Panamania! An independence parade for the isthmus

Yellow show: An instrumental musical band in bright costumes posed at the 2015 Panamanian Independence Parade on Franklin Avenue. This year’s parade will happen on Oct. 7.
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A man, a plan, a parade! Panama!

Brooklyn’s 20th annual Panamanian Independence Parade will march through Crown Heights on Oct. 7, attracting thousands to celebrate the country’s culture and its sovereignty. The annual gathering attracts thousands to Franklin Avenue, and this year’s event will focus on the country’s second independence, said one of its organizers.

“We look forward to this parade everything single year, and this year is the first time that this parade is just celebrating our separation from Colombia,” said Victor Marshall, president of the independence committee.

Panama’s official month of freedom is in November, because the country seceded from Colombia on Nov. 3, 1903; and before that it won independence from Spain on Nov. 28, 1821. But because of October’s more agreeable weather, the parade’s organizing body chose to celebrate early — although every other element of the commemoration is the same as in the homeland, according to Marshall.

“We do the same things we do back in Panama in November,” he said. “And we have the same groups that perform in Panama, they travel to come join us in the celebration.”

The event will feature 14 bands marching the route, along with dance groups, music, food, and a display of Panamanian colors and customs.

“We are looking forward to this big day and seeing all the new and different groups,” said Marshall. “The bands all look forward to this as well — they come in nice costumes to play music, drums, and folklore, and the Panamanian tunes that will light up Franklin Avenue.”

The parade starts at Franklin Avenue and Eastern Parkway, travels along Franklin towards Bergen Street, then turns left and doubles back along Classon Avenue, where it ends at President Street, at a festival at Ronald McNair park, where vendors will sell Panamanian food and crafts.

Crown Heights is the ideal location for the parade because of a high concentration of Panamanians in central Brooklyn, and the established businesses on Franklin Avenue are very supportive of the parade, said Marshall.

The festival celebrates all the cultures that make up Panama, with African and West Indian groups strongly represented in the parade.

“We have a huge population of Panamanians who are also of West Indian descent, and when we get together we’re not only displaying folkloric traditions of Panama but also that of West Indians,” said Marshall. “Over the years we’ve had Costa Rican, Honduran, Jamaican, and Haitian groups perform for us. Although we celebrate Panama’s independence, we open doors to all different nations, and anyone who want to participate is welcome also.”

Marshall expects close to 50,000 attendees this year, whether they have a connection to Panama or not.

“I hope they able to come and learn about parade, and participate with us,” he added. “It’s a big day for Panamanians and everyone is welcome — we open our arms.”

Panamanian Independence Parade (Franklin Avenue at Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, Oct. 7, 11 am–3 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at
Posted 12:00 am, October 5, 2017
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