Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Diablico Sucio in Casco Viejo

The Panama Canal may be the most famous structure in Panama but the notorious Diablico Sucio represents the most familiar cultural figure. The name translates to dirty devil and I met this character when I visited Casco Viejo, the old colonial section of Panama City. Diablico Sucio also dates back to colonial times, when villagers, especially from Los Santos, would construct a costume from a blanket painted with red and black stripes made with coal and annatto seeds. The dance connected with the character would make the dancers sweaty, blurring the coal and annotto so that it resembled dirt, hence the name. Diablico Sucio is associated with the religious feast of Corpus Christi. The dancers use elaborate footwork, castanets, bells and a walking stick to symbolize the vivid battle between good and evil. During carnaval, these devils roam the streets and whip revelers with the walking stick unless they pay them or carry their own walking stick for protection.


A UNESCO World Heritage Site,Casco Viejo is a lively area filled with 16th century buildings and lots of bars, cafes and restaurants. The diablico sucio stands outside of the traditional Panamanian restaurant, appropriately named, Diablicos. I didn't eat in the restaurant but I did stop to hug the colorful devil character. Luckily for me, he didn't have his stick for any impromptu whipping. I headed back to Westin Playa Bonita, which sponsored the Panamanian exploration, and relaxed in the chic confines of the Oasis Lounge. The dynamic sounds of cumbia and salsa transported me back to contemporary Panama, although I was still on the lookout for that diablo sucio and his stick..


Friday, April 26, 2013

The Real Panama


Panama displays a rich array of cultures and influences but for me, the indigenous people represent the real Panama. I journeyed to an Embera Indian village tucked into the Panamanian rainforest and that was the most memorable experience of my trip. The Embera are also called Choco` and are warm, inviting people. This photo of an Embera girl overlooking her village is my favorite photo from my visit because it shows the beauty of both the landscape and the people.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Next Stop: The Crossroad of the Americas


 I travel through North and South America a lot but never at once. This feat can only happen in Panama, where the Bridge of the Americas, pictured above, connects both continents as it spans the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal.  I'll be exploring Panama on a media trip where I'll visit legendary structures like the Panama Canal, Bridge of the Americas and Casco Viejo (Old Panama), which dates back to the 1600s, when pirates controlled much of the region. I'm most excited about visiting an Embera Indian village tucked into the Panamanian rain forest, where I'll learn about native plants and rituals. Look out for posts on Panamanian culture, food and fun next week.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tastee Vs. Juici: A Jamaican Pattie Throw Down


This is very serious business. Like Democrat or Republican, White Sox or Cubs, Stones or Beatles,  choosing your favorite Jamaican pattie helps determine your direction in life. Patties are such an integral part of Jamaican culture that everyone nibbles an a version of the savory stuffed pastries at one time or the other. I journeyed through the north coast of the island to document the rivalry between the two most popular pattie companies and uncover the best pattie.



If you ask a Jamaican about their favorite pattie, you will get one of two answers: Tastee or Juici. So what's the difference? Juici is supposed to offer more varieties, Tastee, more flavor. So I investigated (in a highly scientific sampling). Around Montego Bay, Tastee seemed to be the clear favorite, boasting more stores and longer lines. In Ocho Rios, Juici earned more visibility and outlets.


Although the classic pattie is stuffed simply with seasoned beef, I saw a myriad of non-traditional flavors from shrimp to callaloo and saltfish. To make comparisons easier, I sampled curried chicken and callaloo patties from both stores.


The Tastee pattie was flaky and the filling was well seasoned. The Juici patty was thicker, with a bread-like consistency.


The callaloo pattie, above, which is like spinach, was flavorful but wasn't so well seasoned at Juici.


I like my pattie crusts flaky and the fillings spicy so sign me up for team Tastee.