The bicentennial was officially commemorated on the evening of November 27, with the presentation of a new monument at the north end of downtown. After the usual speeches and official hoopla, the elegant granite structure with its surrounding fountains was unveiled. The monument is topped with a bronze statue depicting two figures and the national bird (the harpy eagle), with banners on either side representing the colors of the flags of Panama and Spain.
The location of the monument generated a fair amount of controversy, since it occupies a triangular plot of land where two roads converge. This vacant area had previously been used as parking spaces for about seven cars, and some people were up in arms about losing those spots, even though plans were immediately implemented to create twice as many parking spaces on two adjacent streets.
Another point of contention was the concern that public funds were used to construct an unnecessary project, when other infrastructure projects were left undone. This project was funded with private donations and the major donors are listed on granite plaques on the sides of the fountains for all to see, so their protests on this count are unfounded. The controversies did make for interesting reading on Facebook, though!
The monument is surrounded by walkways and seating areas. I think they did a great job, and in what appears to be record time.
After the unveiling, there was music and fireworks. Pyrotechnic displays are a staple of Panamanian celebrations of all kinds – weddings, holidays, and many other special occasions. I love the fireworks, but people’s pets may not be as enthusiastic!
On the official independence day, November 28, two of my favorite events were resurrected from their pandemic sleep – a parade and a cabalgata (horse parade). Neither of these events was even close to pre-pandemic proportions, but at least they were there! I loved seeing the students exhibiting their long-denied opportunity to show their musical skills, and several tiny little drummer boys were so cute! They did a great job keeping up with the older kids.
The last pre-covid horse parade had about 400 horses in it, as I remember. This one was more sparse in number, but their riders were every bit as proud of their steeds as previously.
All in all, I think the bicentennial celebrations were a rousing success. There was one sour note, however. Our mayor was hit with a $5000 fine for allegedly disregarding some of the health regulations from MINSA (the ministry of health). He maintains he had permission to hold the events, and that other much larger events where people were crowded together, with many of them not wearing masks, were not similarly punished.
Our mayor has initiated many improvements in Boquete and the surrounding areas in his jurisdiction, and is well-liked, so people have been contributing monetary donations (mostly in the form of rolls of pennies) to help offset the fine that was imposed. Bravo for the people supporting our mayor!