What Are Tembleques?


What are tembleques? Tembleques are tremblers; shaky things that go in your hair.....and part of the National Dress of Panama, the Pollera. They can be made of glass beads, gold beads, silver beads, pearls, and FISH SCALES. Yes, fish scales. Have you ever come across some beautiful fish scales on the beach? They are usually irridescent, and will catch your eye on the sand among the broken shells on the beach. There are many here on the Panama City, Florida, beaches; you just have to realize they are not parts of shells but actual fish scales that have washed up on shore. They sure looked lovely on those shiny fish you caught on the fishing reel, and that you threw out while cleaning it, but when fish pass away naturally, they do wash up on shore. The ones I have seen here on the beach are greyish and irredescent. Now, why on earth would anyone want to use fish scales in their hair, and in a National Dress? Well, to understand it you would have to go back to when the Pollera (Panama's National Dress) was created. Back in the colonial days, women would fashion jewelry with anything they could find. Pearls, gold, beads, pretty irridescent fish scales....yep. They would take them and bleach them out, and then dye them in different colors to form the petals of a flower, for instance, or the wings of a butterfly. Flowers and butterflies made with these fish scales are very beautiful because the fish scales never lose their irridescence, and they are very sturdy. They are mounted on wire, and then wrapped onto hair clips or "peinettas," or combs, and then placed into the hair. The effect is very beautiful. Back in the colonial days, materials were more pure, and they were the real thing. Gold was the real thing, pearls and beads were the real thing, not plastic immitations like we have now-a-days (They didn't even know what plastic was). They wouldn't even dream of using an inferior metal! The Pollera dress, with all its gold embellishments (there are numerous necklaces and earrings that are part of the Pollera dress that I won't go into here because that would be a different hub), would be handed down through generations of women as part of the family wealth.

The whole purpose of the tembleques is for them to shake and irridesce on the head while the dancer is dancing the different typical dances in the Pollera costume; of course, ultimately, to look pretty and to attract the opposite sex. It really is a pretty sight to behold. But you'd have to take a trip to Panama, Central America to check them out, unless you live in the Ft. Walton Beach/Destin area (this area) or another area that could have a Latin Festival and Panamanian Pollera dancers. Yearly, there is a Latin Festival held in the large Destin Convention Center in the middle of Highway 98, and this year they had some Panamanian Dancers in all their garb (including the tembleques) dancing some dances and displaying what they had to display. I was there and I danced along with them. It was so much fun!

Dancing In The Street In Panama With Tembleques In Their Hair
Dancing In The Street In Panama With Tembleques In Their Hair

The Pollera Embellishments - Gold

Get a good look at all that real gold....it is a bit heavy
Get a good look at all that real gold....it is a bit heavy

More by this Author

  • How To Remove Yellow Carpet Glue or Adhesive

    If you have ever tried to remove that yellow carpet glue from under a wall-to-wall carpet or rug that you have removed from your floor, you know exactly what I'm talking about. You know how difficult it is. I have tried...

Comments 34 comments

Lisa Barger 9 years ago

Is that what those are called? I'm so ignorant when it comes to Latin cultures. :( Great article--aren't those dresses awfully heavy with all that ornamentation?

maricarbo profile image

maricarbo 9 years ago Author

The dresses are not very heavy....although the jewelry is, especially if it is made of real gold.  The tembleques are a bit heavy but it depends on what kind you are using.  I have a pollera and I have tembleques made from fish scales and silver wire.  They are not too heavy but for a person who is not used to wearing anything on their head, they do weigh a bit, and might be a bit distracting.  Since my hair is not very thick I am always afraid of losing them...you know, having them falling out as you move your head.

Heidi 8 years ago

How are tembleques made? I would love to make a simple one for my wedding in October and can't find instructions anywhere about them. How can I buy them also(just in case i guess)?

maricarbo profile image

maricarbo 8 years ago Author

Tembleques are made with silver wire or golden wire (the real thing) and also with fish scales and silver beads or golden beads. They are attached to a hair pin for inserting into the hair (not a bobbie pin) and are made in identical pairs, so that there will be one for the right side of the head and an identical one for the left side of the head.

Rumina 8 years ago

I need to find out where can I purchase the material to and pattern to make a pollera for my daughters wedding next year. I am panamanian and wanted her to have a traditional pollera for her reception..... please email instructions, thanks

Stephanie DeJesus 8 years ago

Does any one know where I can buy or order a pollera?

if so please write and let me know. thanks


maricarbo profile image

maricarbo 8 years ago Author

I do not know of any mail order place for Polleras. My best bet would be to take a trip to Panama and ask around. I think they still make them in the interior and that would be your best bet, price-wise. Mine came from Los Santos, but that was many years ago. The lady who made it is probably dead by now. The good ones are made by hand you know.

