Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
Afterridingalongthroughjungle-landfortwodays,wecameoutintoopenprairie.Thevil-
lages we passed through were very primitive, but I found the people quite pleasant. In one of
these villages I went to speak to the juez (mayor and judge combined), to see if he could help
me to find fodder for the animals. He was a mulatto and it was easy to guess that he did not
belongtotheanti-alcoholic league. Whenhesawmeandthehorseswiththeirnewequipment
hetookmeforanAmericandeserter,so,inordertoconvincethisall-importantpersonagethat
I was merely an ordinary civilian out for a little fresh air, I showed him my documents. I do
not know whether it was ignorance or excess of alcohol, but having turned the papers upside-
down and in every direction, and after painful efforts to get them in focus, he gave it up as a
badjob.Hecalledadirty,barefootedfriendwhostartedtospelloutthewholecontentsslowly,
while he himself sat there like a Roman emperor, and nodded every now and again, grunting,
muy bien (very good) to show his weighty approval.
Afterwhatseemedaneternitythe'scholar'finishedhisspellingoutofmy documentos and
the juez began to question me. He wanted to know where Buenos Aires was, and if the Ar-
gentine was the capital of Europe, if we had a king or a president, if we had a religion, if the
se├▒oritaswerefairordark,etc.,etc.BeingusedtodealingwithsuchpeopleIquiteenjoyedall
this and answered every question to his full satisfaction.
Carnival time began, and everybody was de fiesta . The national dance of Panama is the
tamborito (diminutive of tambor : drum) and in all my life I never wish to hear one of these
dances again. In different villages I was kept awake for three consecutive nights by the in-
fernal noise the 'band' and dancers made, not to mention the drunkards and occasional fights
without which carnival would not be carnaval .
The members of the 'band' sit or squat along one wall and beat primitive wooden drums
with the flat of their hands, producing different rhythms and varying the noise from loud to
unearthly. This thumping is kept up for an hour at a time, and often even longer. Every now
and again the dancers yell out a short chorus, consisting only of a few words, such as quiero
madrugar , which means: 'I want to dance till sunrise.' The women stand on one side of the
room,mostofthembarefooted,andthemenontheother.Whentherhythmhasworkedaman
uptodancingpitch,hehopsinfrontofoneofthewomen,whothencomesforwardafewsteps
and begins to hop about, her motions much resembling a cork bobbing up and down on the
ripples of a duck pond. The man never holds the woman, but hops about in front of her, and
kicking his feet about as if he were standing on hot bricks, and then suddenly he will double
upandspinaroundlikeapuppytryingtogetawaspoffitstail.Whenthemanhashadenough
he simply goes away, and the woman returns to her original place, where she has to wait until
she is favoured again. Whites and blacks mix on level terms at these dances, just as they do in
everyday life. I have seen white men giving the 'glad eye' to 'midnight blondes' and 'snow-
balls' doing this to white girls.
I was again terribly burnt by the sun, and what with the pain of this and having to try to
sleepjustalongsideplaceswheretheywereenjoyingthemselvesdancingthe tamborito ,drink-
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