The Christmas celebrations here in Boquerón have changed each of the four Christmases I’ve lived in this small, Chiriquí, Panama, Province. Fireworks are a cornerstone of everything. The wet dreams of every adolescent male in the United States are available here. There are stores that sell pyrotechnics year-round and to satiate Panamanian’s desire for loud sounds be it music or explosions, tents spring up all over the place selling “Fuegos Artificiales.”
For two weeks leading up to Christmas Eve youngsters are constantly setting off fire crackers, M80s and cherry bombs and bottle rockets. But Christmas Eve is the culminating event. Four years ago the fireworks that were shot off here in my neighborhood rivaled those of any small town in the States. We were treated to a display, courtesy of Philadelphia Phillies catcher and pride of Panama, Carlos Ruiz whose mother lives on the other side of the Boquerón Road from my house, that would be the envy of many small towns in the States. It lasted a full twenty or twenty-five minutes. The next two years, though, saw a decline in the exuberance of the aerial displays. But those were private shows. No real municipal participation. This year was different. There was an election and Boquerón’s new mayor (Alcalde), I heard, appropriated B/25,000 and we had a town-sponsored parade and fireworks display last week.
This year’s neighborhood fireworks display was the poorest showing yet. Here are the videos I took last night.
This one has no video, but you can hear the sounds of fireworks going off all around the area. Up and down the hill and some firecrackers going off right here on my street…
Then there were two, short bursts of activity and that was it…
While we’ve probably become a little jaded on our block when it comes to these Christmas Eve displays you have to remember that these are paid for out-of-pocket by a local resident and not funded by the town.
This is the third Christmas I’ve spent in Boquerón, Panama. Christmas Eve was a little different than the previous two in that no carolers appeared to sing for anyone in the neighborhood.
In the early evening my next door neighbor brought me a delicious plate of arroz con pollo and the most delicious platanos maduros I’ve ever put in my mouth. Another neighbor invited me up to her house for hot chocolate and some moña bread (click here to find out what moña bread is ) which is a tradition here in Panama. This was the same family that invited me to the wife’s birthday party back in July, and like then, I was the only person outside the family that was invited. When one of Llalla’s daughters and her husband and their two kids arrived. Their little six-year old girl, who I’ve only met a couple of times, came up to me and gave me a warm hug and a hearty “Feliz Navidad.” Really sweet for this old Gringo.
After a couple of hours of trying to follow the rapid-fire Spanish conversation the party broke up and I made my way back to my house having to say, “Feliz Navidad” about a dozen time between Llalla’s gate and my own.
As is the tradition here, people have been setting off fireworks for the past few days. Primarily bottle rockets and Roman candles. But at the stroke of midnight, turning Christmas Eve into Christmas Day, the whole area erupted. An incredible din of fireworks being set off reverberated all over the area. A racket you just have to actually be here for to believe how much money is going up in smoke. The other day I passed by one of the almost endless number of Fuego Artificiales stands and noted that boxes the size of a case of canned Budweiser was selling for about $175. (It’s easy to know what it costs in terms of U.S. Dollars since there’s no need to do any currency conversion since Panama uses the dollar as it’s paper currency. (Officially the currency here is the “Balboa” and the coins, one, five, 10 and 25 coins are the same size, weight and metal content as their gringo equivalents, plus the B/1 coin as well.)
About five minutes after midnight mi barrio’s display began. Judging from the angle from my house I think I know who set off the display. There’s a large house just down the road with a couple of expensive SUVs in the drive most days. I’m sure it was them. The following videos took several HOURS to upload to YouTube this morning. I’m sure their servers were working overtime with people uploading vids of their kids opening presents. The first display was more than six minutes long. Then there was about a 15 or 20 minute delay, though the hills were still echoing with distant detonations, and a nearly three-minute encore ensued. Unfortunately the camera didn’t capture the brilliant colors but you’ll get the idea. Enjoy. I did.