Bocas News

National Holiday  “Fiestas Patrias” in Bocas del Toro

National Holiday “Fiestas Patrias” in Bocas del Toro

October 28, 2019

In Bocas Del Toro, Panama you can always tell when November is close if you listen to the rhythm dancing through the air. The unmistakable sound of the drums echo throughout the beautiful islands. All around Bocas Town you can hear them practicing and getting everything just right. This practice is the message that the month of celebrating freedom is upon us. Celebrations of history, heritage and independence fill the month of November in Panama.

  Bocas Del Toro is the place to be because no other place in Panama celebrates Fiestas Patrias quite the way Bocas does.  Our streets are filled with locals and visitors from around the globe as they wait for the sound of the drums, the flair of the Pollera (traditional dress), the twirling of batons and marching of the bands. All of November is a parade in Bocas, a brightly colored, patriotic sounding, never ending celebration.

  Traditional costumes of vivid colors are worn by the dancers,  called Pollera, the full bright skirts twirl down the street to the beat of drums played in perfect rhythm, the flash of the shiny batons as they sail into the air is almost like stars twinkling in the daytime.  Children and adults alike share the streets as the parades or desfiles begin. The locals who do not march serve as spectators along with the thousands of visitors to the island and watch in amazement as the talented patriotic citizens celebrate their independence and freedom!

The first day of celebrating is November 3rd when the country celebrates Panama becoming its own Republic with its separation from Columbia on that day in 1903.  It is officially called Separation Day. The next big day is November 4th, Flag Day or Dia de la Bandera. The day was officially named when a duo of Panamanians secretly designed and sewed a flag while Panama readied itself for separation.  The flag was presented on November 4th, 1903 just one day after officially becoming a republic. There is a long standing tradition of the schools showcasing their bands and presenting the colors and flag of Panama on these days. The school portion of the event is organized by the Office of the Minister of Education (MEDUCA). Each part of the band has to meet certain school requirements.  All students who march must have passing grades. Students who are at the top of their class wear special sashes, red blue and white, to show they have excelled in the subjects. Then there are the students who lead the school’s band by carrying the flags of Panama and Bocas Del Toro. These are the students who are ranked number 1 in their class or school, the students who have put in all their effort, studied and came out on top.  It is a very special privilege to carry a flag in the Fiestas Patrias parades. But the celebration does not end there.

November 5th is Colon day and is a way to remember when the provinces of Colon and Panama City joined forces to make official the Separation from Columbia.  November 10 Panamanians observe the “Cry for Freedom” or “El Primer Grito de Independencia en la Villa de Los Santos”, which happened in the town of La Villa de Los Santos and marked the separation from Columbia throughout the nation. The last holiday celebrated this month nationwide is November 28th. Panama was a part of Colombia when Colombia obtained independence from Spain on the 28th of November, 1821. This day is called independence day, (but really Colombia’s independence from Spain while Panama was a part of Columbia).

But with all of these big holidays, the favorite one in Bocas Del Toro is, of course, Bocas Day! On November 16 is the Fundacion de la Provincia de Bocas Del Toro or the founding of the province in 1904, this day is celebrated with parades and other events. And Bocas town is full of people.  One of the most fun and festive days of the year is shared with residents from all the other towns, villages, smaller islands and neighborhoods within our province of Bocas Del Toro. People from Almirante and Changuinola are joined by Bocas residents, as well as all other island communities within the archipelago and the people celebrate from the time the sun comes up until they can’t celebrate any longer.  The parade itself lasts for hours and is miles long. All the schools are represented with marching bands, flag presentation, baton twirling, acrobatics and everything else you can think of. There are astounding drum lines with pyrotechnics and flashing neon who make sure that everyone is caught up in the rhythm, the heartbeat of Bocas del Toro. They begin practicing for their parades more than 6 months in advance! It is one of their biggest celebrations so they make sure the show is incredible! Food vendors are lined up along each street and local artisans sell their crafts.  The town comes alive for this day and the pride of being from Bocas Del Toro is like nothing else! It is a must see event in our wonderful island paradise, please join us in celebrating the history and heritage!! You will dance all the way home, we promise. It will be an experience you will never find anywhere else, and one you will not forget.