Palo De Mayo | Panama Festivals | Veneto Panama

Palo De Mayo Festival

Palo de Mayo, known as Maypole in English, is an Afro-Caribbean dance festival celebrated in various parts of Central and South America. The Palo de Mayo festival spans the entire month of May and is particularly popular along the Caribbean coast. The dances performed during Palo de Mayo feature incredibly sensual movements that have been derived from a number of communities in Nicaragua, Belize, Honduras and Panama.

If you are looking to travel to Panama, going during Palo de Mayo will assure you of a good time. Its vibrant mix of European culture and Afro-Caribbean traditions is a marvel to see firsthand, and once you experience it you will cherish those moments for a lifetime.

Palo de Mayo History

Palo de Mayo, or the Maypole festival in English, is a huge celebration meant to welcome the spring season and the rain and new life that comes with it. It prominently features a maypole, which is a tall wooden pole that has been decorated with several long, colored ribbons suspended from the top. This maypole is used at the heart of the dance and is the reason for the English name given to the tradition. 

It is unclear how exactly Palo De Mayo came to be celebrated in Panama, though historians trace origins back to Nicaraguan Creoles who inhabited Nicaragua's Caribbean coast. Other historians disagree with this notion, believing the Maypole Festival has its roots in Jamaica. Despite these disagreements, Palo de Mayo has become an integral part Panamanian culture and several other countries in Central and South America.

Palo de Mayo Music And Dance

Palo de Mayo is celebrated differently in Panama than it is in Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua and other places. In Belize and the Honduras Bay Islands, for instance, the dance originated from a tradition where women danced around a maypole with two men approaching them in the hopes of joining them. The men’s efforts are put off by hand gestures made by the dancing women, while the women continue dancing.

In Panama, the music and dance of Palo de Mayo is rhythmic, sensual and intense. As time has passed the music and dancing has become increasingly intense, sparking a genre fittingly titled Palo de Mayo. The Palo de Mayo genre is the electric adaptation of mento, which is a type of Creole acoustic folk music. The similarities between mento and Palo de Mayo can be seen in song lyrics, choral patterns, and melodies, although the tempo of the Palo de Mayo is faster and the instruments used are different. The instruments used in today’s Palo de Mayo ensemble include horn sections, electric guitar, electric bass, tap drums, and the organ.