Wolf Tracks
Popular Art and Re-Africanization in Twentieth-Century Panama

By Peter Szok

320 pages (approx.), 6 x 9 inches, 24 color photographs, 37 b&w photographs, appendix, bibliography, index

978-1-61703-243-1 Printed casebinding $55.00S

978-1-62846-172-5 Paper $30.00D

Printed casebinding, $55.00

Paper, $30.00


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How red devil buses and self-taught artists have enlivened one Latin American nation

Popular art in Panama is a masculine and working-class genre, associated with the country's black population. Its practitioners are self-taught, commercial artists, whose high-toned designs, vibrant portraits, and landscapes appear in cantinas, barbershops, and restaurants. The red devil buses are the tradition's most visible manifestation. Old school buses are imported from the United States and provide public transportation in Colon and Panama City. Their owners hire the painters to attract customers with eye-catching depictions of singers and actors, boastful phrases, and vivid representations of both local and exotic panoramas. The red devils feature powerful stereo systems and dominate the urban environment with their blasting reggae, screeching brakes, horns, sirens, whistles, and roaring mufflers.

Wolf Tracks analyzes the origins of these practices, tying them to Afro-American festival aesthetics and to the rumba craze of the mid-twentieth century. Middle- and upper-class intellectuals fled from modernization and asserted a romantic and mestizo vision of the republic. But artists such as Luis "The Wolf" Evans exploited such moments of modernization to challenge the older conception of Panama as an exclusively Hispanic and mestizo (European-indigenous) country. These popular artists enthusiastically embraced the new influences to project a powerful sense of blackness. Based on over ten years of research, Wolf Tracks includes biographies of dozens of painters, as well as detailed discussions of mestizo nationalism, soccer, reggae, and other markers of Afro-Panamanian identity.

Peter Szok, Fort Worth, Texas, is associate professor of history at Texas Christian University. He is the author of 'La Ultima Gaviota,' Liberalism and Nostalgia in Early Twentieth-Century Panama.

To see many of the photos in this book and many more, visit the University of Florida George Smathers Libraries.

320 pages (approx.), 6 x 9 inches, 24 color photographs, 37 b&w photographs, appendix, bibliography, index