I am honored to post a guest blog on ChiriquiChatter! First, let me begin with a brief introduction of who I am: My name is Heather Paudler, and if you’ve been following Don’s posts, you’ll know that I have stayed with Don, Lilliam, Natalie, and Koki (their wonderful dog!) three times since April 2013 conducting research for my dissertation.
I am currently a Ph.D. Candidate in Musicology at the Florida State University. Broadly, my research interests include moros y cristianos festivals – that is, festivals of reconquest performed throughout Latin America. This tradition of mock battles between Moors and Christians began eight centuries ago in Spain and is often incorporated into large festivals including dance, dialogue, and music. Versed in the use of music as a homogenizing factor, Spanish missionaries transplanted this tradition to diverse geographical areas in Asia and the Americas as a means to convert the indigenous populations to Catholicism.
I had always intended to go study one of these traditions as performed today in Mexico. When encouraged to find an area that had been less studied, a series of serendipitous events led me to the home of Don Ray Williams (more on this story in a later post!). I have been extremely fortunate to have Don, Lilliam, and Natalie help facilitate this research so welcomely!
Back to the story: In the community of Bugabita, Panama, the townspeople preserve and guard a tradition of moros y cristianos that they call la danza Bugabita. Their dance represents the struggle between two factions – the Moors from Turkey and the Twelve Peers of France led by Charlemagne.
On my third trip to Panama, the community organized a presentation on the night of Saturday, August 30th. While a massive thunderstorm threatened to undermine the outdoor performance, the rain subsided en route to Bugabita. I was fortunate to have an entire crew helping with photography (a huge thank you to Chris Smoot!!), video, and audio recording.