Panama’s Carnival Queen

Nobody gets in the way of the Carnival celebrations in Panama. This party is country-wide and a full week long. Businesses close, Panama City is abandoned, and music is everywhere as what sounds like the world’s largest collection of speaker systems comes together to blast pop, reggae, and pop music to the masses.

As with many festivals, Carnival stems from a Christian tradition and takes place 40 days before the Christian holy week. The name Carnival means “feast of the flesh” and it’s celebrated before the abstinence ordered by the Christian church. Work stops and the streets fill with masks, floats, parades, costumes, confetti, music, and water.

It all begins with the selection of the Carnival Queen and her attendants who reign over the daily parades and official activities of the festival. I snapped the photo above on my last trip during Carnival.

People dance in the streets and water trucks spray cool water onto the crowds so the party is not disturbed by the tropical sun. In fact, water is a big part of Carnival and many partygoers come armed with water balloons and squirt guns. It’s like the world’s largest water fight. Even the fire department gets in on the act.

Each province carries out its own Carnival celebrations, trying to offer different attractions each year to draw people to their festival. The most popular place to party is in the small inland town of Las Tablas on the Azuero peninsula.

It’s estimated that over half the population of Panama City leaves during Carnival, with most people opting for an extra-long weekend at one of the smaller cities inland where the partying goes on pretty much 24-7. As you drive through these smaller centers, you can hear the ear pounding of base from massive speaker systems playing the music of some of the best bands in the country. It’s quite a party.

I followed local advice and toured some of the smaller towns on the outskirts of Panama City to get a taste of what Carnival was all about. However, it’s also a great time to explore Panama City itself. It’s a strange feeling walking through this modern metropolis on abandoned streets normally buzzing with traffic.

I was in town for the last Carnival because I spend part of every year in Panama. It’s fair to say that I’ve fallen in love with the country. How do I pay for it? Simple. By taking pictures like the one above and selling them online.

There are dozens of what are called stock photography websites looking for people to give them their photos. Then, when a photo is needed for a magazine, newspaper, website, book, or advertising campaign journalists and PR people go to these stock sites to find a suitable image. If they choose yours, you get paid. And you can sell your photo over and over again. It’s that easy.

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