Enacting Political Action through Art

El Kolectivo formed in Panama in 2010 in response to a series of legislative measures by then President Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014). These legislative measures were a setback to Panama’s historical heritage, environmental and cultural preservation and overall the respect for human rights. The human indignation of these measures, amplified by the number of people that were part of protests, brought to the table the urgent need of creating an alternative, independent and innovative space for civic participation; the traditional ones were neither enough, nor appropriate for the current context.  


At the end of 2010, citizens, including students and artists, established a new, collective voice free of antagonisms and symbolic contradictions, which used artistic expression as the fuel for national and international denunciation about Panama´s situation. For many years before this time, artists promoted Human Rights through art, but in an individual manner.


On January 9, 2011, El Kolectivo - at the time, a movement without name, color, or flag - decided to honor the martyrs of January 9, 1964. Employing street theater, the group illustrated or performed a series of historical events as a way of dignifying the historical memory of Panama’s martyrs and heroes. Parallel to this activity, a group of young men were incinerated, at the Correctional Facility for Juvenile Offenders located in Pacora because of their grievances on the lack of access to water for drinking and bathing at the center. This was an opportunity for El Kolectivo to raise their voices internationally, denouncing these Human Rights violations. This was the first judicial process in asking for justice and care for the surviving victims. This process ended this year, when the final sentence was delivered to the responsible actors of the homicide.