action Project!