The transition of the Canal into Panamanian hands was an arduous process so that its climax in 1999 was as emblematic as it was imperceptible: the waterway would be administered by Panamanians, but without leaving aside a work philosophy that governed it for 85 years.
Part of this phase of “Panamanianization” of the Canal meant that national folklore became part of its identity. Thus, in 1992, José Manuel Médica, then a collaborator of Networks and Telecommunications, led the initiative to found a folkloric group with employees of the entity, at that time under the name of the Panama Canal Commission (PCC, for its acronym in English). More than 100 employees responded to the call.
Since then, many members have passed through the typical ensemble of the Panama Canal, without leaving aside its group essence. Today, it has 70 dancers, including employees and dependents, who actively participate in the practices and presentations of native rhythms and dances from different regions of the country.
Luis Rodríguez, a participant of the group and retired Canal employee, tells us that the group has represented the Canal in international events in Spain, Mexico, the United States, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico; in the latter, they were awarded as the “Group with the Best National Identity”. Naturally, in Panama, they have made countless presentations in fairs such as La Chorrera, San José de David, Manito, in Ocú, Mejorana, in Guararé and the parade of Las Mil Polleras, among others.
But, possibly, his most emotional presentation was at the inauguration of the expanded Canal at the Agua Clara Locks (Colón), on the morning of June 26, 2016, before the view of Panama and the rest of the world.
“We want the community in general to know that the Canal is not Panamanian only in words, but that, despite the fact that we inherited a work style from a North American entity, we Panamanians are the ones who operate and administer the Canal, and that equally, we are interested and important to maintain that national identity through our varied folklore,” said Luis Rodríguez, a member of the Panama Canal Folkloric Ensemble.
For the past 30 years, the Canal Folkloric Ensemble, with its music, dance, and costumes, has been the symbolic representation of the Panamanian identity of the waterway, because to the rhythm of the caja and the drum, the salomas and seguidillas, the polleras and the zapateos, the members of the ensemble are ambassadors of our identity and our Canal. El Faro salutes them on their anniversary… for three decades and more. Congratulations!