The Manito Festival was institutionalized thanks to the vision of a group of educators from Ocú, who saw the need to formalize the implementation of these festivals and fairs that were held in Ocú. This important festival was first celebrated on August 13, 1967 and is held the second weekend of that month. This event combines all the feelings of a townspeople who live out the folkloric tradition handed down from their ancestors. Through their dancing, yodeling, singing sea chanties and the song of the traditional 'mejorana' dance, they praise our region.
This festival, by the law No. 53 on December 1, 1999, was declared the National Folkloric Manito Festival, with the aim of preserving, educating and promoting the national folkloric customs and traditions. Ocú is the cultural heritage custodian of one of the oldest folk traditions in our country, the 'mejorana' dance. Residents in Ocú are very zealous to preserve the 'mejorana', as they live in the only place where it is danced.
Very local traditions
This event demonstrates many of the idiosyncrasies of its people. A few of the traditions that are revived in this festival are fighting the tamarind duel, bringing the food to the farmer in the field, the procession of penitents from the afterlife, the deceased carried on a litter, the sick patient carried in a hammock slung on poles to the doctor, planting the corn, clearing the land, harvesting the rice and a communal mud-house building, among many others.
What is the Tamarind Duel?
In the festival of Santa Rosa, which was celebrated in Ocú at the turn of the century, the peasants and people from the surrounding countryside gathered, often crossing paths with people with whom they had previously had some type of problems. The people partied, bought typical food from that era and drank the very famous fermented corn alcohol. The patrolmen (the police of that time) were in charge of making sure that everything went smoothly. Come dawn, though, a problem inevitably arose, and one man threw down his blanket under a tamarind tree. If the other man stepped on it, that meant they were to fight. Both drew their sabers (in the time of the Spaniards) and began to fight, with the duel lasting to the death.
The Ocú Manito Festival in Herrera Province is undoubtedly one of the most important folkloric festivals held in Panama. Its enduring reputation is earned through its creators' effort, tenacity and commitment, making it an important reservoir of our cultural roots.