One of Panama’s unique New Years traditions is that of the Muñecos or dummies. These life sized effigies are an old Panamanian tradition. They are stuffed with firecrackers and lit and beaten at the moment of the New Year.
According to local folklore, by beating and setting the effigies aflame, the sins and evil spirits are warded off for the upcoming year. The fire crackers are added to help drive the evil forces away, as it is believed that ghosts are afraid of light and noise.
The Muñecos are generally created to represent well-known politicians or movie stars of the outgoing year. In the past these muñecos have included Osama Bin Laden, Fidel Castro, Celia Cruz, Betty la Fea and good ol’ George W.
The dummies are quite common along the Pan-American Highway, and the best muñecos are generally in the districts of Capira, Chame and San Carlos.
Whatever the tradition may be, most Panamanians feel the same sentiment. With a new year, we wish each other good luck and promise ourselves to perform better in the ensuing year.