Published: March 10th 2009March 9th 2009
Xopá, ¿cómo esta la vaina? Panama's carnaval...how they celebrate it
Well, carnaval was awesome. It's different than in Curacao. While Curacao focuses more on the parades, in Panama they focus more on the public, the people on the streets partying. This is how it works. It all starts Friday, and finishes Tuesday. During the day, starting between 10:00 and midday, there are the so called "culeco's". Big vehicles are parked along the streets, with their tanks full of water and they spray the water all around....and there is music, and people are dancing and getting wet. That's the way to refresh from the hot sun. EVERYONE at the culeco's get wet, completely wet! Of course you should go prepared....a short, sandals and a normal t-shirt and with one of those bags you put around your waist. Put your stuff in a plastic bag, and then put it in that waist bag. Then the queen passes on her big car, together with one, two or three other cars...all big and nice. After this, the culeco continues until about 15:00 or 16:00. After this, there are some other places with music where people keep partying but many people go to their house
/ accomodation and rest. In the evening there is the parade again, with the queens and some cars and music....they use different cars than during the day. Some places, like Chitré and Las Tablas among others, have two queens. One for "Calle Arriba" en one for "Calle Abajo", which are two different main streets in the city. After this, there is the open-air disco's P.H (Pub Herrerano) or X-Zone or some other places with music until the morning. And then it starts the same again....everyday. This is the way the celebrate carnival in Panama. Most people, from all over the country but especially from Panama City, travel to the provinces of Coclé, Herrera or Los Santos to celebrate carnival....to places like Penonomé, Chitré, Ocú, Las Tablas, Pedasí etc. Chitré and Las Tablas are by far the most famous and biggest. The roads heading to those places are clogged on the first day of carnaval. People go in groups of family and/or friends, they stay in those cities with their relatives there. Those who don't have relatives or friends there, rent a house for those few days and those with thick pocket stay in hotels. Some other parts of Panama with
such carnaval are: Panama City itself, Dolega (Chiriqui province), Bocas del Toro, Chepo (Panama province) and Santiago (Veraguas province).
This carnaval celebration is "crazy", really! But it's fun! If you have your group of fun, "healthy" people you'll have a good time. But, there is also a negative side. First of all, many criminals also take advantage of those days and travel to places like Chitré and Las Tablas to go "work". There is a lot of stealing happening during carnaval. During the day it happens a lot, because there is much more people on the street. Although the whole area where there is culeco, is closed and the police do check everyone entering. But still it's not guarantee 100% that there won't be fire arms because at night there is no control (because it's not too crowded as during the day). Also, of course, many people are drinking too much. People sleeping along the road, in the parks, is something normal. Of course there are fightings sometimes. People spend a lot of money during those days. The pawn shops around Panama do very good business because of carnaval. People want to pawn everything: jewelry, microwave, TV etc etc.
All just to get money for the carnaval. The newspaper said that there were people that even though that they could pawn their ID-card!!! Pawnshops are to be seen ALL OVER Panama..."casa de empeño". Bring your golden ring, you get $200 for it. But within a certain amount of months you have to get it out of the shop by paying $225 or more for example. The Panamanian would do anything to get money for carnaval. After the carnaval, all of them go back to reality, the real, hard life of working again....and paying their debts they made to go to carnaval.
Due to the alcohol drinking, there are accidents happening. Although this year it has been minimized because the police have been patrolling heavily all across the main road. They stop many vehicles and let the drivers do the alcohol test, that blow thing, and they check for fire arms and other illegal stuff in the car. my carnaval experience in Panama
I got off the plane on Saturday evening, arriving from Curaçao. Eybis picked me up, I came to Luis' house, dropped my luggage and we went straight to Transístmica, which is one of the main roads
in Panama City. This is the road they close down for carnaval and there was music everywhere. A big stage with bands performing, some other stages along the road. All for free, except on of the stages you had to pay to actually get into the area but from the outside you could hear everything perfectly and even see a lot of the performance. The government invested about US$ 4 million in this whole Transístmica, which includes bringing some international artists, the setup of the road, the police, the clean-up etc. etc. With Eybis and some other friends (Luz, Yoselin) we partied on Transistmica and I also met with my friend Jimmy, who was with two other friends of him. I stayed there until 2:30AM and then I went back home. Luis was going straight to Capira that night so I wouldn't see him because my plan was to go to Las Tablas to meet with Abdiel.
The next morning, Eybis called me and we went first to Antón (a town) where she has some friends. We stayed there, ate, had a swim in the river with the family of her friend. In the evening we went to Penonomé, a
city nearby, where they had their small carnival parade, and after that we went to the P.H till late!!! We got access to the VIP-section of the P.H because the boyfriend of one of Eybis' friends was working at the P.H., and a guy who Eybis is dating was also working there.
