Thursday, July 2, 2009

A new president for Panama!

On July 1st all of Panama stopped for the inauguration of the country's new president, Ricardo Martinelli. Since I missed Obama's inauguration, I was pretty psyched to be able to catch a bit of the festivities in Panama City, or at least to see how Panamanian celebrate the arrival of a new president. After the official ceremonies, the Martinelli government threw two parties, a private one for his 5,000 closest friends and public party for the gente de Panamá. After finishing up my language classes, I headed out with two women from my language school to check out the public party. We knew where the event was happening and that there was some sort of stadium involved, but that's about all we knew.

When we arrived at the Estadio Roberto Durán, named after the famous Panamanian boxer, we began walking around the well guarded stadium trying to figure out what the heck was going on. There were a lot of vendors but hardly any people (see pictures below). After asking around, we gathered that a concert was happening inside the stadium and that we should wait in line. It was pretty fun arriving with no idea what was happening or where we needed to go and just figuring it out as we went. After a bit more confusion involving the police running out of wrist bands which stopped them from letting any more people in, we finally entered stadium where we were definitely were the only gringos in a sea of 7,000 Panamanians, which felt a little weird but everyone was friendly. My Panamanian host mother explained to me that this event was little like taking a bath in the people of Panama because there were people from every social class, but especially from the lower social classes. I think this is a Panamanian saying and I'm not 100% sure how it makes sense, but I liked the image nonetheless. We found a spot in the back of the stadium and spent the next 5.5 hours from 2pm until 7:30pm waiting for the president to arrive, while we watched 12 well-known Panamanian groups perform. Macano was the only group that I had heard of before, but I liked the first two groups the best, Alfredo Escudero and Sandra Sandoval (playing cumbia) were my favorites. Both of these groups played traditional Panamanian music which is all about the accordian, which automatically makes it cool in my book.

Martinelli and his large group of ministers and governors finally arrived to say a few words. I was hoping for a speech but the DJ ended up talking about 10 times as much as the president who only spoke for a minute before others took away the microphone to talk about how great he was and about the generacion de cambio (the generation of change). I guess this was basically the equivalent of one of the many balls that Obama attended briefly after his inauguration to wave, say a few words and take a turn on the dance floor with Michelle. All around it was a very memorable day. It was fun seeing a lot of young Panamanians and seeing how they dressed (lots of tight clothing!).

Here are a few photos:

And a video from the show:

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