My husband, Eddie, and I had heard all the hype about the holiday weekend parade in Boquete, Panama, and how everything would be packed. Monday would be an official holiday with government offices and banks closed to celebrate Panama’s 1821 Independence from Spain. The traffic was basically at a standstill all through the town.
The Independence Parade in Boquete, Panama
My curiosity got the best of me seeing the market stalls being filled and bandstands set up, so Eddie and I headed down into town. Parking was horrendous; cars were straddling culverts, parked bumper to bumper, but we finally found our spot. We began walking to the main street in town and started hearing all the bands parading through.
Eddie and I arrived to our viewing spot and were able to see about a dozen marching bands go through including drum corps and baton twirlers. There were so many talented kids and I knew they were burning up in their hot uniforms and many in high boots. Both Panamanian and indigenous cultures were represented and the streets were lined full of cheerful parade fans. Being from the United States, we have majorettes and cheerleaders so I am not exactly sure what all the groups of girls were, but there were many in uniform to entertain us.
My favorite parade attraction was the groups of drummers, getting down to drum cadences and doing street maneuvers and tricks with the drumsticks. I could tell these kids had worked very hard to be here. I was proud of and for all of them. We later heard that the number of bands (from all over Panama) was closer to 100 in number.
Beautiful Panamanian Polleras
Beautiful girls dressed in folkloric polleras (big one-piece skirts that are the the National costume of Panama,) which are also typical for most of Latin America. The cotton white skirts are decorated with colorful embroidered threads, mostly animals or flowers representing a particular region.
A single pollera can cost hundreds of dollars to several thousand. I have heard that most girls will own two in their life; one as a teen and one going into adulthood. I have seen these gorgeous costumes featured in magazines and billboards and I was so glad to finally see them up close and personal. I even had my picture made with a lady wearing one!
The parade went on for more than an hour, and the bands kept coming and coming. My husband and I walked around the streets to see the souvenirs and trinkets they were selling. Mickey Mouse balloons were incredibly popular so I felt right at home being from Florida. Street vendors were selling kabobs of all types and I even saw a cotton candy booth. The smells were enticing with all the fried chicken and such.
When we reached Central Park, the pedestrian square in the center of town, we saw a raised bandstand with several people who appeared to be important. I guess so, it turned out to be the President of Panama himself, Juan Carlos Varela. This was my first encounter with him. He waved to the parade attendees and seemed very approachable. What luck!
Eddie and I made our way back to where we started and stopped in Señor Gyros for lunch. Their Gyros Con Pollo is really tasty and only $4 each. The day turned out to not only be beautiful weather, but a happy day watching talented youngsters showing pride in their country. I was glad to be a witness.
Check out our other posts about Boquete: