Ocu Panama



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Description: I have told you what I learned about the traditions of Carnaval in Ocú, Panama. Now I will tell you (and show you) what a typical day was like. Wake up early. The party starts at 10:00, and

I have told you what I learned about the traditions of Carnaval in Ocú, Panama. Now I will tell you (and show you) what a typical day was like.

  1. Wake up early. The party starts at 10:00, and if you are not at the first house, you will have to wander the streets trying to find where the party moved. It’s also important to have time for a large breakfast. You will basically be drinking, singing, dancing, and walking for six hours, so you need a good base and enough energy. Yvonne made breakfast of eggs, queso fresco, bollos, and tortillas in the mornings.

Side note: The tortillas in Panama are different than in the rest of Central America. They are thicker, made of corn, and have a lot of flavor. You eat them with a knife and fork rather than wrapping something in them.

Lather up with sunscreen and waterproof anything important.
  • Murga, tambor, and tamborito. Click here to read a previous post about the traditional music and dance.
  • Fill your cup at the drink truck. Somehow they never ran out of alcohol, and the line was never too long.
  • Cool down at the culecos. Bond with the crowd chanting for “Agua!  Agua! Agua!”
  • Walk and dance with the band to the next house.
  • Repeat steps 2-5 until 4pm. There are 5 houses, and some start serving small plates of food towards the end.  I have to admit I was not able to hang all day.  I needed a break from the sun.  I needed lunch (and not street food).  I needed water (and I do not mean being sprayed with it). I usually bailed around 2pm and went back to the house to rest and re-energize.
  • Take a nap. The party starts again around 9pm, so you’ve got to nap it out in the late afternoon/ early evening. My inability to nap is probably why I did not last very long at the night party.
  • Take your pick for the night time festivities. Watch more tambor and tamborito and then watch the parade with the princess on her float. When the parade arrives at the concert hall, there is a special dance, and then a well-known band or musician performs. Stick around for the band or go to the pub. Every Carnaval in Panama has a pub, which is basically a large club with dance music playing until the wee hours of the morning.  They also call the pub Parking . I couldn’t figure it out because that word is not even a Spanish-style spelling. Carlos, Yvonne, and Norma explained to me that it comes from the Spanish verb parquear, which means “to park ,” and the slang meaning is “to hang out .” So Parking means “the hangout .” And it is spelled like the English version of the word because there is so much US influence in Panama. There is your fun fact for the day.
  • Sleep for a few hours and do it all again the next day. Note that after the first day at Carnaval, we never made it to the first party house again. Guess we are just too old to sleep for 4 hours and do it all again the next day. At least I am



  • Photogallery Ocu Panama: