Friday, April 30, 2010

Panama : Carnival 2010 Las Tablas

The first hurdle in getting to Las Tablas.
But we managed. Dan succeeded in explaining to this officer that even though we were all weaving through traffic, we weren't really going 'that' fast. Somehow he lets us go.
We arrived in Las Tablas on Friday just as things were getting set up for the five days of madness. I'd been to Mardis Gras in New Orleans back in the late 1990's. That was a trip to remember as well... 25 Rugby players, two Winnebago's and a crazy thousand mile road trip from freezing cold Minnesota descending on Bourbon Street for the Fat Tuesday parade. So I had grandiose thoughts in mind as Sam was telling me that this Carnival celebration in Las Tablas, Panama was supposed to be the second biggest in the world after Rio de Janiero, Brazil.
Carnival is big in Latin America. I knew I wanted to end up somewhere good to celebrate. Since Barranquilla, Colombia, another hotspot was out of reach, we decided that Las Tablas would be perfect.
All I really knew at this point was that Dan had a contact for us. Some old friends of his were set to be here with a rented house and a slew of party goers. We were invited to set our tents up out back of the rented house for the week and get our party on. There ended up being a mix of 25 Panamanians and us foreigners. An awesome mix of people and madness.
We had a couple of moments of difficulty finding the house as every road seemed blocked with awaiting parade floats.
Sam managed to break part of a float while trying to slip by along this float. I thought we were going to get strung up somewhere on the outskirts of town, but we made it to the rented house afterall. The rest of the five days is pretty much a blur of dancing behind the floats to live brass bands, drinking cheap beer and cane liquor, eating street food, cramming into outdoor discoteques, blaring music twenty-four hours a day, and fireworks, lots and lots of fireworks...
video

So unlike Mardis Gras, beads and boobs were not a part of the procession.  Instead the floats and the bands would pass round and round the plaza.  Two factions... Calle Abajo and Calle Arriba duel it out the whole weekend, trying to out do each other.  The princesses and queens of each appear on different floats in different motifs throughout the five day festivity.  And the crowd follows and cheers and dances with the Calle that they support.  During the day, huge water trucks spray river water on everyone and it is a mad spectacle of drinking, dancing and wetness.  And pickpockets love it.  We watched several pro pickpockets attempt their skills on us.  Fortunately we were warned and keen to their intentions.

Some of our crew...






































Queen Calle Abajo...


Queen Calle Arriba...





All in all a really fun five days taking in another culture's take on the pre-lent blowout known as Carnival.  I have to say, if given the choice, I'd take the chaos and nudity of Mardis Gras...  But this last photo can be a testament to how much fun I had in Las Tablas...



One last oddity...  Instead of giving out condoms to push the safe sex message, they handed out these bars of soap with the "Use a condom" message printed on it.  Crazy.


1 comment:

Bones said...

I heard that if you scrub it really hard, with hot soap and water, well, that works too.