One of the earliest parts of Panama to be settled, a network of prosperous villages extends throughout the Azuero Peninsula, many retaining their 400-year-old colonial traditions, costumes and charms. The small town of Divisa is the crossroads for a major paved road that branches south into the peninsula, an area composed of the densely inhabited provinces of Herrera and Los Santos, along with a narrow strip of Veraguas. Chitré, the colonial capital of Herrera, is the best base for exploring this fascinating land of rural villages frozen in time. There’s a good chance you’ll encounter a fiesta, or, at the very least, some bastions of Panamanian tradition: there’s a seco factory in Pesé, a community of hat-makers in Ocú, potters in La Arena and mask-makers in Parita. The festivities here are the most spirited in all of Panama. Las Tablas, the capital of Los Santos province, hosts the country’s most resplendent carnival, with floats, music, fireworks and unrestrained merriment. The small town of Guararé, also in Los Santos, hosts an important folkloric festival – the Festival Nacional de la Mejorana – which includes widespread singing and joyful mud fights. Nearby, Villa de Los Santos, from where Panama’s first cry for independence came, is the site of stunning Corpus Christi celebrations, when the eternal battle between good and evil is enacted by hordes of dancing devils. For listings.
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