It’s midday Friday February the First here in Pedasi, tonight begins Carnaval. Already, cars and trucks packed to the brim with lawn chairs and beach gear are rolling in. The occasional firework explosion can be heard and walking around town I’ve already seen bits and parts of floats in lawns and alleys.
Friday night at 8 pm we head down town Pedasi to the main square. It’s early, but a few people are scattered about in the streets; the smells from food tents serving shish kabobs, sausage and plantains waft into the air; Panama and Atlas beer tents have begun to ice down their tasty brews, slowly the crowd builds. I talk to a few locals who tell me that while this square is in the middle of town, it is not neutral territory; instead, it is part of Calle Abajo. Furthermore, Calle Arriba, a block away across main street, will have its own party, its own food and beer tents, DJ and dance floor, Queen and float.
A local named Lewis, offers to walk us up to Calle Arriba, which definitely feels more like a block party. Here, the fiesta has already begun, a band stands in the middle of the street in matching orange shirts belting out “murga” music; its energetic Latin rhythms accentuated by drumming have the crowd dancing. Everyone stands behind a massive stage, decorated like a glittery Medieval throne, that blocks off the road and serves as a a festive background. Since our rental house is in El Naranjal, we are technically part of these people, the party here is lively and I dig it. Lewis, who is from Panama City, informs me that during these next four days the two streets are at war with each other, afterwards they will all be friends again; but he and I can both walk freely between the two hostile areas. The competition soon becomes evident as I purchase a 50 cent song book to sing along with the music, and the lyrics, mainly about Calle Abajo’s Queen, are less than kind. I join in praising the Queen of Calle Arriba, chanting that Abajo’s Queen is as fat as a giant tortoise, “cuerpo e’ caguama.”
Queen of Calle Arriba- Pedasi
Everyone in the street is learning the lyrics, so that soon, when the procession begins, we can sing and walk behind the float. I also learn that the organizers of the event are mostly gay men who write the lyrics to the songs, who decorate the floats, and assist the Queens with their elaborate costumes.
Carnaval Organizers- Pedasi
It’s about 10 o’clock now and fireworks are set off on the main street, its time for the float to start moving. The float carries last year’s Queen, the new Queen will be crowned following our invasion of Calle Abajo, where we dance behind the float and circle around the main square.
After the float circles three times, Calle Abajo’s float, which has been hidden all this time, following a tradition, appears.
I wouldn’t say the float is more beautiful, but it does have a clear Arabian Nights theme. It also has more dancers and small children dressed up dancing along, they clearly are brining out all the guns to win tonight’s competition.
Queen of Calle Abajo- Pedasi
I learn that tomorrow night will bring with it two new floats and I can’t wait to see what they will look like. Tomorrow’s daytime events will be filled with street water and dance parties, known as “culecos.”
|Written by Cailey Halloran|
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Filed under: News on February 2nd, 2008