November 3 is one of several national holidays in Panama, many of which occur in November. Today’s holiday is a celebration of Panama’s separation from Columbia 115 years ago. On November 28, they celebrate Panama’s independence from Spain.
Today there was a big parade downtown, with students from most, if not all, of the schools in the area marching with their drum corps and baton twirlers, all of them sharply dressed in their uniforms. I love the percussion guys at the start of the video below – they’ve certainly got swagger!
There were also children and ladies dressed in their fabulous traditional dresses, called polleras. Some are also wearing elaborate beaded headdresses to complete the ensemble.
Residents lined the streets all along the parade route, and we were fortunate to find a spot on a restaurant’s balcony that had a great view of the proceedings. The parade had already started when we arrived at 10 a.m., and it went on until about 1 p.m. That’s a LOT of bands and parade participants!
There was one character that was unlike anything else in the parade, and was a mystery to me as to what they represented. They wore a mask that looked like an old Chinese man, but were dressed in a colorful costume with small mirrors worked into the design of the skirt. As they danced around, they looked sort of like a jester and would be quite at home at Carnival, but this character obviously had some significance in today’s celebration.
I’ve seen the narrow-brimmed fedoras worn by men and women before – mostly women now that I think of it, but in connection with traditional costumes in Columbia. That’s not surprising to see it there in Panama since it was once part of Columbia. I also remember seeing the small (actually tiny) black derbys women wear on the very tops of their heads and I’ve wondered what the significance of those hats are.