I am lucky enough to serve in the Azuero. It is Hotbed of culture. We are always having pageants, tipico dances, Pollera( traditional dress) shows, and my other cultural activities. Once a year my town has a huge festival celebrating the founding of our beloved town. The town transforms from a calm village to a vibrant party town. The village soccer field transforms into a Campo multiplex of entertainment. We have a bull ring, where rodeo shows are held. Wooden planks are bought in to create a dance floor for a disco/taborito hall. There are even make shift restaurants ( fondas) selling Panamanian dishes. A buzz settles over the entire community as people ready themselves for the festivities. Under bare bulbs and moonlight costumes are being sewn, dances are being practiced, and allot of Seco and Ron Abuelo are being drunken.
The days of celebration starts Friday night with Tamborito. Tamborito involves both call and response singing and dancing in a circle. A choir of women stands in a cluster while men drum at their sides. A circle is formed with community members. Everyone is either clapping or singing. Then a brave woman jumps into the center of the circle. Her head held high and hands at her side. She dances unaffected in a series of circles as campasino men jump and cry around her. A man jumps in the circle and dips around the coolness of the dancing woman. There is an icy hot sense of sexuality in this dance yet it is not vulgar. Children and grandparents join into the dancing. After some trepidation, I too jump into the circle. At first I close my eyes trying hoping my footing is fitting into the complex precision and singing around me. Then I loosen up and lose myself in a flurry of claps, spins, and dips. Cheers and Salimars fill my ears at the men at the party jockey and mock fight to partner with me and then just like that I retreat into the waiting embraces of the village women. They all laugh and say I dance better than them. I’m pretty sure this is a lie but I did my best to mimic their footwork. We dance and sing well into the night and early morning. There is something so transcendent about tamborito. The African influence is obvious to me and there is such a power when people join together in a circle and create. Throughout the night there are many moments of fleeting perfection. I’ve tried to capture some of the magic through video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onywUQKZjW0
Today was the first full day of celebration. Semana de Campasinos was in all its glory. There were Bull rides and rodeos. Cowboys and some brave men from my village jumped at and taunted bulls while men tried to ride them. The whole town was enamored with the show of classic Machismo. Machismo and manhood are very important to my community. Men competed with each other all day to see whom could be the most brave, drink the most alcohol, and dance with the most ladies. Men serenaded me with songs pledging their undying love for me ( a near stranger) and then serenaded other women in the crowds. They jockeyed for the chance to buy the ladies sodas and treats from the fonda. They paid for all the entrance fees for women wanting to dance in the discoteque. It was really interesting to see what constitutes a “Good man” in my culture vs. what makes a man a “Good man” in the states but that is a whole other post. For today, I enjoyed being doted on and spent the night and early morning dancing to Tipico, Salsa, and regaton music.
Today was THE day. Sunday was the day when everyone showed up and showed out. There were traditional costumes, floats, a band, a party van blaring music, and lots of happy people. I dressed up as a Congo woman complete with head dress. That day there was to be a huge parade complete with floats at 3pm. Yet I saw or heard no talk off float preparation. I had no idea how my community was going to pull this off. 3pm came and went with no floats yet at 4pm I heard the band start up and oxen pulling a large float. It was intricately decorated with symbols of life in the campo. Antique water jars, drums and flowers filled the platform. In the middle was my friend in a glorious Pollera with beautiful beads in her hair. It was breathtaking. This show of creativity and innovation was repeated multiple times while my community and I followed the floats laughing and dancing.
The most incredible part of the day was how the creators acted. There were no meltdowns no screaming and everyone was cool and calm. They created their art and presented without pretention and seemingly without anxiety which I was in awe of and inspired by. I hope that the photos and videos below flesh out the picture of the Semana de Campasino experience.
|My whole town was ready to party|
|A great float|
|One of my favorite floats|
|Taking in the festivites|
|Lil man in his Campasino wear|
|A father cross dressing for the day. His wife exclaimed, "El es un Gay"|