This week was the 107th anniversary of the Chiriqui province, where Boquete is located. As such, there were things going on all during the week, including a parade of horses, called a cabalgata. Since I like horses, I was excited to experience this uniquely Panamanian event.
We came into town a few hours before the parade was to start, because we figured traffic and parking would be difficult. Considering how much activity there was around the public square, with vendors, music, and townspeople already gathering, I’m sure we made the right decision.
There’s a restaurant with a second-floor open dining area overlooking the main street, so we headed there to have a soda and stake out our viewing spot. Of course, the parade started about an hour after the scheduled time, but it was an enjoyable wait, people-watching and taking in the atmosphere until the main event.
While waiting, a street vendor selling snowcones came down the street just below the restaurant. I had purchased one a few months ago and remembered how good it was, so I dashed downstairs to get another.
The guy has a block of ice on his cart, and shaves it into a cup as people buy them. My favorite was the peach flavor that has bits of diced peaches in it. He pours a bit of sweetened condensed milk (like Eagle Brand in the US) on top of the flavoring. The cost? A whole $1.
Panamanians are very proud of their horses, and it showed. The horses were groomed until their coats were shiny and manes and tails were combed to perfection. Some had fancy breastplates that looked like concho belts, with silver medallions, and some had colorful, protective wraps around their lower legs.
I’m not sure how many horses were in this parade, but it was definitely well over a hundred. The riders were mostly Panamanian, but there were some gringos scattered among them. There was a band in the bed of a pickup that traveled with them, and a couple of trucks dispensing rum & coke and beer to the riders. Needless to say, a good time was being had by all!
The horses went in a circle, down the main street and back around one of the side streets. They made the circuit at least twice as a semi-organized parade, then individuals started straggling off in various directions on the side streets, eventually ending up at the starting point where their trailers were.
We walked back to Tim’s apartment after the parade, which is on the side street where the horses made their circle route, so we saw a few of the horses and riders up close and personal.
I’m glad I finally got to experience a cabalgata – another city-wide celebration that exemplifies the fun-loving nature of this country, as well as the pride of its citizens.