Ravers stranded in Panama City after Tribal Gathering Festival

Tribal Gathering Festival © Amir Weiss
Tribal Gathering Festival © Amir Weiss

After being transported to Panama City, a number of ravers are still stranded and unable to fly home.

Last month, around 300 ravers found themselves in lockdown after Tribal Gathering Festival, which took place at Colón’s Playa Chiquita from 29 February to 15 March. As the festival came to an end, the country responded to the Covid-19 outbreak by declaring a state of emergency. Festival-goers were ordered to remain in lockdown on the site until 23 March. However, while many have made their way home, some travellers remain in Panama City and are unable to fly back. As of last week, one festival-goer estimated that there were “hundreds” stuck in the city. According to James Baker, who works on the Tribal Gathering team, as of this week around 15-20 people are still unable to return home.

Whilst embassies across Europe have acted to transport EU citizens back to their homes, one festival-goer from the UK told Crack Magazine that the British embassy had organised buses to transport Britons from the site to Panama City. “They made it very clear to us before we left that they were giving us a lift and dropping us off at a location somewhere in Panama City,” she said, “near to the embassy and near to hostels. But we were responsible for sorting out our own accommodation and flights. Some of us were running out of money.”

Detailing her journey, she said, “All of us on the buses were frantically searching for accommodation that was affordable. We were given this window of opportunity to be escorted to Panama without being turned back. Some shuttles had been turned back to the festival. It was safe passage, really.”

“My flight via New York – two flights that I had paid for – were cancelled while I was standing there [at the airport]. It was gutting.” Currently, she’s in a secure location in the city with five other British Nationals.

The Panamanian government changed the conditions of the country’s lockdown yesterday (1 April) by separating people by gender. Everyone must now stay indoors on Sundays, and women are allowed to buy necessities on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Men can leave their homes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

A crew of 45 people remain at Playa Chiquita and are in the process of clearing the area. “We’re better off at the festival site, being treated as one unit,” Baker said. “Within it, we are autonomous and can move around. We’ve got it lucky in some ways, being here still.”

“Once we’ve packed down, we may all be paying to stay here which is not planned for.”

A GoFundMe page was launched in March to help support the festival. Tim Raper, the festival’s organiser, had taken out a $160,000 loan to cover costs during the lockdown. Baker told Crack Magazine that more help is needed from embassies, such as financial aid, accommodation and flights. While members of the festival crew can apply for self-employment funds, the process will involve face-to-face interviews. Baker is calling for the embassy to waive this.

The British embassy in Panama City has been contacted for a response.