I have been enjoying the local culture for the past four weekends of immersion. It all started when Mayra’s younger daughter asked if she and few friends could camp out on my deck for a weekend of the Orchid Fair in Boquete. We had a well behaved group of twenty somethings from David here eating drinking and having a good time. It was fun to get to see a bit of the youth culture. It is a tragic that I cannot stand the current techno music they seem to need to blare, to me it is not music but redundant noise. I was glad none of my neighbors were close enough to hear the the late night blaring.
That was followed the following weekend by a birthday party also here on Jaramillo. It was Mayra’s older daughter celebrating thirty five years, this time and in addition to her friends we had lots of family from David and Bugaba. I wondered why a clown and pinata we in the plans for a thirty five year old woman until the family descended on us.
I ended up cooking for this group, I resist the traditional local fare of starch and chicken. I made a huge Greek Salad and Chili con Carne for the group. No one seemed to object and I observed three generations of Escalantes dancing the night away.
Mayra’s daughters seem to be a violation of the local tradition, one celebrating thirty five years, the other at twenty six, both university graduates with professional jobs, neither married , neither with children. The rest of the family seems to have born children before they reached twenty which allows for great grandchildren and Mayra’s parents watched the scores of offspring with joy. I wonder how Panama has such a low overall population; I wonder if the census counts the indigenous?
Last weekend we went to Bugaba for a wedding. It was a niece of Mayra with two children getting married, again. I have known both the bride and groom for more than two years and it was fun participating. We were “padrios”, that translates to godparents, that means I had to wear a suit, not something high on my list.
There were two distinct ceremonies, first a judge who read the law, recited the penalties for bigamy and required two witnesses to sign the documents that attested to knowing the couple and swearing they were not married to others. The couple and the Panamanian witnesses needed to sign documents of marriage at the wedding.
After the civil ceremony came the Pastor for a religious ceremony, finally we were able to sit down and relax.
We were in Bugaba and I was advised that if we were going to drive back to Boquete not to drink. It appears the police have been busy stopping people for DUI’s, they are not discriminating. Mayra’s younger daughter has recently earned a ticket, she being aware of the risk, spent the night in Bugaba; she drove home early on Sunday morning. She was stopped before seven in the morning and still blew too much alcohol and gained a first DUI ticket. Late night partying has it’s risks.
I also figured out the “honor” of being a padrino. The padrinos are involved in preparation of the wedding and also provide a gift of substance selected by the bride and groom. We were lucky, we were asked to pay for the judge to attend the wedding, a bargin at $150, compared to the other options like a stove, a bed etc.
This past Sunday we were in Bongo Bugaba, for a wedding anniversary. Mayra’s parents celebrated their sixty fifth wedding anniversary. Once again the entire family gathered on their farm for a celebration and lunch.
There is a lot of discussion of food in Panama and I cannot speak for the country as a whole but each event we attend has basically the same cuisine. Rice, chicken and some other starches. Yesterday Mayra and I resisted in instructions to bring a rice based dish and brought a green salad, but the rest of the fare was chicken, rice and potato salad.
Like up north this type of diet is packing on the pounds and making diabetes an epidemic in Panama. Unfortunately just like anyplace else the hollow calories of starches are the cheapest food available and therefore a mainstay of the diet.
Today, Monday 30 April is a national holiday. The government decided that today is 1 May, Mayday and moved the holiday to create a long weekend. Today we get to relax before all things go back to normal tomorrow.