Tinaja and tinajero
The tinaja and its base are an unavoidable part of the countryside home's furniture.
Above the tinaja, there are shelves for placing glasses, mugs and totumas for drinking water.
The tinaja rests on the bottom half of the wooden structure, supported by four legs.
This view shows the mouth of the tinaja.
In order to drink water, you need to take a totuma to collect water from the tinaja.
Tinaja is a pottery vessel made for holding drinking water. While the word comes from Latin, and certainly there are similar vessels in the Old World such as amphorae, our Panamanian tinaja's shape resembles more closely the Pre-columbian pottery traditions of the Gran Cocle culture in Central Panama. It is basically a baked mud vessel, wider in the center than in the base and the mouth.
Since the tinaja is fragile, it needs a piece of furniture to hold it away from the floor. That is the function of the tinajero, a wooden plataform with four legs that also includes shelves in its upper part. The shelves are used for storing glasses, mugs and totumas, which are all used for drinking the water held inside the tinaja.
Before refrigerators became common at houses, a tinajero and its tinaja were ubiquitous sights at houses all over Panama. They soon, in addition to their utilitarian character, acquired decorative value.
In addition to store water, tinajas where used for fermenting chicha, a traditional corn-based alcoholic beverage of indigenous roots in Panama. So popular and well-known were tinajas, that they are featured in a popular Panamanian saying: "it's clearer than tinaja water", meaning that a situation leaves no room for doubt.