The Afro Community of Bocas del Toro

The Bocas del Toro Afro-Antillean experience in the Panamanian Caribbean is rich and unrivaled. It’s all about seafood, coconut and spices on the table; calypso, reggae and soca when it comes to dancing, and Guari Guari, a highly important and unique language in this archipelago, especially in Old Banks, Isla Bastimentos, where the culture has survived almost intact. 

African culture has been significantly present in Panamá since the Spanish colonization in the 15th century. Currently, 33.2% of the Panamanian population consider themselves to be Afro-descendants (according to the 2023 census), and their greatest proportion is located mainly in the provinces of Panama, Colon and Bocas del Toro.



After the Spanish conquest, which brought with it the enslaved peoples of Africa, called “Afro-Colonials,” there was a second wave of Afro-descendant migrants for the construction of the Trans-Isthmian Railroad (1850-55).



The Afro-Antillean influence is visible in many aspects of the Bocas del Toro culture, from music, dance, and cuisine to religious traditions.



You will love the Afro-Antillean food in Panamá. You can taste many amazing dishes such as the saltfish & ackee (a Jamaican fruit;) the juicy Fufu soup with fish, tubers and coconut; the beef Patty empanadas; or the ripe plantain empanadas called “Plantin Tat.”

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