The next day I took the bus to Chitré. Some friends from Chiriqui; Fernando, Edgardo b. and Giselle, were all in Chitré and Giselle was calling me since one day before to ask when I was coming. I arrived there during the culeco's, which were crazy! I left my bag in a bar, where some other Chiricano's where working. Then it was time to get wet and dance! I was dancing with Giselle all the time, while the others kept standing near the bar. Edgardo b. was pretty drunk after the culeco's. (Edgardo b. stands for “burro”, his nickname). We went to the place they were staying, where everyone had a rest, took a shower and prepared for the parade at night. It was a very nice parade and there was a lot of firework! The next day I took the bus to Las Tablas, but got off
in Guararé, where Gustavo was waiting for me. He was staying there at the house of the grandparent's of Yarvelis, his girlfriend, and I could stay for the night too. We went then to the culeco's of Las Tablas which were even fuller than in Chitré....and "full" of gays. They were everywhere to be seen in Las Tablas, unbelievable! Overall I really found Las Tablas a bit too full, the area of the culeco's etc. was smaller than in Chitré and it feeled like much fuller. After the culeco's we went to a river to have a swim and I was very tired. I took a nap back home and slept quite long, meanwhile Gustavo went to see a friend of him in another town and I met him later in the night in Las Tablas during the parade. At night the place isn't as full as during the day, which makes it easier to find someone. That night I slept around 3:30AM, woke up early in the morning to catch the bus to Panama City. Of course the busstation was busy and there was a long line....everyone was going back home, back to reality, to the normal life, to
their job or studies! After carnaval
After carnaval I went back to Panama City where I spent two more weeks. I stayed at Luis' place but actually didn't really hang out much with him at all because he was very busy, working a lot. At home I was mostly on internet, playing my flight simulator, chatting etc. Eybis took me one day to the beach (Punta Barco) together with her pretty friend, Luz, and two other friends of theirs. The beach is located on the Pacific side...1 to 1,5 hours west of Panama City. After this we went to El Chorrillo, a not very safe part of Panama City, but here you can eat some good fish & patacones (patacones are like flat pieces of fried banana). I really wanted to go out again with Eybis and Luz too of course, but it didn't happen...maybe when I go back to Panama City. I also hanged out a lot with Mario (Jimmy). Many times I'd just go to his place, where he lives with his brother Hugo, and we watch movies or just hang out outside in front of Veneto Casino which is across the street from where they live.
We went to Calle Uruguay (well known street filled with clubs, pubs, disco's etc.) but most of all to Fiesta Casino where during weekends they bring in live bands and the athmosphere is awesome! We went very often. There I met Juan Mosquera, a friend I haven't seen since I came to Panama, and also with Jonathan who I was haging out with in Chitré during carnaval. That night we stayed until very late at Fiesta and also Veneto (next door). Juan had to leave early but the rest of use stayed for a while. It was filled with beauties and, unfortunately, a lot of women who where there, nice dressed and but they were "working" and looking for "customers"...if you understand what I'm talking about. Sometimes we would talk with them and do as if on of us is interested, lol. During my stay in Panama City I was also visiting Chino (Luis), my little brother ;) , since they live pretty close from Luis' place where I was staying. I also took advantage to see the doctor again for my ankle and to let him sign the insurance paper, which I sent to the Netherlands in order to
get my money back! I went for a walk along Casco Antiguo and also the Avenida Central (also known as the Peatonal) which is a long street only for pedestrians and is full of shops. The street ends up in Casco Antiguo. There I visited the Panama Canal museum which was very, very interesting. Too bad it's not allowed to take pictures inside. Another day I also walked along Avenida Balboa, where there is a big proyect going on. It consists of making the coastline with the Panama Bay broader and building a new road with a nice park with a lot of green and recreational spaces. The proyect is called "Cinta costera" and will cost about US$190 million.
Fernando was also in Panama City and I didn't know, so one day he suddenly called and Friday I went to his place. Edgardo n. was there too and also Yeri (Fernando's girlfriend) and Ania were there. (Edgardo n. stands for “narizón”, a nickname due to his big nose). We were just hanging out and having a few drinks till late! Edgardo n. took us to the top of a building where is aunt lives, from where you can enjoy awesome
views of Panama City and of course I took pictures from there! I also met with Rafael in Panama City, who is a cousin of Edgardo n. who lives in Volcán (a town in the hills outside David). He lives and works now in Panama City and I went out with him one night and some of his friends. I'm supposed to go to the top of Mount Barú together with Raul (Rafael youngest brother) and some of his friends. This mountain is a sleeping volcano of 3474 meters high. I don't know when we will go, I'm waiting on Raul to tell me this.
In Panama City I felt so bored sometimes because I couldn't play volleyball...and Eybis had found a place for me where I could go a few days during the week to play. I have to wear my ankle stirrup just for about 10 more days and then I can play again!
Since yesterday I'm back in David, Chiriquí, where the Feria Internacional de David is about to start! The fair starts this Thursday and lasts for 10 days! It's gonna be 10 days of party! I'll buy my VIP-acces to the P.H, which most
of my friends/acquiantances are going to do too. I won't attend all 10 days though, just 6 or 7 out of the 10 days I think. Because I know quite a few people in Chiriqui, I'll try to go to the P.H with different people everyday ;). Here in David I'll definitely call Giselle to see if she's going and when we can meet....to go on a date ;) .
That's all for now. Take care of yourselves!
There are more photos below