Toro Guapo 2023

the bull
Naaaah. Reverend Domingo Samudio is from Texas. It’s not from a Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs song.

Anton’s big party

photos and captions by Eric Jackson

It’s a big thing in the town of Ancon. Such a big thing that because it won’t happen again until after next year’s elections, the incumbent politicians went way out of their way to make it a sort of political event.

It was a long wait getting a bus into town. Sunday bus service is always problematic. This time was a bit worse.

The buses had mainly been hired out to shuttle the believers into town, or at least as a favor to encourage those expected to vote “the right way.” The first of many buses to pass by the caseta stopped about 100 feet away at the entrada to Juan Diaz, told me it was a special run, not public transportation, and waited for about 10 minutes for the representante’s crew to arrive. On of those folks has been in and out of prison for a June 2021 event wherein he and four other maleantes tried to force me to abandon my home by trashing it, robbing me — he having previously stolen fencing material from me and made an illegal connection to my electric meter so that his house would by lit at my expense — and the leader of the gang having told me that if I didn’t leave he would kill me or bring in a hit man to kill me. The dude that beat me over the head with a mop handle and busted up Fulita the Wonder Dog’s favorite perch. Not that I am for eternal punishment. He did his time and should be able to go on with his life. And the representante has made his choice of whom to protect and conversely not to protect. (As if my vote or voice is likely to make any difference.)

It was also a long time in preparation. The election for queen was in August. The week before the party at the fonda where I often do breakfast or lunch there was this stunningly beautiful young lady — was she all of 15 years old, or younger? — beaming and clutching the drum major’s mace. The chosen one! She looked so proud.

That Thursday, as people were setting up, I went to take some pictures of the preparations, make some mental notes about them, and do a bit of “window shopping” at ephemeral establishments without windows. A grungy flip flops guy in most circumstances, I wanted to be a properly shod Antonero, possessed of a pair of leather cutarra sandals. There were a bunch of footwear vendors, and I more or less made my choice and told the guy I’d be back.

Among the options considered.


The police — and the health inspectors, bomberos and the SINAPROC disaster relief folks — were doing prevention duties as people were setting up.


This year there were a bunch of stages with sound set-ups, unlike in prior years when there was on main stage. It made for some noise competition that could have been better handled.


Some artists were put to work on the benches in the town’s main park, between the church and city hall. A lot of the bench art was advertising, but some of it was not. The stages also had an aspect of competition among beer companies. 


Politicians and their entourages strutting along the parade route, sometimes accompanied by murgas, were one of the noticed feature. There was a lot of activity around the mayor’s office. Here, next to city hall, there was a VIP seating area.


Want your kid to grow up having learned to pound out those traditional beats, and maybe even the more sophisticated lewd pulsating jungle rhythms? Percussion instruments were for sale.


Meat on a stick! Earlier on Thursday, as people were setting up for the town’s big party, I noticed inspectors from the Ministry of Health going around, checking permits, food handlers’ certifications and basic sanitary conditions. Whatever you may have heard about street food in other Latin American countries, Panama traditionally makes a big effort to ensure food safety at this level.


Got back to the guy. A pair of cutarras set me back $13. Panamanian casual wear classics for men, women and children.


Una murga típica de Panamá.


MOOOOO! And a good sign about Panamanian kids these days. The girls riding on the oxcart were throwing candy out into the crowd, and I didn’t see boys pushing aside girls or big kids bullying little kids. Like when a few weeks ago in the city some high school kids made a citizens’ arrest for a particularly brutal street crime, SOMEBODY is teaching young people some proper values these days.



Contact us by email at

To fend off hackers, organized trolls and other online vandalism, our website comments feature is switched off. Instead, come to our Facebook page to join in the discussion.

These links are interactive — click on the boxes