Sandra Eleta

Born in Panama City, Sandra Eleta settled in Portobelo in the early 1970s and began photographing its residents, including the Congos, as a kind of photographic journal. “I needed a change,” she once told Renee Alexander Craft. “I needed to break away from everything I knew . . . I’ve lived many places, but I’ve never felt this sense of belonging before” (2003 interview). In addition to empathy, a spirit of collaboration, and wonder, Eleta brought with “the privilege of the state, the corporate world, and the arts community” to bear on the Congo tradition and the community of Portobelo (Arturo Lindsay 2003 interview). Eleta is president of the Portobelo Foundation, which is dedicated to cultural preservation and co-founder of Taller Portobelo, which has been both a women’s cooperative textile art workshop and the workshop of the Congo artists of Portobelo, Panama. Her photographic books include: “Portobelo”: Fotografia de Panama and Darien: A Book of Travels. To learn more about her work and to see her beautiful photography, visit: and check out this feature, “Sandra Eleta in Portobelo.”

Listen to the full interview

Interview Details

Interviewee: Sandra Eleta
Interviewer: Renee Alexander Craft
Secondary Interviewer: Lindsay Foster Thomas
Date of Interview: July 2012
Location of Interview: Her home in Portobelo, Panama
Interview Transcribed By: Oronike Odeleye
Audio Link:
Download the Transcript:  English Transcript | (no Spanish Transcript available)