It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here. Houses all over the neighborhood are sporting flashing Christmas lights, even the worst-kept house on the street, the one where they toss their trash into the front yard, has a couple of strings of colored lights. Go into the supermarkets to do your shopping and you’re assaulted with the same Christmas carols you hear in the States. And I mean the SAME because most of the ones I heard the other day in Romero were in English!
Yesterday, the 19th, when I got on the bus at the terminal to come home after paying a couple of bills in downtown David and checking out the inventory at the city’s major bicycle store, there was a notice taped to the window of the bus about Boquerón’s Christmas celebrations. There was to be a choral presentation at the bandstand in our lovely little park up the hill at 5 p.m. Then there was going to be a parade going from El Cruce (the crossroads where the Boquerón Road meets the Interamerican Highway on up to the park starting at 7 p.m. followed by fireworks at 9. Naturally the times listed were merely suggestions, approximations since this is Panama, after all, with the typical Latin attention to punctuality.
Taking that into consideration and factoring in that my street is about two kilometers up the hill from El Cruce I headed up to the corner at about 7:45. That this was a major event in the year for my neighbors was evident when I got to the bus stop and nearly every one of my neighbors was there, many having brought a chair from home to sit on. The little kids ran around playing tag while the teenaged girls all stood or sat around totally absorbed in texting away on their cell phones, probably to teenaged girls on the other side of the street waiting for the parade to come by, too.
The head of the parade made it to our street at about 8:30 with a float, of sorts, with what I have to assume was the Queen of the event who waved at the crowd of about 50 or so. It just struck me, but besides myself, there was only one other adult male in the group on either side of the street. Like New Orleans parades the riders on the float tossed goodies to the plebeians. No beads, but handfuls of tiny, penny candies which were pounced on with unbridled fury. It took over an hour for the parade of floats, lit up cars, trucks, motorcycles and bicycles to pass our location. It wasn’t that the parade was incredibly lengthy, but this is a two-lane road up and past the town square with one single, two-lane road branching off from it so there were long delays while the first participants were disbanding up above.
Looking at the parade with gringo eyes it was pretty shoddy. The floats were extremely basic with a few lights and minimum creativity. But that’s looking at it with “gringo eyes.” An expat has to look at it with a local’s eye. This was put on by people who, for the most part, have very little disposable income compared to people living even in small towns in the States. Those in the parade don’t have a lot of money to spend making elaborate, Rose Bowl Parade-style floats. The handful of candies tossed to the crowd is probably in proportion to THEIR income as the beads and doubloons tossed by Krewe members on a Mardi Gras float. For the residents of tiny Boquerón this WAS a major event for both the parade participants and the people lining the route. THEY were happy. THEY enjoyed it. And, when it’s all said and done I enjoyed it because it was nice to see my neighbors having fun on a warm summer evening (yes, it’s SUMMER HERE down by the equator).
The fireworks went off at about 9:30 and they would have done ANY small town in the States proud. People here LOVE their Fuegos Artificiales.