Yesterday (Saturday 16th) was “Bocas Day”, basically the anniversary of the day that the Bocas Del Toro province was founded. The town I live in on Isla Colon is called Bocas Del Toro, but Bocas Del Toro is also the name of a province on the Panamanian mainland.
A lot of people came to Bocas for the Independence Day celebrations, but I’d heard that Bocas Day was due to be even bigger, so I was quite excited. It definitely was bigger. The park was completely transformed, with trampolines, a bouncy castle, a kind of dancefloor under a marquee with big speakers and various types of latino music. There were loads more marquees, some selling souvenirs and light-up toys for the kids etc, and some selling food and drink such as beer (obviously), rice, soup with giant chunks of meat in, and popcorn. This is the park at around 6pm:
Drinking alcohol on the street is normally illegal, but yesterday the law definitely didn’t apply. The parades started in the morning while I was asleep, probably at about 10, despite the rain, so the streets were lined with people (and umbrellas and beer) from early. There were about 100 bands in the parade, and they came from all over the Bocas Del Toro province, from towns such as Changuinola. These photos are from the morning (the reason you can’t see people lining the streets is because this was right at the start of the parade, when I’d just left my house, not in the main part):
I bumped into a guy I know in the park and he bought me a beer which I decided to drink even though I don’t like beer. When I got home I poured the remaining 1/4 of a can down the sink (sshh, don’t tell him). For dinner I went with my friend from the hostel to Munchies, a takeaway with some seats outside which is only open in the evenings/night, mainly catering to drunk people. I’m becoming addicted to their veggie burgers and you can’t really go wrong for $3.50 (and they actually fill me up). We also went for a batido (smoothie kind of thing) at Barco Hundido, so we were sufficiently energised for the night of partying to come.
On the way back to the hostel I decided to buy disposable cups so I could make a drink in the hostel and take it on the road rather than paying for drinks on the street. Thankfully they had big cups and I filled one up with rum and ice, and it lasted me over an hour! There were way more people on the street in the evening than in the day. My camera doesn’t really like the dark but this was the street at around 9pm and you can see a couple of the dancers in the middle in the first photo:
At the end of Main Street there was a stage thing set up with some judges/important people and trophies, because the bands were all in competition with each other. As they passed the stage everyone clapped and on the mic they announced where the band came from etc. This is my favourite band passing the final point:
The atmosphere was amazing. There’s something about big events with lots of people and loud music etc that I love, so I felt happy here in the same way that I do at my favourite event ever, Notting Hill Carnival in London. The people in the parade were so animated, especially in the band in the photos. You can see that the drums are not small and must be heavy, but the guys were dancing at the same time as playing them, and throwing the drums HIGH into the air in syncronisation at the same time as staying in perfect rhythm with the rest of the band. I can’t explain to you how much I enjoyed watching it 🙂
The park is near the final point, so we spent some time in the park as well as on the street. These giant Panamanian flag guys were by the park so me and Aude took a picture with them:
The famous midget of Bocas was also there. He’s a crazy (and very sexual) dancer who seems to dance with more girls than all the other guys in Bocas, so we thought we should take a picture with him too:
A few minutes later we bumped into Silverio, the water-taxi driver who’s taken me to volunteering every time since I’ve been in Panama. He’s a really friendly, sweet person and he seemed very pleased to see us (Aude has been volunteering with me for a week now so she knows him too). He doesn’t have a camera but he asked us to take a picture with him and print it for him in the hostel and bring it for him next week when we’re next in his boat, so of course we said yes:
At about midnight, Aude got tired so went home and I luckily found someone I knew, a woman called Genesis who I’d met a couple of times before at parties. She was really friendly and I stayed with her for the rest of the night (and now I’d call us friends, not just someone I know). We made friends with a guy who was visiting from Colon in the mainland and instead of going to Barco Hundido which was the original plan, we ended up just chilling near a takeaway which was playing music etc, talking to our new friend Courtney for about 3 hours! It was one of those funny conversations where all topics are covered and everyone is open about everything. We swapped numbers and are planning on going to visit him in Colon in a few weeks. I’ve obviously never been there and Genesis hasn’t either.
This was my favourite night since I’ve been in Bocas and I’m happy that I now have a female Panamanian friend. It also helped cure my “carnival tabanca” a bit (I don’t know if tabanca is actually a proper word, but in the carnival scene when someone misses carnival they say they have carnival tabanca).