National anthem, Panama.
Several thousands of feathers were sent to me in response to this. I am now in a position to let readers know what the position is in Panama due to a recent visit there by myself and my husband to see Snr. Delgado.
The dancers come from a wide variety of backgrounds, the centre of this activity is in Chitre, fourth largest town of Panama and provincial capital of Herrera. They number around seventy and unfortunately seem to be on the increase Costume consists of a "boilersuit" made up of red and black 20mmwide strips of cloth in a chevron pattern, an extremely elaborate papier mache mask and of course a headdress consisting of ten to thirty Macaw tail feathers,red being the most highly prized. I estimate it would need at least five hundred hours work to complete one of these outfits. Some are self made, others are made by professionals. Children also participate usually using wing feathers. The tradition is deep rooted and well respected locally and nationally.
There are no Macaws left in Panama except in the Darien province in the East. Those seeking new or replacement feathers have been going on illegal expeditions to Darien in order to get the indians there to obtain feathers by of course killing Macaws. These are usually kept in a cardboard tube and wiped with paraffin to deter moths when not in use.
Francisco Delgado has come up with the solution of providing a "bank" of feathers available for hire, against a deposit, to bona fide dancers. Other tactics are an education programme for schoolchildren, use of goose and pheasant feathers and use of artificial substitutes. This hopefully will depress the scarcity value of feathers so deterring professional collectors. Francisco himself is a professor at San Diego University(Panama) and seems to spend all of his spare time and cash in a crusade to educate the population on the environmental situation in Panama. This he does by a daily radio programme, "expositions" and lectures.
A demonstration of this dancing was laid on for us specially at a private house. Seven dancers were there and a large number of onlookers to enjoy the spectacle and very convivial it was too. We were also able to visit a factory where amongst other things the masks were made by anextremely labour intensive process.
So far I have sent off approximately two thousand feathers, in batches in order to minimise any losses in the post, which he has received. We did not take any with us for (needless) fear of trouble with the customs. I have got to the bottom of the paperwork for export from this country (U.K.) and now have sorted out the Panama end. Please keep the feathers coming in, also any material you think may be useful in Francisco's "expositions" eg.posters as he has difficulty in obtaining such in Panama. THIS LAST REMARK APPLICABLE TO UK PERSONS ONLY DUE EXPORT PROHIBITIONS.