In Panama, Carnival is called “Carnevales” (maybe because it lasts more than one day so the word has to be plural). Every year it’s for 4 or 5 days (I’m still not even sure), and it happens in different places all over the country. A lot of people come to Bocas for these few days because it’s a fun time to enjoy the beaches and the parties etc. There isn’t an official Carnevales website or anything but I’d heard it was from the 1st – 5th of March.
However, there were a lot of posters for different Carnevales parties which started on the 28th February (Friday) and on Wednesday and Thursday, Hellen kept saying to me “Carnival is on Friday!” so, assuming she was saying this because she’d been speaking to Panamanian friends who knew, on Friday morning I got ready to party in some short shorts and bright earrings etc with loud carnival music playing in my room and got Hellen from her flat and went to town.
To say the least, I was very disappointed when we arrived because ok, there were marquees set up to sell beer etc, and a few more people than normal selling street food, but basically nothing other than that and the tents weren’t even selling beer yet, they were still setting up. We just thought “typical Panamanians” (not in a rush) and assumed things would kick off in the evening. We went to the supermarket to get the necessary supplies (a small bottle of rum for me and tequila for Hellen).
A friend of ours, Andrubal, passed us on the street and said he was going to the building where Casa Animal (a big, popular party that comes to Bocas for special days like New Years Eve etc) would take place, to set up some speakers and stuff for the Carnival parties. We decided to go with him because we had nothing else to do, and it turned out it was a lot more fun there than on the street. The DJs were testing out the sound so we basically got a free Casa Animal party because we were on the balcony part where no one could really see us, drinking our alcohol and dancing to the music (sometimes in this weird plastic thing):
As you can see from the photo with both of us, the view wasn’t bad:
Anyway after being silly at Casa Animal for a few hours, we went to get something to eat and saw that the marquees had started playing music and selling beer (and by this time we’d been told that Carnival didn’t actually start til the next day). After going home to sleep for a bit, we went to one of the marquees which was playing reggae/dancehall and danced with everyone on the street. Later we went to Barco Hundido bar and then Munchies as usual.
On Saturday I repeated the getting ready with carnival music process, hoping for something better when I got to town. There was music and alcohol coming from every corner of the park (and along the road) and people had already started partying (it was about 4pm) so I was happy and bought another bottle of rum. Me, Richie (my neighbour), Hellen, Sol (my local friend) and Sol’s cousin who’s here for Carnival, stayed round a table near some speakers that were playing the best music:
At around 6:30pm the “diablitos” (weird devil things that run after kids and hit people who provoke them with sticks) came onto the street:
They also posed for pictures with some people:
There wasn’t really a parade but from time to time there was a group of drummers and dancers. The girls in the Mario Miller t-shirts are part of a dancing group (Mario Miller is an MP):
We also went to the hotel where our friend works for free cocktails:
I don’t really know how the time passed (we were quite drunk) but somehow it got to 10pm and we still hadn’t really done anything except drink alcohol and dance. I said I was going home for an hour’s nap and then I’d come back out to go to Barco Hundido, but I woke up at 3am (it’s like 4am now) with my shoes still on and with 20 missed calls from Hellen! Oops…
I’m currently eating bread and drinking water (hangover avoidance tactics) and hopefully will have a similar day tomorrow but not miss the party in Barco!