In Honor of 100 Years of Guillermo Sánchez Borbón: A Commemorative Event June 26 at Rogelio Josué Ibarra High School

It’s time once more for Isla Colon to honor its literary hero, Guillermo Sánchez Borbón, known to many as Tristán Solarte. On June 26, the Rogelio Josué Ibarra High School will host a special event celebrating what would’ve been Sánchez Borbón’s 100th birthday.

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Guillermo Sánchez Borbón holds a special place in the hearts of the Bocas community. His literary legacy is deeply intertwined with the essence of Bocas del Toro, which served as his muse. Throughout his works, Sánchez Borbón masterfully captured the intricacies of Bocas, vividly describing its landscapes, emotions, and unique charm. His descriptions remain as evocative today as when they were first penned, creating a timeless connection to the beauty and spirit of Bocas del Toro.

Sanchez Borbon’s influence was so profound that in 2018, the Panamanian government officially declared June 1st, his date of birth, as Literature Day in Bocas del Toro. The inaugural celebration of Literature Day in 2022, saw the unveiling of a vibrant mural in Sánchez Borbón honor. This mural, now prominently displayed on the back wall of the Gran Hotel Bahia, serves as a visual reminder of his impact and has become a cherished landmark ever since. You can read more about the mural here.

Guillermo Sanchez Borbon mural

The Tristan Solarte Mural, behind the Gran Hotel Bahia

Sánchez Borbón made significant contributions to Panamanian culture, particularly as a distinguished poet and author. His works earned numerous accolades, including the Rogelio Sinán Medal and the Ricardo Miró Prize, Panama’s highest literary honor, three times. He was also a leading figure in the Academia Panameña de la Lengua and the only Panamanian author featured in the “Mil Libros” catalog, a compilation of the world’s thousand best books chosen by literary experts. For more on his life and achievements, check out this article.

This year’s celebration on June 26 will feature a full program dedicated to honoring Sánchez Borbón, Bocas del Toro, and the art of poetry. The event will take place at Rogelio Josué Ibarra High School, starting at 9am. Though it’s not a public event, as it coincides with school hours, it will be recorded by Bocas TV and The Bocas Breeze, ensuring the entire community can later share in the celebration.

The program begins with brief remarks from the school’s principal, Dora Reina, followed by insights shared by Josh Whitlock, one of the event’s main organizers, and members of the Poet’s family. Central to the event, Ariel Pérez Price will deliver an in-depth presentation on Sánchez Borbón’s life and legacy. High school students will then take center stage to showcase their artistic talents. “El Ahogado,” which inspired the mural, will be featured prominently. Students will perform scenes from this iconic work, bringing its powerful narrative to life. Additionally, the students will recite some of his poignant poetry, allowing participants to immerse themselves in the beauty of his words.

Familia de Guillermo Sanchez Borbon

Family of Guillermo Sánchez Borbón at the inauguration of the Tristan Solarte Mural, June 1, 2022. Photo courtesy of Alex Arosemena of La Prensa

In a generous gesture, the poet’s family is donating a hundred copies of “El Ahogado” to the school’s library, ensuring that future students can access and study Solarte’s work. Additionally, they put together a special brochure containing 13 of his poems, with 1,000 copies available for students to read and then return, keeping these literary treasures within the school.

The ultimate goal of this event is not only to honor Sánchez Borbón but also to inspire local youth. By engaging with his work, young people in Bocas del Toro can connect with their literary heritage and find encouragement to explore their creative talents, much like Solarte himself did when he started writing as a young boy in school. This event aims to foster a deep appreciation for literature and creativity among the students, carrying forward Solarte’s legacy of artistic passion and expression.

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This event is possible thanks to a dedicated group of individuals, including local educators and prominent community members. Among the organizers are the Poet’s family members Susana Negrin, Dianelsa Barrios, Ivette Sánchez, and Temistocles Sánchez. They are joined by Bobby Eisenmann, founder of La Prensa and a close friend of Sánchez Borbón, Ariel Pérez Price, a descendant of Bocas, cultural activist, and the author of “Pionero: La Historia de Luis Russell” and “Memorias de Bocas Town”; and Josh Whitlock, a poet and part-time Bocas resident, who commissioned and helped organize the Solarte mural. Deeply moved by Sánchez Borbón’s literary work, Whitlock has been working on translating Solarte’s poetry. As part of the event’s coverage, four of his translations will be published for the first time in English. Whitlock is committed to keeping poetry alive in Bocas in honor of Solarte’s world-class style and themes. To hear more about Whitlock’s deep admiration for Guillermo Sánchez Borbón. You can watch an interview with him here.

Let us celebrate Guillermo Sánchez Borbón’s life, his remarkable contributions to literature, and the enduring impact of his work. Whether you’re a lifelong resident or a recent arrival, this event is a chance to come together and honor a figure who has played a pivotal role in shaping the cultural landscape of Bocas del Toro. Don’t miss this opportunity to be part of a memorable tribute to one of Panama’s literary giants.

Article by Nicole Ortiz

 

The scene at the June 1, 2022, inauguration ceremony for the Tristan Solarte Mural. Photo by Alfredo Jurado of Bocas is Love.

Guillermo Sanchez Borbon Tristan Solarte(1)

Guillermo Sánchez Borbón at 93 years old, during his final visit to his beloved island hometown in 2017. This photo and the featured image for the article are by Alex Arosemena, courtesy of La Prensa.

 

The Bocas Breeze is a digital and print newspaper proudly serving the Bocas del Toro community since 2004; reporting news, advertising local businesses and promoting tourism in Bocas del Toro, Panama.

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