Culture on Your Block: Grupo Folklorico Panameno

Ana - CopyFor this edition of 'Culture on Your Block', a highlight of international culture in Maryland Heights, we'd like to introduce Ana House, a vibrant performer bringing the joy and beauty of Panama to WorldFest 2024. 

Originally from Panama, Ana has been living in the United States for twenty-eight years but her roots, love, and passion for her country run deep. 

In an interview for the latest episode of the MH Life Podcast, Ana was eager to share details about Panama. She is proud of the diverse population which is influenced by many nationalities: African, North American, European, American Indian, and Spanish. She noted that her most favorite dish is the Arroz Con Pollo (rice with chicken) and how she grew up with beautiful coastlines. "Panama is one place where you are able to watch the sun rise over the Pacific and set over the Atlantic from the top of the highest point in the country, Volcán Barú," said Ana. "The Pacific side is a little colder and the Caribbean side has white sand and crystal clear waters. It's beautiful!"

Ana grew up familiar with the different regions of Panama. She spoke of the jungles near the Columbian border, the mountains, and the Volcán Barú.

"The flora and fauna are so beautiful in Panama," explained Ana. "The beauty of the nature is represented in the head pieces that we wear when we perform." 

Not to be missed is the iconic Panama Canal, a source of national pride. Ana encourages everyone who visits to experience the wonder of this engineering marvel."You are able to book tours and watch the ships raise up to pass through." She explained that it truly is a sight to see if you get to visit Panama.

It's not just about landmarks, beautiful coastline, and cuisine. Panama's festive spirit is evident in its vibrant celebrations – like Carnival, where the entire country comes alive with music, dance, and colorful parades. This holiday is celebrated four days before Ash Wednesday. People typically take off work so they can celebrate. The streets are filled with celebrities, queens, artists, and festivities. 

Ana's journey to the United States began when she met her husband who was serving in the U.S. Army while she was attending college. Despite him returning to the U.S., their connection endured. They reunited four years later. "He was so close to loosing me, and I, too, was close to loosing him," said Ana. They ultimately settled in Illinois, where they raised 
their family.

As a Zumba instructor, Ana's love for dance and connecting with people shines through. It was this passion that led her and a group of friends to form a dance troupe after being inspired by the vibrant Spanish festivals in Missouri and Illinois. 
"My friends and I would go to these festivals to watch several other groups perform," she said. "We turned to each other and said, 'we should do this!'" 

Seven years later, their group has grown and performed at various venues, spreading the joy of Panamanian culture. 

While they do love to support several other Hispanic associations in the St. Louis area, Grupo Folklorico Panameño in STL is the only official Panama group in the metro area. Although, they hope to grow their presence through networking, performances, and social media. 

For Ana, representing Panama isn't just about performing – it's about fostering connections and celebrating diversity. Through their performances, they hope to not only entertain but also educate and inspire others to appreciate the beauty of Panama and its people. 

You can catch Ana's full interview at Ana's dance troupe, Grupo Folklorico Panameño is scheduled to perform at WorldFest on Sunday, April 28 at 2:45 p.m. This will mark their first performance of the season!