It seems there are always parties, fiestas and special events here in the beautiful country of Panama. So we were thinking of going to Carnivale but got mixed reviews from the locals. Our friends, Hector (a born and bred Panamanian) and his beautiful Romanian fiancée Claudia were actually leaving the Country for a vacation because they didnt want to be here for Carnivale. Our friend Alicia, also a Panamanian national, made a particularly bad face while relaying how they drench you with water cannons and throw eggs. So, this kind of dampened our enthusiasm, that was until we met…………………..THE CANADIANS.
A word about the Canadians, a group of nine Alberta farmers and associates. They came to Panama at the suggestion of their friend Alec who had a long-held wish to come back to Panama. I must say I didn’t really catch all of the story but it was important to him to return and the others were happy to accompany him. These people are your no nonsense, salt-of-the-earth types whose winter vacations tend to take them to warm southern destinations and sometimes unique group experiences. We got to know them over local beers by the pool. Sam was particularly bonded to Vince, a larger-than-life, constantly smiling guy who we instantly liked. Sam enjoyed hearing about farming, cattle, farm machinery, lumber milling and all manner of manly undertakings.
Vince was all for going to Carnivale so while the others stayed behind we decided to venture headlog into the blaring music, samba bands, gorgeous floats, beautiful girls and dancing people from ages 1-90.
Carnivale is loud! I mean really loud. We dressed in our most throwawayable clothes and brought plastic bags for keeping our valuables out of the way of whatever liquids or other matter might seep into our totes. After a few beers, we positioned ourselves along the parade route. As it turns out the water cannons and eggs are reserved for the daytime festivities thank you very much. There were some older men in headdresses that seemed to have some kind of historical significance, followed by lots of young and old devils, your obligatory men on stilts and lots and lots of music and groups dancing. The night we went was the coronation of the Carnivale queen who was beautiful and very regal on her sculpted float wearing her shimmering gold costume. The parade was set up where you could watch it twice because of its circular route. Really fun and colorful.
Then, of course, it was time to get Carnivale food! We had hot dogs, chicharones, meat on a stick, chicken and lots of beer. The Panamanians love their meat so every tent had plenty. Strangely, there were no sweets or deep fried oreos like we find at our American Carnivals. It was great being in another country trying their version of stuffing your face with Carnival food. Love it! Another difference was the lack of enthusiasm for the fireworks. In America, we stop, gather around for the main event which is always the fireworks. In Panama people walk around and seem to hardly notice. Of course the night was not nearly over because they party until dawn so the fireworks were merely an interlude.
Anyway, for us, it was time to return to the hotel and we met up with the other Canadians who wanted to hear about our experience at Carnivale. We enjoyed telling them all the highlights. They were wide-eyed as we told them, in great detail, the story of how Vince was chosen from the crowd and asked to dance with the queen on her float. Hmmmmm if only we had pictures.