Carnaval 1957 Was On

Artists like Manito Johnson were very hot for the Carnavl of 1957.  Manito Johnson on the far right. Image.

Artists like Manito Johnson were very hot for the Carnavl of 1957. Manito Johnson on the far right with his band, “Los Diferentes.” Image.

In 1957 the month of February brought in my other passion- “Carnaval,” which I still so much loved. That year,however, I hardly noticed it. It was not until my sister Aminta whom we had left behind in Bocas Town came home to Colon that I would feel the pressure of Carnaval. Since Pug- the Chinese girl- had been Aminta’s long time friend, I had come to realize the truth, that I had gotten involved with Pug because of Aminta. In any event, Aminta was staying with my mother and I had arrived to visit with her to retrieve my white dressy shark skin suit, which was still very fashionable and would make me look great for Carnaval dances.

As we sat conversing that day Aminta suddenly begged me in the presence of my mother to take her out for Carnaval. The thought of me taking my sister out on the town was, needless to say, something out of the question for me. I remained quiet and ready to turn down her request since I knew that as a similar request had gotten involved with that double crossing Pug. Thinking about it made me angry and somewhat resentful that I was now saddled a baby boy at the height of my youth.

This year, however, Carnaval wasn’t panning out as in years past. The holiday had seemingly suffered drastic changes for there where no crowds on the streets or costumed people wondering around as in previous years when people in Panama City and Colon people enjoyed this yearly event so much. I had heard of many companions who were leaving for the states.

When I reached my mother’s place I learned that she still had some of my shirts and trousers that I hadn’t taken with me to Bocas but, what was more interesting was that my white shark skin suit, that I had possessed since my Instituto Nacional days, was still in beautiful condition.

Aminta continued her unrelenting banter, however, “Juni take me out for Carnaval!” She begged and begged until my mother joined in the conversation and took her side. “Look I can’t take my sister out,” I said. “How is that going to look? Anyway, why don´t you get some of your old boyfriends to take you out?” I asked. At that my mother said, “Why can’t you cooperate with your sister?”

I finally gave in and said, “OK… I will find some place here in Colon to go because I don´t have any money to go out so we could go to Panama. I’ll go to Panama City, come back here and pick you up for a trip out on the town.” I thought of not taking her some place where people who knew me and knew that she was my sister would be. That evening I didn’t dress to be out courting my own sister or any other girl for that matter and I knew that Pug would be reported to about our partying on the town.

That night I showed up at my mother’s and saw, to my surprise, that my only God-daughters older sister, whom I really didn’t know very well. But I had been introduced to her in a roundabout way back in Bocas Town on my milk delivery rounds. Putting two and two together, that night I discovered that this strange woman had two kids and that she also cared for Aminta’s little boy and sometimes for my own kid. I realized that I had fallen into my sister’s trap again. She had somehow snared me and “fixed me up” with this woman. This was a waste of my time, I thought, when I could have been able to go to dance in an open air dance hall more commonly known to us as “Toldos.”

This story continues.

2 responses to “Carnaval 1957 Was On

  1. Melody Scott

    Hola Mr. Reid, do you have any articles/stories about the men who walked on stilts in the Panama Carnivals of the 50’s and 60’s? Do you know why it suddenly stopped? Was it because the skill died with the individuals or was there another reason? Thanks for all you share with us.

    • Melody,
      Good to see you here again! Somewhere in our image archives we have a photo of one of those Carnaval years in which is pictured a man dressed up in costume walking on stilts. When I have time I will update this article and post it. I remember as a child that I used to see them as “loners” just like the “diablitos” and always followed by bunches of kids. The men on zankos or stilts never had to worry about picking up money thrown at them by the people; their stilts usually allowed them to reach the first floor of all the buildings in Calidonia and Santana and the people would just hand fistfuls of money to them. They were quite a sight to see.