It’s a long way from our home in Boquete, Panama to my hometown of Fort Stockton, Texas, and in many ways the two towns could not be more different. But there’s one thing that the good folks of West Texas and rural Panama have in common: a love of festivals and horses, with a heaping helping of community pride.
When I was growing up, the Water Carnival in July was (and still is) the marquee event of the year, with its water ballet, huge parade with homecoming floats for various high school classes, and of course, the Miss Fort Stockton pageant. I swam in many a water ballet act, and in the high school band I marched in my share of Water Carnival and other parades. We always hoped we wouldn’t be right behind the horses (thanks, Mom, for that memory!). Here’s a nice little article about mi pueblita, with a bit more about Water Carnival.
Boquete’s version of Water Carnival weekend is going on now, marking 107 years since the town was founded, and we spent yesterday taking in the festivities. In some ways I felt like I was right back in Fort Stockton again (well, an alternate Panamanian-universe Fort Stockton). There were parades! Pet activities! Dancing! Horses galore! Beauty queens!
Fun was had by all, including our four-legged “kids,” Rosie and Tango, as we started the day with the Festival de Mascotas (Pet Festival). It was a kick to see so many
Panamanians (and just a few expats) coming out to show off their beloved pups, dressed in their best outfits. There was a little parade through the streets of Boquete and then a dog obedience contest, including an adorable puppy trial that involved the owners calling for their pups from about 20 feet away (some of the most adorable ones got a little distracted!). Sadly, no costume contest; otherwise, I’m sure Rosie would have won for “best feather boa!”
The highlight of the afternoon was the big Boquete Cabalgata (parade of horses), an extravaganza that drew hundreds of equestrians from throughout Chiriqui province. At the same time, performances by folkloric dancers were taking place over on the main plaza throughout the afternoon and into the evening.
If we’d hung around into the evening, we would have enjoyed a lot more dancing, music, and gaiety, including a visit from Miss Panama. I can almost guarantee that the disco-ing and LOUD music went on well into the wee hours, because Panamanians do know how to party!
This video by John Hampton captures the spirit of Cabalgata beautifully:
Here are a few more photos from our day of Boquete fun: