Carnevales in Bocas del Toro, day 4

The last part of Carnival wasn’t so exciting for me, and I don’t have any photos, but I think I should write about it anyway to have information on here about the whole thing.

Tuesday (March 4th) was officially the last day, but (I think I’m already becoming a granny…) I was so tired from the previous 3 days that I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed (apart from to buy bread and cheese from the supermarket 5 metres from my house) until about 5pm. From what I’ve heard, I didn’t miss much in the afternoon except the water-spraying, obviously dancing at the sound systems and drinking beer etc, and the devils doing their weird rituals on the street.

I went with Hellen to eat at our favourite place, La Caseta, a little Italian restaurant on the Main Street that you should definitely go to if you’re in Bocas. We stayed there for a while even after we finished our food because from there you can clearly see the street, so we had a good view of what was happening without having to stand up and try and see between other people’s shoulders.

There were various groups in the parade that lasted about an hour. None of them had impressive costumes like at the carnivals I’d been to before, but there was still a really lively atmosphere and people were definitely enjoying themselves, and each group did make an effort to wear kind of matching clothing or follow a theme. The groups were generally made up of dancing girls in the front and drum-playing boys behind them (also some with trumpets etc).

One of them had a pyjama theme, which I found quite funny, and all the girls in it were wearing bunny ears for some reason. Each group was followed by about 50 members of the public, waving their arms in the air, drinking beer and dancing along (some better than others…) to the rhythm of the drums. Normally I would have followed too, but I really felt so exhausted and my legs were aching from dancing the days before etc.

After the parades, nothing really happened except more dancing and drinking at the sound systems, and kids going on the trampolines that had been temporarily put up in the park for Carnival. Because Carnival was going to end and we hadn’t really done anything that day, we decided we should go out that night, so we went to Barco Hundido which was full of very drunk and crazy people wanting to enjoy the last part of Carnival. I didn’t feel like drinking and going crazy so I just had a normal night.

The next day, Wednesday 5th, there was another weird thing to do with the devils, even though carnival had finished and all the marquees were being taken down etc. I was busy sorting my life out (going to fill up my big water bottles from the filter machines, going to the bank, washing my clothes… all thing I’d been neglecting during Carnival) so I didn’t go to see it.

From other people’s explanations, I think that basically, because the devils were the “bad” guys during Carnival, chasing and whipping people, the day after it finishes is the day for everyone to get revenge on the devils. Apparently they came to the street around 5 as usual and did their dancing, chasing and whipping, but then after about an hour of that, they went to the sports hall for the revenge thing. People paid $1 to get in, and then the devils lined up and everyone who wanted to could whip/hit them with the sticks etc they’d brought. I have no idea how long it lasted for, or if the devils are allowed to try and run away or anything, but I know the main idea was for the people to get revenge. After the sports hall thing, apparently the devils all go to church because the evil has to be taken out of them or something (I have no idea).

Bocas is a “party town” but after the revenge on the devils the town was basically dead. All the bars were closed except El Encanto, which is basically only for the indigenous people (“Indians”), I guess because everyone needs a day/night to rest and calm down to recover from Carnival.

The streets are still suffering a bit with rubbish (it’s Thursday morning now) but one old local woman is going round with a bin bag doing the best she can. She must be at least 75 and can’t even bend down easily, but I see her doing this after every big street event (like the Bocas Day celebrations a few months ago and the parties at Christmas time). I’m 99% sure no one pays her and no one tells her to do it, and she just wants her Bocas to be clean. How cute.

For me, overall, Carnival in Bocas wasn’t as much fun as the 2-day Notting Hill Carnival in London, but considering it’s a small island I suppose it was never going to be on that scale. The sound systems were great (good DJs, cheap drinks, people dancing there all day) and I love the fact that they kept going until about 3am. Another positive thing was that I didn’t see ANY problems (fights etc) and it wasn’t too busy so problems such as pickpocketing and being pushed over by stampedes of people didn’t really exist. Also the water spraying (read the post about Part 3 for information on that) was really fun and something for the children to do while adults were busy getting drunk etc.

However, I would have preferred them to have more of a variety of things each day, for example more types of street food other than just chicken, more parades, and some more things on the stage like competitions involving the public or a performance from a reggaeton artist. Obviously all these things cost money and take time to organize, and I think they did a good job and everyone had fun, including me, but if I lived in Latin America I don’t think I’d pay to fly to Bocas for Carnival.

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