Where Are You Going For The Holidays? - By: Oscar Platikus

From the first of November through the middle of January, it is holiday season in Boquete. Right now, it is spring in the North and the holidays seem far in the future, but already there are indications that people in Panama are preparing. If you listen carefully, usually in the late afternoon, you can hear in the Valle de la Luna the cadence of drums, the sound of chimes, and slightly off-key bugles. The school children are practicing. Every Boquete?o knows that the calendar is marching towards November, when parades, fiestas and fireworks will dominate the town until after New Year's.

It is not too early to begin planning your holiday in Boquete, as well, and the Panamonte Inn & Spa, a 5 minute walk from downtown, is the perfect venue from which to enjoy it all.

What are the people celebrating?
Well, there are days to mark independence from Spain and to commemorate separation from Columbia. There is Mother's Day on December 8, followed by Christmas Eve, and New Year's Eve. Beginning in January, the International Coffee and Flower Festival reigns for 10 event filled days.

A bit of history may shed light on why so many parades.
Like most of South America, Panama was once under Spanish control. However, as the world of communication and export expanded, Panama began to push back at Spain's imperial control. In November 1821, in Villa de Los Santos, a single woman shouted her frustration out loud.. Her neighbors joined her. This day is now known as the Grito de la Villa de Los Santos-the Cry of the Town of Los Santos. One woman's single voice was a call to many. The National Assembly declared Panama free from Spain and joined Simon Bolivar's Republic of Colombia. El Grito de Independencia, (The Cry for Independence) is celebrated with gusto and pride each November. Independence from Spain, declared weeks later on November 28, 1821, is also celebrated with parades.

As the world searched for shorter trade routes, Panama's future importance became clear. It would be the home of a canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. On November 3, 1903, after a brief struggle, Panama separated from Colombia. This date is marked throughout the country with full blown parades of marching bands, baton majorettes, and dancers in gorgeous traditional dress.

Panama is a blend of many cultures: indigenous populations, Europeans, Chinese, Africans, and Caribbean groups. The rhythms one hears on parade days reflect the influence of those of African descent, the military guards of the Europeans, and the folk music of the Panamanian campesinos.

Taking time-i.e. all day- to watch an entire parade will show all of this in an amazing display of color and sound. The youngest students, the first to march, are the small pipers announcing the coming of a great army. As the day progresses, adults who have marched since they were young, form professional level corps whose chorography and rhythms dazzle. The prettiest young women in Panama lead these corps. They are a symbol of the beauty, elegance and pride of the Nation. Listen closely to the rhythm-it is the same from every band small, large, young and old. They form a united voice, declaring themselves free and solely Panamanian.

Plan your visit to Panama and Boquete during November. Participate in the proud celebration of this lovely country's history. Spend the day in town cheering the parade. Return to the hotel in the evening to relax, have dinner and later to the watch the fireworks over the river. But, don't wait to make your reservations. It's party time in Boquete beginning in November and this quiet high valley mountain town fills up with travelers from near and far. Join with them for the festivities at Boquete's premier hotel, The Panamonte Inn & Spa.

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