Getting Ready for Carnival 2008 in Panama
Friday, January 25 2008 @ 10:41 PM UTC
Contributed by: Don Winner
By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Get ready, cuz' here it comes. Carnival 2008 starts next weekend. Panamanians love to celebrate Carnival, and if you've never experienced one your in for a treat. First of all, have a good time. Secondly, be safe. This year the celebrations will start on Friday, 1 February 2008 and run through "Carnival weekend" until Tuesday 5 February. In the United States they use the term "Mardi Gras" for carnival celebrations in New Orleans. In fact, Mardi Gras is French for "Fat Tuesday" which is always tuesday before Ash Wednesday, 46 days before Easter. Confused? (more)
Catholic Tradition: The French who started Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans were mostly Catholics. Carnival is also big in Brazil and the rest of Latin America (also mostly Catholic.) It's basically a last chance to let it all hand out (so to speak) before entering into 40 days of fasting and reflection leading up to Easter.
The One Without The Crown is Roberto Duran
Panamanian Style: There are really two kinds of Carnival traditions in Panama - divided generally daytime and nighttime. During the heat of the day most people hang out in the streets, partying and listening to loud music, drinking heavily, and getting sprayed with water to stay cool. Wear - sneakers with no socks or something else to protect your feet, shorts or other light clothes that don't turn transparent when wet (unless you're a hottie, and then in that case transparent when wet is OK.) But if anyone calls you "grandma" then go for opaque when wet. Don't forget to grease yourself down with waterproof sunscreen. Wear a hat and sunglasses. Put your cell phone, keys, and a little cash in a zip-lock bag and put that in your pocket. Carry just the absolute basics and leave everything else at home or in your hotel room. Then go spend the entire day wandering around, listening to music, people watching, and having a good time. Get wet, and have fun. It's a giant party no matter where you are.
Night Time Carnival: Most people head back to wherever they are staying at around dusk to take a shower, eat, rest, relax, and to get ready for a hard night of partying. In the early evening people go out dressed nicely for discos, live bands and concerts, and more partying. Again, take what you need but not much more, and be prepared to be pressed in large crowds. Note - spraying water on someone who has already changed and dressed for evening partying is considered to be a major snafu - water during the day only, please.
Let Me Count The Ways: There are too many ways to get yourself in trouble in Panama during Carnival. People get ripped off all the time, which is why leaving most of your valuables at home or in a safe place is a good idea. Almost the entire country gets drunk and stays that way for about five straight days, so there are more drunk drivers than sober drivers. Most of the people who die during Carnival get killed in traffic accidents. In Penenome they always celebrate Carnival on the river, and every year someone drowns. There are fights and people get hurt. There are drunks who drink until they pass out in the surf (and drown.) And every year someone finds a new way to remove themselves from the gene pool.
Dont' Miss It No matter what you decide to do, if you've never been in the middle of a full-blown Carnival celebration then by all means I suggest you go for it. Have fun, have a blast, and let it all hang out. Remember that police presence is always increased, and that there are points established by the SINAPROC, Red Cross, and other government agencies and organizations should you get hurt or in trouble.
Street Food Tips: Make sure whatever you plan on eating has been cooked into submission - this is no time to try the street Sushi. Trust your instincts - if it looks funky it probably is. And one more thing - buy your Pepto Bismo now because you won't be able to find any next week when you are loading up the car to head to Ocu ("lo mas lindo que tiene Panama...) Stomach problems of some kind are the most common ailments.
Check Points: There will be security check points along the road as well as at entry points for carnival celebrations. Authorities are warning people that they will pull cars off the road and have them towed if drivers don't have a current driver's license, if the car plates are expired, or if drivers are drunk. So, if you're going in your car expect to show your license and have your car reviewed several times.
Mostly an Interior Thing: Panama City basically empties out during carnival. For those with small children the City of Ocu prides itself on putting on a "family" carnival - or at least a version of carnival that is more children friendly. The "big show" is always in Las Tablas, with parades, floats, bands, and live music.
"Calle Abajo, Calle Arriba" During carnival celebrations in the interior you will hear different neighborhoods competing for bragging rights, most often divided into "Calle Abajo" and "Calle Arriba." There will be a Carnival Queen for each of the different areas of the town, and events that turn into basically competitions to see who has the best looking queen, best fireworks display, best bands or music, etc. All in good fun...
Copyright 2008 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.