Time for Panama’s Spring Festival

“More Panamanian than a mafá” is a very common saying in this country. A “mafá,” which means braided flower, is a Chinese sweet that came to Panama with the first Chinese immigrants, who arrived on the isthmus in the mid-19th century to work on building the world’s first transcontinental railroad. Now, 170 years later, the relationship between Panamanians and the Chinese community on the isthmus resembles a braided flower ––it’s hard to tell where one culture ends and the other begins. Traditional Sunday breakfasts include dim sum and the coins in Panamanian pockets are called “chen chen.”

And then there is Chinese New Year, which is celebrated in Panama with the same prosopopoeia as the Western New Year. Now the time has come to make this observance official. As of this year, the Council of Chinese Ethnicity (CONECHI), the Panamanian Ministry of Culture, the Tourism Authority of Panama, and the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China have come together to turn this holiday into a true Spring Festival. 

The event, scheduled to take place from January 14 to February 20, will include night markets, a kite festival, a dragon boat race, dances, workshops, special culinary areas, shows, film series, conferences, concerts, and other activities. 

The weekend of January 29-February 1, in the V Centenario Park in San Felipe and Salsipuedes, the Panamanian government will offer concerts, shows, artisan markets, tours of the Barrio Chino neighborhood, Santa Ana, and Casco Antiguo, fireworks, and traditional Chinese dragons and lions. 

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