Friday, February 24, 2012

The Other Side of Carnival

by Expat Focus Columnist Stephanie Angulo

Panama is home to the second largest Carnival celebration in the world. Businesses shut down while people hit the streets for five days of drinking, culecos (tanker trucks spraying the crowds with water), gluttonous amounts of food, and scantily clad women adorned floats. Thousands of cars and busses line the main highway in a traffic jam as far as the eye can see from Panama City to the interior for all the major parties; the largest event being in Las Tablas, Panama where the festivities begin the Friday before Ash Wednesday.
Although carnival stretches over five days, only one day is a national holiday, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The banks are closed for a week. Restaurants are unattended for days. Small mom and pop shops remain unopened only during the one national holiday in hopes of making a few sales throughout carnival. Not everybody is free from work though the cities are near empty. What are those people doing?
Work on expanding the canal hummed along as normal. Clinics, pharmacies, and grocers still had customers even though there weren’t the normal throngs of people waiting in lines. There are smaller carnival celebrations that the smaller towns provided to these locals.
Driving through our current town of La Chorrera, we saw dozens of small celebrations. Neighbors got together to make small carnival parties including floats, alcohol, loud music, and thrashing each other with water, the perfect recipe for any carnival celebration!

Read more about the carnival celebrations in Panama

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