Queens compete during Panamanian SpringFest Carnival

Alyssa DeWig and Bryce West

The Panamanian Association (PANAS) hosted the Panamanian Carnival in the Recreational Center Wednesday from 4:30-7:30 p.m. The carnival included games, food and a traditional dance competition between two brightly dressed women who represented the queens of USI, the queen of UC West dressed in blue while the queen of UC East dressed in red. 

“Tonight is the night we have been waiting for decades,” said Yafeth Gonzalez, freshman economics major. 

The carnival was a representation of Panamanian culture by including the queen dance competition between the women and incorporating bright colors and loud music. 

Xenia Adames, president of PANAS and senior mechanical engineering major, said that women competing over beauty is part of the cultural tradition in Panama. “It just really speaks to who we are,” she said. “That’s why we have bright colors and feathers, and it’s so much fun. It’s part of the culture. We’re just so joyful.”

“I’m very excited that this was the first time that we actually did the carnival here because it’s a huge part of the Panamanian culture,” said Hilda Magallon, the queen representing UC West and junior mechanical engineer major. “You have to participate to get integrated into the culture.”

(Left to right) Hilda Magallon, junior mechanical engineering major, and Maria Lopez, sophomore civil engineering major, compete for the title of the most beautiful queen while Xenia Adames, president of PANAS, cheer for them on Wednesday at PANAS SpringFest 2022. (Photo by Kyla Dagatan)

The competition between the queens is not meant to have a winner. It is meant for the women to show off their beauty in bright costumes.

The carnival included students and other members of PANAS choosing a queen to side with, engaging in “trash-talk” to the opposing side and a dance-off as another part of the beauty competition tradition. 

“This is the biggest celebration that we have in the country of Panama,” said Yoel Alvarez, freshman psychology major. “You can see we have queens. We have a lot of people who dance with them. They fight who is the best with the viewers. So we try to bring that to USI, so the people can really understand what we celebrate.”

Eric Espino, sophomore civil engineering major, said, “It’s a really huge tradition back home because people save money throughout the year just to spend on fireworks.” 

The event was originally scheduled to be held on April 6 in the Quad but was delayed and moved to April 13 in the Recreational Center due to poor weather. Dax Kahre, freshman finance major, said that he was impressed with the turnout considering the delay. 

“It’s going great, honestly,” Kahre said. “I didn’t expect this many people to show up because it’s in the (Recreational Center) now. Everyone seems to be having a great time.”

Members of PANAS said they wanted campus students to feel like they belonged in the carnival as well. 

(From left to right) Yoel Alvarez, freshman psychology major, and Hugo Chavez, freshman biochemistry major, moderate PANAS SpringFest 2022 on Wednesday. (Photo by Clare Girten)

“We want to show all of the non-Panamanians that Panama is a country with close quarters, but we also are really inclusive, so you don’t have to be a Panamanian to be part of the PANAS.” said Hugo Chavez, freshman biochemistry major. 

Kaelyn Moreno, senior civil engineering major, said she hopes people learn from the event. 

“We celebrate the carnival as you guys celebrate the Mardi Gras. We wanted to show the people at USI and the international students here that we also have fun during the Mardi in a different way. So we wanted to show how our culture shares that event of Carnivals,” Moreno said. “I think that’s the point, like sharing and realizing that we all have different ways to celebrate.”

Panamanian students gather together with the UC West and UC East queens in celebration of the PANAS SpringFest 2022 Panamanian carnival on Wednesday. (Photo by Kyla Dagatan)