Reflections of Carnival 2015 (Reposted from 2/26/15)

This year I did not go to the Carnival festivities very much, only to see the floats go by on a couple of occasions. Nor did I take too many pictures even when I was there. Having been in the parade when we first visited in 2012 and attending most days last year in 2014, our first year since we moved here (which I previously wrote about in my blog), I really wanted to stay away from the crowds most of the time this year. It has been over a week since Carnival ended, but I thought I would share a little of the festivities that occurred here in Pedasí, especially for those who do not live in Panama or have not read about it. Anyway, I did notice some differences, mostly for the better this year. For the first time, porta-potties were placed in strategic areas around and near the town square. They were also supervised and cleaned every night. I will leave it to your imagination what happened at the previous carnivals. Security was much tighter and during most of the days; the town square was roped off at the street entrances and people could only enter through two openings where the police would check coolers and even pat down mostly men as they entered. Last year was election year, so much of the festivities involved campaign posters, give-aways, and candidates attending to seek votes. This year it was back to the healthy rivalry and competition between Abajo and Arriba queens. Last of all, mostly because there were 20-30 mph winds day and night (unusual for Pedasí) and perhaps because it is very costly, the fireworks were basically lit off the last night (Tuesday) of Carnival, which we could watch from our back garden. In the past we had 5 nights and some days of much loud booming. Since we only live about 5-6 blocks from the festivities, we can hear most everything that is going on, from the announcements to the musical groups to when the parades were starting. Every year there are two parades, one in the early afternoon and one at night. They consist of two differently decorated floats pulled by a tractor for each parade with each queen dressed in very ornate costumes who waves at the crowd as she passes by down the main street and around the town square, usually twice. The float is followed by a truck filled with 20-30+ band members playing tipico music over and over. In between the float and band truck, and following the band truck, supporters of the queen walk along chanting songs and slogans as they dance to the music. Although there is an approximate timeframe for the parades to start, one never knows exactly when. It all depends when the float is built; they use the same flatbed trailer each time. From my house I can usually hear when the parade band starts playing and am close enough to walk down to view the parade in time. It’s getting through the crowds that can be a challenge, but I have learned how to go around to the main highway where there are not as many people. The rest of the time, people, young and old, families and single adults, children and grandparents gather around for a big party in town. Many food fondas are built to serve tipico Panamanian food (fried chicken, roasted pork, corn fritters, potato salad, chow mein, fried bread, tamales, rice, fried yucca, etc.) and drink (soda, juice, water, and lots of beer, etc.). There are bbq grills and carts selling hot dogs, mystery meat on a stick, chicken, ice cream, etc. Some vendors stands are built selling souvenirs and artisan items. Children and adults squirt water from their big super soakers at those who pass by. During the day large water tankers are parked around the town square with people standing on top hold large hoses to spray out to the crowds, even those in the parade. The live music concert plays loudly on through each night until 3-4 am, only to start up around 9-10am the next morning. We also hear the loud music from the jukebox at the cantina around the corner from us throughout each afternoon and evening. And yet, Mikkel and I are getting used to this, prepared for 5 days of craziness. At night we close our bedroom windows and door, put on the AC, and fall asleep in spite all the noise. Since I did not take too many pictures this year, I have borrowed some from my Facebook friends to show the highlights of this year’s Carnival. Hope you will enjoy the slideshow.

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