Carnaval starts tonight and I’ll be “live blogging” so you can live vicariously through us! It’s only too bad you can’t taste the donuts Lucy made last night. They had sprinkles!
Editor’s note: Carnaval is not misspelled. That’s how it’s spelled here. It’s pronounced Car-Nah-Vahl with the emphasis on the “Vahl” part.
Someone asked me the purpose of Carnaval and I’m not really sure it has a purpose. It’s not celebrating independence or anything. But it’s probably the most popular time of year in Panama. The best I can describe it is a mash up: it’s got the cut-throat competition of a civil war football game, only between sides of the same town not colleges. It’s always abajo vs arriba (low vs high sides of town), usually separated by the main thoroughfare going through the town. It’s got the glitz and glamour of a beauty pageant, with queens elected from each side of town and eventually a winner being determined. It’s got the beer-swilling party atmosphere of mardi gras with drunk people everywhere and outside parties that last all night. It’s got the mud-slinging of a political campaign where one side sings mean songs about the other side’s queen. Oh, and in the middle of that are parades. Lots of them. Oh, and there’s water fights too, where large water trucks show up and spray the crowds with water. Someone told me the trucks used to be filled with diesel fuel and we can’t imagine how they were washed out so this might not be as fun as it sounds. The tales of Carnavals past are long and people love to tell them. I can’t quite tell what’s truth and what’s fiction but I guess we’ll find out soon. It starts tonight with the coronation of the new queen and ends Wednesday morning.
The empty lot down the street, across from the town square, has been transformed and now blocks the entire street rather than just the lot. Port-a-potties have arrived. We hear this is the first year for that and it’s a welcome addition. I shudder at the thought of that town square with no port-a-potties. There are several different stages set up in the park along with generators, large satellite antennae on top of news vans and of course the beer stands. There are more people than I’ve ever seen in town. Everyone is BUSY setting up and new little restaurants and hostels and food vendors are popping up everywhere.
Stay tuned for how it all goes down but for now I’ll leave you with a picture of our queen and the disco from the back side. We are Calle Abajo and our queen is Yaileen. Go Abajo! Beat Arriba!