Sea Turtle Festival at Armila, Kuna Yala
The festival takes place at Armila, the last Kuna community in Kuna Yala, before Puerto Obaldia, La Miel and the border with Colombia.
In the previous days, many student groups from neighboring communities arrive at Armila.
Before the event starts, locals and visitors are called by the sound made by this shell.
The House of Congress, decorated with hammocks, was the venue for the festival's opening.
The inauguration of the festival was attended by many people.
The event is supported by the Ministry of the Environment, the General Kuna Congress and the Ministry of Commerce and Industries.
The next morning, the Armila Chief, or Sahila, gave the instruction for starting the contests and cultural performances of the festival.
One of the main attractions of the festival is the performance of traditional dances.
Due to its orientation towards kids and young people, the festival offers educational activities related to environmental concerns.
There is a contest for dioramas about the sea turtles.
There is also a mural contest for grade-school children.
Kids enthusiastically join the turtle drawing contest.
For the sand sculpture contest, the participants move to the beach.
The festival is also a great opportunity to taste the Kuna gastronomy, with dishes such as this soup, named tulemase.
And the moment for the sea turtle observation finally arrived. We spent a whole night on the beautiful beach of Armila.
At night, we saw many leatherbacks laying eggs, but didn't take pictures as the flash stresses them out. However, at dawn, we were rewarded by the sight of many newborns racing to the sea.
Every May, since 2010, the Kuna community of Armila has been celebrating the Sea Turtle Festival, as a way to honor and protect the leatherback turtle, Dermochelis coriacea, which lays eggs at the nearby virgin beach. These sea turtles are embedded in the local legends, as they are considered as ancestors of the Kuna people and spiritual messengers.
In addition to the ecological component, the festival also includes many cultural events such as folk dance performances and traditional songs. Also, there are many contests aimed at school children, as the festival is aimed at educating them in the importance of preserving the environment. These contests include drawing, sand sculpting, mural and diorama building, all of sea turtle related topics.
We thank Mr. Ignacio Crespo, organizer; Mr. Joel, our host; the authorities and people of Armila and our travel companions of the media and government institutions who made our stay a very enjoyable one.
Dear reader: If you would like to visit the next edition of this festival or any other traditional celebration in Panama, keep track of them with our Digital Calendar of Cultural Heritage Festivities of Panama.