Carnaval In Panama
“I’m really not looking forward to spending eight or nine hours sitting in the car in traffic tonight,” remarked Panama Letter Editor Rebecca Tyre on her way out the door from the office Friday evening.
“Well, would it make sense to wait? Why not leave tomorrow morning instead and avoid all the back-ups?” I asked in response.
“Sure, we could do that. But then we’d miss out on the full Carnaval experience,” Rebecca explained.
The biggest fiesta of the year is upon us here in Panama. Local news reported more than 400,000 vehicles taking their leave from Panama City Friday evening. Everyone was making a break for the mountains and the beaches…headed for the party.
Carnaval celebrations are held all across the country. The biggest is in Las Tablas, on the east coast of the Azuero Peninsula. That’s where Rebecca and her friends were off to.
Others from our staff departed Panama City Friday evening for Chiriqui, San Blas, and beach towns along the coast just outside the capital. The point is, you go somewhere for Carnaval. People save all year for their Carnaval experience, even opening special bank accounts for that purpose.
You stay in Panama City only if you have absolutely no other option–only if you don’t own a beach house of your own, don’t have a friend with a place on the coast or in the interior, can’t manage to solicit an invitation from an old acquaintance, or don’t feel like taking your chances on finding an empty bit of floor space in the home of a new one.
The effect is that, this weekend and through Wednesday, when all those vehicles will return to Panama City, again clogging the bridges and the highways that connect the capital with the rest of the country, this city is a ghost town.
We’re taking advantage of the extra elbowroom. We’re off this morning for a bike ride along the Causeway.
P.S. Why didn’t we join the rest of Panama City for the exodus Friday night? We’re intrigued by the Carnaval tales we hear. But, frankly, we’re also a little intimidated. I don’t think Lief and I would survive the experience. Up all night, night after night. Dancing ’til dawn…then starting all over again at sun-up, with beer for breakfast. And these are the tales I can print. The off-the-record stories would curl your hair…