Bocas First Guari-Guari Talking Rescue

The “Bocas First Guari-Guari Talking Rescue” was held on May 28, 2021.

W’appin deh?! (What’s happening there?)

When you first reach Bocas del Toro, you will notice Jamaican-style English being spoken by locals -especially in Old Bank and Almirante- and all over the province where families speak it as a first language, along with Spanish. The English spoken by Bocatoreños is sometimes referred to as Creole English, Patois, and “Guari-Guari.”

English has been spoken since the foundation of Bocas del Toro. According to Clyde Stephens, it was the dominant language of the region until World War II brought a mass immigration of Central Americans to work making Manila Hemp rope for the Allied war efforts. Many of the immigrants stayed and Spanish became more widely spoken. In recent years, some claim the usage of Guari-Guari by younger speakers has declined and for that reason it is important to promote its use.

To commemorate Panama’s Black Ethnicity Month and to celebrate the beautiful language that is unique to this area, on May 28, 2021, the Authority of Tourism, in collaboration with Amaranto Bocas, held a wonderful event that highlighted many Bocas del Toro cultural gems: “Bocas First Guari-Guari Talking Rescue.”

Coconut rice and beans, fried fish, pati, plantintá and the famous Bastimentos bun were served. Live Calypso music filled the air and there were traditional dances like Cuadrilla and Palo de Mayo. Gustavo Smith and Mauricio Lopez hosted a discussion with a panel of prominent speakers of the Guari-Guari language and Bocas del Toro culture was discussed at length. They had conversations about what it means to be Bocatoreño and how the community can march forward, preserving the rich culture and traditions they have and taking advantage of this cultural value to share with tourists that come from around the world to live an authentic Bocas del Toro experience.

The event was held in memory of Milford Peynado, who passed away recently and in his life fought hard for the preservation of the culture, customs and traditions of the region. Certificates were handed out to the participants in honor of Mr. Peynado, may he rest in peace.

Event participants from the Panama Tourism Authority pose with the Bocas First Guari-Guari Talking Rescue certificate

Nicholas Corea is the editor of the Bocas Breeze. He wasn't born in Bocas, though he got there as fast as he could. He is just one of the many foreigners who became enamored with the islands. His mission is to provide the community with news that unites and inspires, while sharing with the world the magic that is Bocas del Toro. Mr. Corea likes to extend his gratitude to everyone who makes The Bocas Breeze possible- starting with YOU (the reader).

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