Sunday, March 20, 2011

Panama - Carnival

Dear Mark

During our stay in Chica Carnival was occurring in Panama. Carnival is a big deal. It comes down to about 4 days of celebration culminating on Fat Tuesday. I found a web site that tries to sum up the reasons why and what occurs. Here is what they say:
"Although most people identify Panama with the canal, it is the colorful interior of the country that defines Panamanian roots and where people return in droves to celebrate Carnival. In the daytime tanker-sized trucks spray the screaming crowds in the equatorial heat. In the evenings there are fireworks, parades, and outdoor dance clubs."
Wikipedia tells me that it is the second largest carnival celebration in the world. Pretty impressive.
"The Panamanian Carnival is the second biggest festival in the world. Traditionally beginning on Friday and ending on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, "los carnavales", as Panamanians refer to the days of carnival, are celebrated in almost the whole country. Carnival Week in Panama is specially popular because of the luxury and magnitude of the Las Tablas Carnival as well as the carnival celebrations in Panama City and almost all of the Azuero Peninsula. The Panamanian Carnival is also popular because of the great number of concerts by national and international artists held on different stages in the most visited areas of the country."
I've never been in Panama during Carnival. It was fun to experience. Being in Chica let me do this on a small scale.

The first night the Carnival Queen from the previous year comes into the center of town and then the new Queen is presented. There is loud music and a band is playing as well. There are several other activities too. It was very fun to watch with Lavinia. The next couple of days there was a parade each day in the town with the Carnival Queen from the town. The parade in Chica was small but it was nice to be part of. Yes, that's right we joined the parade. Here is a picture of Jack & Mama joining in at the back of the parade.

Each day at the center of town is a water tank truck that is spraying down the partying people. There is dance music and just a lot of fun times. I'm sure not so fun for those that live near by, but overall a lot of fun. In the slide show below Lavi took some shots of her family (cousins) enjoying themselves.

On the third night Panama's version of Pearl Jam came to Chica, Samy y Sandra were performing. Now, to put this in perspective let me put it this way. Samy y Sandra playing in Chica is like Pearl Jam playing in the backyard of a house in Startup, WA. It is huge and a very big deal. Now Samy y Sandra always play in small towns, but the point is that they are immensely popular in Panama. Again, wikipedia to the rescue to explain them better than I could:
"Samy y Sandra Sandoval are a brother and sister musical duo, who are performers of típica or pindin (traditional music from Panama) and cumbia style music Music of Panama. They are also known as "Patrones de la Cumbia" (Masters of the Cumbia).[1] and are immensely popular in Panamanian pop culture."
Lavi and I were not planning on going to the show. I was tired from relaxing all day. We decided to go and visit her Tia Tina (aunt) and Tio Danielo (uncle) because we thought that they would be alone while everyone else was at the show. Jack was asleep and we walked up to their house. As we approached it looked like a party was going on outside. As we got closer we saw that several of Lavi's aunts, uncles and cousins from neighboring towns had come to Chica for the show. In fact, Tio Danielo had been going to pick up people all day. It was a wonderful surprise. We were able to hang out with the family for a few hours.

Now, I'll admit that by 10pm my brain was tired. Trying to understand Spanish all day just does me in. So we walked back to Lavi's Mom's house and I was going to bed. Nilsa decided that Lavi had not traveled 3,000 miles to Chica to miss Samy y Sandra. So those two got dressed up and went to the show. It sounded like a great time.

Thankfully I was able to find some posted video of the show in Chica.

Here is a video of them from another concert in the country this year. You can see they are a big deal!

On the last day of Carnival the Queen comes out and is presented to the town again. She rides a float and then dances in the center of town. Now this year's queen is actually related to me. I know, we have royalty (of the Carnival) in the family. Turns out that this year's Queen is Lavi's cousin's wife's sister. Because of this we got a call as the Queen was preparing to ride the float. We raced down with our camera and took a lot of shots. The Queen and Princess were getting on the float we took some really good shots.

Funny story about this though. Lavi was wearing her Mom's house keys on a strap around her neck. That and the camera with the big lens must have made her look like a Journalist. Several individuals thought she was from the paper.

Here is a photo of the Queen, Lavi and her two cousins Diane and Alexis.

And here is a photo of me and the Queen. The Queen's mother insisted that I get a photo with my cousin since we are family. Got to love that.

Here is a slide show of the pictures we took. There are a lot here, and many with family members. There are shots of the water tank, the Queen, the town parade and such in here.

Overall, Carnival in Panama was a lot of fun. A great time to get together with friends and family and really celebrate Panama's culture.


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