This year, 2013 marked a confluence of several celebrations. The first of Hanukkah, the Jewish celebration of an ancient miracle, converted in the USA into a Christmas like buying frenzy. The US holiday of Thanksgiving, the traditional celebration of thanks to the indigenous for saving an early colony of imperialists, this year converted into the day before Black Friday, another day of conspicuous acquisition. The Panamanian celebration of Independence from Spain, this year celebrated twice, once on the 28th, the actual date of the holiday and the 2nd of December the government mandated day off from work.
I noticed even the Todo a Dollar store in Boquete had a Black Friday sale this year; consumerism is contagious. The really big parade this year to celebrate Panama’s independence from Spain was held the day after Black Friday, on Small Business Saturday, another new spending day yet to be imported from the US.
The parade, not the shopping, started late, about 1pm as the Mayor waited for national dignitaries; most of whom did not arrive. I saw the guest list, the President of the Republic was invited, he did not attend, nor did most of the other national dignitaries. The various presidential candidates were invited but they also did not attend, Boquete is a backwater, not enough votes to influence the election; not worth the trip.
The parade started as is traditional with the Bomberos, the fire department, then the border police, a military without the title and the national police. Then came over 200 bands, the parade was still going when I returned to town at 9:30PM making driving near impossible.
Boquete will be mobbed through Monday with tourists from Panama and other venues. The tourists are good business for hotels and restaurants and these people are avoiding the buying frenzy since Boquete has little to offer in stores for seasonal purchasing.
Am I cynical, not at all. I love the parades, I prefer letting other people deal with the traffic and congestion and the all night disco noise but I do believe in tradition and this is a great traditional celebration in Panama. A few nights of discos and drums help to make it even more memorable.
The sad part of all of this is seeing the blatant commercialism of the United States traveling south into Panama. If you visit any mall in Panama from now until after Christmas you might find parking scarce and crowds large. December 8, coming very soon is Mothers Day in Panama, a real holiday and major gift giving day, followed by Christmas, so remember the paraphrasing of a voters plea in Chicago, Buy early and buy often, welcome to Panama.