Panamanian students celebrate culture on Square

Cabrini Rudnicki, Co-News Editor

The Panamanian exchange students of Wilkes University had a chance to showcase their country’s charms to the Wilkes-Barre community.

On Sept. 20, MEDUCA Cohort 9 students performed traditional Panamian songs and dances on Public Square in Downtown Wilkes-Barre.

The event, which was free to the public, also featured information tables on Panamanian culture, cuisine and art.

Vendors and other members of the city’s weekly Farmer’s Market also participated in the event.

The event served as MEDUCA’s final project before leaving Wilkes.

“We divided the entire group into different sections,” explained Tania Flores, a member of MEDUCA.“Every section was in charge of something, from the food stand to the performers, to the decorations.”

Carlos Bonilla, another student of MEDUCA, was proud to have the opportunity to share his culture.

“The initative of this event was to promote Panama as a country,” he said. “Who better than the students who come from Panama to represent this country?”

The students performed three songs and five dances.

Students lined the stage to sing along to Spanish-language traditional Panamanian music.

“We performed one song about Panama, the Teacher’s National Anthem and another song about the importance of Panama to it’s citizens.”

The first dance featured was el congo.

“[El congo] is an African-descent dance,” explained Bonilla. “It involves three dancers and a queen.”

“The object of the dance is to ‘kiss the girl.’ Every

time the guy approaches her, the queen has to block him. In the original dance, there are three guys trying to kiss her, so she has to be very careful which one is coming towards her, and she has to cover her face pretty much the whole time.”

The second dance was called ‘punto.’

“The dance is very romantic,” he said. “It’s when a couple is showing their love. They dance with beautiful, loving faces.”

The dance is traditionally done at Panamanian weddings.

The third dance, called ‘bullereunge’, told a story about a man trying to impress a woman. The woman steals his hat, and in order to win her love he has to steal it back without using his hands.

The fourth dance, called ‘La Espiga’, features a love triangle.

“It is a fight betwen two guys for the love of one girl, but through dances” explained Bonilla. “Each of them have their own dancing time, in front of the stage. At the end, she choosing which one she wants to be with.”

The fifth dance, called ‘denesa,’ is Panamanian ballroom dancing that comes from the country’s Spanish era.

Bonilla participated in many of the dances.

“It felt amazing,” he said. “Being able to represent my culture here at Wilkes-Barre, is like bringing Panama with me.”

Tania Flores was in charge of decorations, which featured Panamanian flags, as well as a table wtih free gifts for visitors.

“Several weeks ago, we planned how everything was going to go,” said Flores. “We planned things like the fans and the bookmarks.”

The bookmarks featured Panamanian recipes, while the fans featured pictures of traditional Panamanian dresses.

MEDUCA features academics and social interactions as part of it’s program.

“I know there will be more students coming to Wilkes to study in the future,” said Bonilla. “This college provides different programs, for being coming to learn English , for people learning teaching techniques, as well as some people coming for cultural experiences.”

MEDUCA Cohort-9 is a group of public school teachers brought to Wilkes in order to be immersed in the English language and American culture.

Other Panamanian programs include IFARHU, which featured students sponsored by Panama to be prepared for academic course work in the United States.

“To be at the Square, introducing Panama to the Wilkes-Barre community, it’s nice because we are introducing all of the Panamanians that will come in the future.”