It's time for Carnivals in Panama

It’s Carnivals time! The whole country of Panama is gearing up for its annual weeklong celebration. They have saved all year to be able to enjoy a respite from daily work, to relax and celebrate life. It’s a major cultural event, not to be missed by anyone. This is their time to celebrate, let their hair down and shows the world how Panamanians can unite in pride. The country comes to a halt in favor of ribald creativity of their rich local cultural differences.

According to an article from “La Estrella de Panama”, (the oldest newspaper), the first Panamanian Carnival was celebrated in 1850. For others, Panamanian Carnivals origins goes back to colonial times when people, simulating battles, would dress up like the King and Queen of Spain, Indians, Slaves and soldiers.  They would depart from Balboa Avenue to what is now called Santa Ana. However, Panamanian Carnival was declared an official holiday in 1910.

This year, Carnival will start on Friday night, March 4th until Tuesday, March 8th.   Panamanians love Carnival, it is a time to relax, rejoices and party, everyone participates, young and old.

Festivities begin on Friday evening with the crowning of the Carnival Queens. The next four days, as early as 10:00 am, people gather for the culecos, where while dancing and singing with disco or live bands called murgas (drums and trumpets bands that plays carnival rhythm), the dancing frenzy can be cooled down by the water trucks spray.

Early evening, a parade of colorful and creative floats, lovingly crafted throughout the year, are followed by courtiers of the queen, enjoying different traditional music and fireworks display. More music dancing revelry till the wee hours of the morning.

There are almost no places left in Panama where Carnival is not celebrated; from Chiriqui to the Darien, from Colon to Boquete, everyone enjoy Carnival in different ways. The Carnival in Panama City, celebrated on La Cinta Costera, promises to be the biggest this year, with huge government spending and international exposure, so a lot of people stay in the city but the most travel to the interior, the favorite destination, Las Tablas.

Las Tablas Carnival is by far the most popular and extravagant. They select two Queens.  Each Queen represents a main street in town, Calle Arriba (High Street) and the other Calle Abajo (Low Street).  Both rival and compete to be the best and most accomplished beauty. This becomes the grandest spectacle, this starting by the stature of their thrones, the floats, their costumes and fireworks displays. People enjoy singing and dancing to the rhythm of both queens’ tunas and comparsas (group of musicians and dancers), which, by means of their respective rhythmical songs, chants and stories, praise or ridicule each other.

Besides Las Tablas, there are also other places when you can enjoy the carnival closer to home such as in villages like Capira, Bejuco, Anton and Penonome.  Penonome has an interesting variation of the Panamanian Carnival theme:   It is the Aquatic Carnival; the queen floats, in full regalia, glide majestically along the Mendoza River.

You have so many options during the Carnival time, walk, drive or take a bus. Venture out and experience the spirit of Panama Paradiso. Don’t forget your sunblock, Channel specs and camera, and join the entire country in this fabulous celebration of life.