Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 16.COM 8.B.31

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Panama has nominated Dances and expressions associated with the Corpus Christi Festivity (no. 01612) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

The Corpus Christi festival is a religious festival in Panama that celebrates the body and blood of Christ. The festival combines Catholic tradition with popular practices and festivities and is characterized by theatre, music, burlesque dances and colourful costumes and masks. A day before the festival, a theatrical and musical performance depicts the battle between good (St. Michael the Archangel) and evil (the great devil and his legion) in the fight over the human soul. Participants then dance in a procession that follows a priest carrying the monstrance, a metal receptacle in which the Host is exposed. (In Catholic tradition, the Host is the consecrated bread of the Eucharist, representing the sacrifice of the Body of Christ.) In some communities, the dancing is performed on a carpet made of flowers. After the procession, participants dance freely and gather on the streets and in family homes, where food and drinks are shared. The knowledge and skills related to the festival are passed on through participation in the festival and the involvement of youth in dance groups, mask-making teams and sawdust carpet teams.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, and the information provided by the submitting State through the dialogue process, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1: The element is a syncretic expression involving religious and festive celebrations. The festivities include an allegorical performance depicting the triumph of good over evil. Bearers and practitioners include dancers, patronages, associations, mask-makers, sawdust carpet teams, and family groups who transmit the knowledge and skills through participation in the element and through the involvement of youth in dance groups. The festival encourages the return of individuals to their home communities and unites families while allowing participants to demonstrate their commitment to the element. It is aligned with inclusivity, as it encourages participation of men, women and children in various roles and without the risk of marginalization.

R.2: At the local and national levels, inscription would boost the collective self-esteem of the communities concerned as well as their commitment to implementing the safeguarding measures. Media attention will help to create awareness, encourage the updating of the educational curriculum and boost support for other local expressions. At the international level, States can learn about efforts to safeguard the element and about successful models. Inscription would justify the organization of activities, such as workshops, to encourage dialogue and exchange. The inscription is also likely to encourage participation of other ethnicities within Panama in the practice of the element and in other festive occasions, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity.

R.3: Past and current safeguarding measures have been undertaken by patronages, associations, family units and the bearers and practitioners themselves. The State Party has supported the study and practice of the element in some schools. Proposed measures include: general training for the safeguarding of the element in order to avoid distortion and performances outside of its intended context; awareness-raising regarding respectful interaction with the element by tourists; revitalization regarding aspects of the element such as harmonica, whistle and accordion playing and wood artisanry; documentation and inventorying; and dance group training. The State Party will provide support for inventorying, meetings and training. The measures were proposed by the communities, groups and individuals concerned with the element, and they will also be involved in the implementation of the measures.

R.4: The nomination was developed between 2015 and 2019, when the element and its variants were documented. Many communities and individuals were consulted. The appended documents on community consent paints a picture of the process. Free, prior and informed consent for the nomination is established. The element is open for participation and access to information, though some aspects remain secret.

R.5: The element is included in the inventory of Panama in seven provinces. These were all included between 2013 and 2018, and the inventory is administered with the help of the communities and in collaboration with the Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage Project of the Ministry of Commerce and Industries. Interested members of the community help document the element in various communities and universities. The inventory is updated biannually, or every three years in remote communities, in collaboration with trained persons.

  1. Decides to inscribe Dances and expressions associated with the Corpus Christi Festivity on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.