Alva Gaskin-Williams 7 years ago

I learned how to make polleras from the book "La Pollera Panamena" written by Zarate. It's the only instructional source I know. You can try to get it online, or if you happen to be in Panama City, you can get it from "Biblioteca Cultural Panamana". Purely white polleras are easy to make with materials found in the US, and it takes like 1-2 weeks to make. However, if you want to make a colored fancy pollera, you must realize that it will take EXTENSIVE time and effort to make an "authentic" one. So I have resorted to hand-painting the "talco" (the apliqued handwork), and applying colored crochet thread to purchased white lace. (Put the crochet thread in the bobbin, and place plain white paper underneath for stability; tear-it away later.) The fine linen lace edging (valenciano), is just IMPOSIBLE to find in matching sets, so I use nylon lace 5-7" wide. (I cut 2 1/2" from the edge for the narrow lace to match.) I was thinking of writing a book on the subject of making your own sub-authentic polleras, one of these days.

maricarbo profile image

maricarbo 7 years ago Author

That is a great idea, to make your own book about creating a Pollera! To me, it is the prettiest National dress in the world. If I were ever to be married again, I might get a white Pollera...It is a very involved undertaking, but if you like to sew, then the more power to you! I am all thumbs with a sewing machine.

elitadiseg@yahoo.com 7 years ago

I like very my your page, I'm a panamanian living in UKraine so far ago, I can't find something like this here. thank a lot!

maricarbo profile image

maricarbo 7 years ago Author

Thank you! You should tell us about the Ukraine! It must be an interesting place to live!

Nanette 7 years ago

I'm panamanian too. You have to ask somebody in Panama to get yo a pollera from Calidonia, they can get you a white pollera since they have it hanging on the wall. They have all kinds of tembleques, they are not expensive, at least not the ones on the narrow hallways. I'll try to make a video on how to make tembleques.

maricarbo profile image

maricarbo 7 years ago Author

Excellent, Nanette, I would really appreciate a video to post here on how to make tembleques. They are so beautiful!

RayRAy 7 years ago

Just got back from Panama...great place......I live in the Bahamas......Met a young lady there "liriola".....promises to show me how to make a Tembleque.....I fell madly in love with them the first time I saw them..they are sold in their store in Panama city.....www.liriola15vi@hotmail.com

motricio profile image

motricio 7 years ago from Bogota DC, Colombia

Beautiful hub, like all dresses and all that happines expressed on an dancer's smile.

I'm from Barranquilla Colombia, and i'm very used to Carnaval de Barranquilla.

Itzel 7 years ago

If you need something from Panama about polleras only write to: dignabt@hotmmail.com

God Bless You!

maricarbo profile image

maricarbo 7 years ago Author

Thank you so much for all the information about where one can get things related to Polleras!

Herrera 7 years ago

My daughter will be 15 in 2010 August. She want's to wear a traditional Pollera, where can I buy one and how much?

Thank you.


Eliza 6 years ago

You can go to mipollera.com and interrealpanama.com These sites have links to were you can purchase almost anything tipico from polleras,enaguas, tembleques and camisillas basquinas. However be prepared to pay some money, these are the real authentic polleras that are sold. If you want to save some money and know anyone who lives in panama have them go to Salsipuedes. I found a white pollera for my 8yr old for 100 US dollars. In Penonome you can get the shoes for like 12 US dollars.

Jose 6 years ago

My wife is an expert in Polleras and all aspects related to Panama´s Folklore. She was selected as the "Princesa of the Asociacion de Santeños" and won the best pollera using one of Madariaga´s polleras (the author of La Pollera book)In my opinion you find real good things at "Salsipuedes" but with lots of mistakes and not handcrafted ( I mean a lot of Singer), but if you are not worried about been exact that is a cheap option and looks fine to the eye, but if you want to invest in a real authentic artisan made pollera you might want to talk with my wife, she can probably help you in finding the best price and quality her email is orisleyla@panamafolkdress.com



lillian 6 years ago

Hola a todos

Vivi en Panama y estoy residiendo en los EU por casi 21 anos. he aprendido varias manualidades pero ahora me siento atraida por la confeccion de tembleques. se me hace muy dificil encontrar los llamado "gusanillo". tal vez sepan la traduccion o simplemente donde los puedo encontrar aqui en los USA. disfruto todo sus comentarios.

Alva Gaskin-Williams 6 years ago

Lilian, los gusanillos se encuentran exclusivamente en Panamá. No hay ni modo. Yo he buscado, tambien. Puede hacer su propio gusanillo si coge un anfiler y lo enrolla con un alambre de plata bien, bien fino, alrededor y alrededor. Pero sabrá que nunca será lo mismo que el auténtico. ¡Pruébelo! Translation: Lillian, the gusanillos are found exclusively in Panama. There's no way. I've already looked, myself. You can make your own if you take a pin and wrap it with a very, very thin silver wire, round and round. But you know it will never be the same as the authentic one. Try it!

