Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Kathryn Sorensen (Ashford University)
Marino Jaén Espinosa (PanamaTipico.com)
Understanding the relationship between living tradition and heritage is of significance for governmental support of local folkloric events, tourism promotion, and for understanding the impact of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage designation. This paper will analyze the construction of heritage as seen in two festivals in Panama, the Corpus Christi celebration of Parita, and the Manito festival of Ocu. Construction of cultural heritage in the form of folkloric celebrations can be interpreted as an act of local resistance to external influences and societal changes, while also solidifying identify and positioning the event as a source of cultural or economic value. It has been argued that the process of heritagization involves reforming practitioners’ relationship with their practice, reforming these practices into display, and lastly reforming the relationship of the practitioners with themselves, through social institutions. Based upon collaborative field work conducted in 2016 and 2018, this paper will demonstrate this heritagization process of the two festivals. These folkloric events differ in terms of their date of emergence, organization, and process of establishment. The dynamics between established heritage and living tradition, it will be argued, can best be seen as a loop continuously reintegrating heritage as tradition and tradition as heritage. While these festivals are currently not designated as UNESCO intangible heritage, UNESCO designations can play contradictory the roles of instrumentalizing heritage while aiding in preserving and popularizing it.