Carnaval: The Final Chapter.
Dan and I went to the city on Monday to pick up Aunt Kim. But alas we returned without her, which made us all very sad indeed! Her flight was cancelled and she’s coming in later in the week. But Dan and I had a nice night in the city and did some shopping, the girls had a great time staying home with Lucy as their caretaker and we got back in time for the final night of Carnaval.
Fat Tuesday is the night when the queens – and other girls in town – come in their traditional Panamanian dresses called Polleras. These are elaborate and expensive outfits with massive headpieces and jewelry. They are beautiful. Any girl in town who has one is invited to dance in the first parade of the night, when the queen comes through the square on foot. That took place at the relatively early hour of 8.
Sidenote: one advantage of living in our house is that we can hear when the bands are coming, so we know when the floats and the queens are arriving. This saves us from hanging out at the square for hours waiting for some action. This worked well last night when the floats were coming through around 11.
The girls and I went back to the square to see the floats at 11, which were lovely gold and bigger than usual. Each queen had two floats, one for her “court” (princesses who were also in Polleras) and the second float for the queen. They were beautiful.
After the floats we headed home for a relatively early bedtime of 12:30 but at 1:15 the fireworks started going off so there was no sleeping at that point. They lasted about 30 minutes and then they turned up the music. It was definitely louder and more thumpy than any other night. We went to bed, setting our alarms for 5 a.m. Evidently the very last event of Carnaval is the face off between the queens. The queens and their bands meet up on the main street that divides the two sides of town just before sunrise and there’s evidently all kinds of insults thrown, trash talking and general competition before a final handshake restoring peace and unity to the town. We had to see this!
I went down to the square at 5 and met up with fellow gringos Candace and Al, but I left the kids at home until I knew more of what was going to happen. Candace, Al and I were self congratulating that we were the only gringos who were hard-core enough to come for the final showdown. We paraded around in the support crowd for our queen for awhile, doing loops around the square waiting for the queen of Arriba to show up. It felt a bit like the lead up to a rumble. After 90 minutes it was sunrise, which really puts a damper on a night of partying. So Arriba’s queen was a no-show! We got dissed! If you ask me that means she forfeits and Abajo wins the game, but I guess we don’t make the rules.
The reason for the no-show is unclear. My neighbors report that she should have been there and it’s never happened before, and that clearly Abajo won. Another report indicates that Calle Arriba rarely shows up – it’s their reputation to skip it. Others speculate that Abajo had already been announced as a winner so Arriba didn’t have any reason to go. Others say Arriba won this year. I am not sure we will ever know. That kind of thing is part of living in Panama – some things you just never know why.
This morning the town was a mess. It’s quiet, but a mess. It smells like warm beer and other unmentionables, there’s trash everywhere, and people are moving very slowly and looking like they’ve seen better days. Lots of cars are getting packed up and people are starting to leave town. I’m looking forward to a return to some kind of normal, especially the departure of the disco.
Here’s a picture of the final floats, the 3 gringos after very little sleep at 6 in the morning and a full garbage truck – a welcome sight.