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As some of you may know, we just celebrated "Carnavales" in Panama. Learn more on "Why I Love Panama."
When one hears the word “Carnival”, cities like Rio de Janeiro in Brazil or New Orleans in the United States are what usually come to mind. However, the Carnival celebration in Panama City, Panama is the second largest in the world! Not too bad for a country with a population of only 3.5 million.
Celebrated since the early 1900's, the official start date of Panama's Carnival is the fourth day before Ash Wednesday, or February 17th of 2007. However, many people begin the celebrations a few days early. During the official days of Carnival, most work comes to a complete stop (aka. It is VERY difficult to do business in Panama during this time.) and the main streets of Panama City are brimming over with parades, floats, masks, costumes and confetti. The largest celebrations take place in Panama City and the town of Las Tablas in the Los Santos province.
Las Tablas, a provincial town about l30 miles west of Panama City, is considered by many (especially young people) the best place to celebrate Carnival. The atmosphere is more folkloric and enlivened by an intense, traditional rivalry between "high street" and "low street" for the fanciest costumes and most creative floats. A word to the wise - If you do NOT like huge parties with lots of people, water trucks spraying the crowds and alcohol, you may want to find someplace a bit more “tranquilo” than Las Tablas.
The following web sites will provide you with more information on Las Tablas Carnival celebration.
The Panama City Carnival begins the Friday before Ash Wednesday:
The festivities begin on Friday with the selection the Carnival Queen and her attendants. Afterwards, the queen reigns over the daily parade and official activities. Panama City’s best hotels sponsor related gastronomical and dancing events, including: Cuban Week at the El Panama, Dominican Republic week at the Caesar Park and Puerto Rican Week at the Riande Continental.
On Saturday, one of Panama City’s main streets (i.e. Vía España, Transítmica, Avenida Balboa, Calle 50) is packed with people ready for a party. The streets are filled with small parades, music stands blasting salsa and street vendors selling shish kabobs and beer. Each day of Carnival, the streets are filled with people dancing, carousing and socializing amongst each other. In the evening, the celebration generally moves indoors around the Panama City’s numerous discos, bars and hotels, the festivities generally lasting until dawn.
A tradition of the Panamanian Carnival is the "mojaderas" or "getting drenched" with water. Everyone is a target of the numerous fire hoses, water balloons and buckets. So, if you don’t like getting wet, this may not be the party for you! However, it can be a welcome relief after being under the hot, midday sun. On Sunday around noon, there is a large, beautiful "pollera" parade. Polleras are Panama's national costume and thousands of women and girls are dressed in this lovely national dress to march by groups in the parade or simply walk around.
The festivities continue on Monday with small parades and socializing. “Fat Tuesday” is the biggest Carnival celebration day. On Tuesday, a huge New Orleans-style parade, including lavishly decorated floats and people in costume from all sectors of society, marches through Panama City. The party finishes in the early hours of the morning.