January 2014 Photos of the Month

By James Bloomfield

January has been a really busy month for me, with a bunch of travel and work dominating my time. I went to Colon a couple of times, travelled to the Portobelo National Park (images to come), and walked around the city a bunch. I’m always keen to get strolling around more and my new work arrangements should allow me to do this a lot more easily – meaning more images here!

I decided to include some of my Costa Rica images in another post and keep the bulk of my January images here.

Check out the pictures below and let me know what you think!

Casco Viejo, Panama

A battered red door in Panama City’s old town, Casco Viejo.

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panama festival verde

Festival Verde, Panama

By James Bloomfield

festival verde 2014

The main stage at festival verde, Panama.

Well… this was a surprise! A fun festival that packed in great local and international bands, with great organization and in the perfect venue – all in occasionally chaotic Panama!  Continue reading

panama cerveza beer

Panama Micro Brew Fest 2013

By James Bloomfield

Panama doesn’t do very good beer festivals.

At least, it didn’t.

Panama micro brew fest 2013

Crowd at Panama Micro Brew Fest 2013.

That has all changed, with the first Panama Micro Brew Fest throwing open its taps and opening the bar to a decentpinta. With over 20 types of cerveza on offer, the brew fest hosted some of Panama’s best up and coming brewmasters. Alongside bigger craft brew brands such as Brewdog and Rogue, local heroes La Rana Dorada and Istmo Brew Pub were representing with their best casks.

micro brew fest panama 2013

Barman pours a drink at Panama’s 1st Micro Brew Fest.

Perfectly timed to take place between the bigger events of Festival Verde and Festival Abierto (Two of Panama’s biggest outdoor shows), Micro Brew Fest felt the perfect size for a laid-back Saturday afternoon. A young crowd enjoyed glasses of 5am Saint from Brewdog, La Rana Porter, and Red Ale by Casa Bruja, proving more than equal to the task of drinking down barrels of the well-brewed stuff. As the midday sun slipped away over nearby Ancon Hill, the festival was already in serious swing. Dozens of colored lights illuminated festival-goers faces, as they laughed, mingled, and swapped jokes and brews in the unique setting.

panama culture

The Queen of the Brew Fest.

And what a setting! Mi Pueblito is a Panamanian mock-up of various architectural styles found across the isthmus, thrown together around a cozy “town square” – The perfect setting for a mid-sized event. The organizers did an amazing job of lighting and focusing the event, as the fun was always centralized around the main attraction – the beer!

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View from the balcony at Panama Micro Brew Fest 2013.

All in all this was a great event, which bodes well for the future of the Panamanian craft brew scene. While the number of beers and true craft brews wasn’t comparable to other, larger international festivals, it showed real promise thanks to tight organization and some tasty picks. The event was bolstered by some fun sponsorship from DIESEL, who played with the big boys at the flip cup table. What happens at the table stays at the table. Alongside this, a great crowd really kept the momentum of the event going, with a fun, friendly vibe permeating the entire day. More of this please!

I wrote an altered version of this for Local Beer Blog. Click here to read it when it is posted up!

To read my article at Inside Panama Real Estate, click the link here!

James Bloomfield

Festival de Los Congos – Portobelo, Panama

By James Bloomfield

My first experience of the Festival de Los Congos began with a bang. Literally. As the rear axle of my compatriot’s 4×4 thudded against a rock, we knew that it was going to leave at least a couple of marks.

caribbean festival panama

A man poses with a doll’s head.

A whirling explosion of devil masks, wooden sticks, fried food and Caribbean culture, the Festival de Los Congos is unmissable. I had an amazing time watching the Caribbean culture of Panama take the centre stage for a brief time. It felt like a massive outpouring of joy and anger, as the devils whirled, the children ran through the legs of adults and smoking meat tantalized our nostrils.

panama diablos

A passionate man with a revealing perspective.

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A close up of a Diablo.

Each costume is lovingly made and then systematically, thoroughly and brutally destroyed. It feels right. These costumes shouldn’t be preserved. They need to be sacrifical, to absorb all the manic energy and frustration of living amongst the slums on Panama’s Caribbean coast.

I couldn’t bring myself to look at another pollera after this. I love the culture of Panama but, as one of the incredibly eloquent speakers here put it, “Panama has many blacks – why don’t we have the same importance as the pollera and party dresses?”. I couldn’t help but agree; the sheer vitality of this festival and its proximity to Panama City should make it more relevant.

Nowhere have I felt more energized in Panama, as well as simultaneously saddened that this is probably likely to remain a very local event. I have had many good times in Panama but this made me feel slightly wistful – I know that lots of foreigners and Panamanians look down on the Congo culture. They really shouldn’t. There is a wealth and sense of fun here that should be more Panamanian, should spread beyond Maria Chiquita and Portobelo to knock down the complacency of the reinas and the carnavales. Perhaps it will one day….

diablo rojo panama

A Diablo stares a boy down.

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A diablo mask.

diablo rojo panama

Diablo with lolling tongue.

James Bloomfield

panama dance

Passing Through – Artistic Street Dancing.

dancing casco viejo

Incredible street performer in Santa Ana, Panama

I had the distinct pleasure of watching Passing Through this Saturday. These guys were amazing; a colourful, helter-skelter of motion and dance, running through and around the crowds. They were dragging this incredible beatbox around, mounted on a luggage trolley. Avenida Central stopped, from Banco Nacional to El Machetazo (“the little machete”) there was a bizarre mixture of silence, applause, dance, laughter, confusion, and Panamanians joining in!

I followed these guys for a long way and took even more pictures than I thought possible – check them out HERE at my Facebook page. They do this annually and are well worth checking out.

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Panamanian punks

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A crowd gathers around dancers in PTY’s Avenida Central

panama casco viejo

A man carries a horse, which has been painted to look like a cow.

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Panama street dancers line up in Plaza Catedral

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Kid with a balloon.

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Dancers whirl together in Casco Antiguo

casco viejo fun

Dancing in Ave. Central

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Get down.

James Bloomfield

taxi service panama

Music of Panama – the soundtrack of every PTY Taxi

The soundtrack to every taxi, bus or diablo rojo journey in Panama, this is the true sound of Panama. I just found this amazing Youtube Channel called PanamaFolk, containing access to the hundreds of artists whose names I never knew but heard daily.

Listening to this really will transport you to the humid buzz of Central America, with all the traffic, romance, bustle and tropical beauty you would expect. Called Tipico, this music is the best way to divide traditional Panamanians from non-traditional ones. Basically, Hipsters from Panama are really down on this music. To the average visitor/gringo this sound will be encountered even more frequently than Ruben Blades concerts on the in-taxi DVD player (yes, this is a thing in PTY).

What a great country!


James Bloomfield