Cat 6 years ago

I am looking for a pattern for the pollera - anyone have any clue where to obtain one? A montuno pattern would be great too but think I can adapt another male pattern for that

magnoliazz profile image

magnoliazz 6 years ago from Wisconsin

Great hub! I would wear this stuff!

Samylleth  6 years ago

I must say it has been a while since I've seen a pollera, I lived in panama for 10 years and it's my country I have searched for many years to be able to get a dress from panama online, but alas seems impossible.... but I must say that if you are looking to buy a pollera it will easily cost about 1500$$ hand made FYI Full White wedding Pollera is the most expensive, the montuno which I do believe is the color skirt with white top is the cheapest I know for a fact that the lowest you will probably ever find a Pollera would be about 500$$$ depending from where and whom you buy it from, i do suggest that if you ever do go to panama you should visit Los Santos it is the most Cultural part of panama if you are able to get your dress from there it will most likely be hand made and you should be able to expect full detail, how ever in Panama Viejo/a( downtown Panama) you should be able to find some machine made polleras but of course those are never the same. This dress is a lost art but very beautifull...

Isa 6 years ago

My mother is an artisan and she has been making polleras for more than 30 years. I grow up around her beautiful work, she knows how to make everything for our cultural and folkloric dresses. I must to say: if you are looking for something cheap go to Salsipuedes in Panama Town but if you really want the real and hand made polleras you should go to San Jose de Las Tablas in Los Santos. If somebody need something we have it since tembleques, to shoes montuno/as,jewerly etc. or for your convenience we can make them. I live in Orlando Fl and my husband a me have been wearing polleras and camisillas in carnivals the last 3 years and each one diferent of each other all of them made by my mom and of course I'm preparing the new one for the next year!!. Believe me it's fell so good to have a mom that has been dressing from carnivals and festivals queens to her own family with her craftwork.If you need something just email to me at: iep0379@gmail.com

Nilka Harris 6 years ago

I'm from Panama city Panama and I make beautiful tembleques. If you need them let me know and I will be more than happy to make them for you. My email is sitosamirharris@Gmail.com

Nilka Harris 6 years ago

Oh I live in Columbus Ohio.

Nilka Harris 5 years ago

Nilka Harris


AVON Representative NILKA HARRIS serving the Columbus, OH area


Ann 5 years ago

Hi dear ones,

Well, the pollera takes a 1 1/2 to make and most likely you have to order a pollera. The cost is btween 1,500.00 dollars up to 3,500.00 dollars. Nothing cheap and easy to make is you want the real thing. The Panamanian national dress is originally made by hand, not in a painted material. Regarding tembleques, you can buy bead, the wire (No.26 and 21) in Hobby Lobby, and other craft stores. Fish scales are not longer in used since there is soooo much work involved.

I hope this info assist you.


Nilka Harris 5 years ago

Hola si estas en los Estados Unidos De America y necesitas tembleques dejame saber. Yo estoy haciendo tembleques para la venta y tambien tapamonom,los precios varian.

If you need tembleques let me know, I'm making them for sell and also tapamonos. Please let me know if you need some. Sitosamirharris@gmail.com

Phily 5 years ago

on July, conmemoring the Santa Librada festivities, also celebrates on 22, "Festival Nacional de la Pollera", at Los Santos Provinces in Las Tablas City, you'll be abble to se the best expouse of all the ways as the pollera is been made, awards will give away to the best.


Rupert 4 years ago

Sharing a Story

One more proud Panamenian how was in desparate need on a pollera for a school activity (mult-cultural week) my nine year old daughter is going to participate in. As we all now that trying to get a pollera in three weeks is next to imposible, weather it's made her in the U.S. or come from Panama, furtunately, I was able to get in contact with a beutifull lady by the name of Orisleyla that worked with me in a tireying and exuasting effort to get me everthing that I need in a timely manor. Dowing this for a complete stranger, making phone calls to different vendors to get me the most competative price, driving around not only to pick up the items but also mailing them out to me is an experince I will never forget. I will always be endated to her. If it has anything to do with customs and traditions of Panama, polleras, montunos and to me the best part Pintao (hat worn with the muntuno) Orisleyla is the person you sould consider getting in touch with. I can't wait for the day of the event (Feb 29) to share my culture with the world. My mom always say that, if you do good, then good will follow you. By the way you can get moore information at panama-polleras.com, or panamafolkdress.con

If anyone need any help, rupertbeckford@sbcglobal.net

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article