Scenes from the Antillean Fair
photos and note by Eric Jackson
This year the Afro-Antillean Museum of Panama is closed for renovation and the Antillean Fair, which is the principal fundraising event for the Society of Friends of the Afro-Antillean Museum of Panama (SAMAAP) was not the biggest we have seen. Since the move from the museum grounds a few years ago to ATLAPA the attendance has been up, but there have been bigger events with more people, more vendors and more live acts onstage that this year. Seems to be a money issue — although they get some support from the National Institute of Culture (INAC), money does not grow on trees and they are spending down quite a bit of theirs on the museum at the moment.
This reporter, who spent most of the fair staffing a voter information table for US citizens — especially the many members of the West Indian community here who have dual US and Panamanian citizenship — did not pig out as in some years past. Some sous, some torrejas de bacalao, a couple of little coconut pastries and bottles of saril and ginger beer were this year’s treats. The cravings for Jamaican-style sticky buns and fish deep-fried in oil that has whole hot peppers in it will have to be satisfied some other time, although they could have been at the fair.
Yes, they sold beer. But there were not the fights or obvious drunkenness that characterizes most other Carnival events. This year the playground for the kids was expanded and they were having a great time bouncing, climbing and sliding. The assimilation, not only into Spanish but between Panama’s Colonial Black and West Indian cultures and the adoption of Pan-African styles continues its long development. There were as usual a bunch of visitors from the diaspora — this reporter talked to folks from Houston, Brooklyn, the District of Columbia and environs, Florida, Atlanta and California. The proceeds will go toward preserving the history of the people who built — and continue to build — so much of Panama.