Carnival in Panama: Wet & Wild

Carnival is the next big event in Panama, bigger in some areas than others . . . then Holy Week and Easter . . . and finally, at long last, the country will stop the celebrations that began back in November and get back to work.

One of the biggest celebrations is in Las Tablas . . . since I’ve never attended . . . too much hassle . . . here’s Don Winner’s [] take on carnival festivities and a YouTube video to give you the idea.

In Panamanian Spanish, “culecos” are the street parties where people gather around a water tanker truck, and people spray them down with water hoses. There’s usually loud music blasting from five different directions. Almost everyone starts drinking early and hard, so by the middle of the day most people have at least a slight buzz, and a certain percentage of the participants are falling down drunk. The authorities in Panama City cordon off the area and anyone who wants to participate has to enter and exit through designated points. People are searched for weapons or other kinds of dangerous contraband – for example glass containers are not allowed. And in recent years the police also screen the participants with the “Pele Police” handheld data devices to check to see if they are wanted or if an arrest warrant has been issued. For the most part security is pretty good, and the police call out every kind of reinforcement they can think of. They even take the cadets who are still studying at the police academy and press them into service for the duration of the carnivals.


The normal flow of carnivals is “culecos” during the day, some kind of a parade with floats and the carnival queens, go home to change and maybe an afternoon nap, then come back out at night for more drinking, another parade, and then bands and music on stage. This year the governmental authorities were considering the possibility of cancelling carnival in Panama City due to the water crisis. Now, it looks like it’s going to happen, but they have not yet decided where, exactly. Sometimes it’s on Vía España, sometimes Transistmica, years ago it used to be on Central, and now they are thinking about doing it on the new Cinta Costera (Coastal Strip.) At this point, still undecided. This video gives you a great idea of what you can expect at the “culecos” (shot in Las Tablas last year)…

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