They Made Us Proud!

Banda de Música Herberto Lopez (BAHERLO) at the 2014 Pasadena Rose Parade

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Con la participación de la Banda de Música Herberto López del
Colegio Jose Daniel Crespo de Chitré en Pasadena, California

Banda Herberto López, Rumbo al desfile de las Rosas 2014

Banda de Música Herberto Lopez (BAHERLO) at the 2014 Pasadena Rose Parade street view

The first band from Panama ever to perform in the parade

Victor Rodriguez always waked up early on Jan. 1 to watch the Rose Parade on TV, but this year the 22-year-old Panama native finally got to be one of the smiling faces marching down Colorado Boulevard he has always admired.

Rodriguez is one of 258 youths from Panama that performed in this year’s parade with the Banda de Música Herberto López Colegio José Daniel Crespo.

“I woke up and I didn’t believe it, we were in the Rose Parade, a parade I’ve watched since I was a kid on television,” Rodriguez said in Spanish.

For many of the participants, who range in age from 11 to 22, it was their first time in the United States and for still others their first time leaving Panama.

The band originates at a high school in the central Panamanian province of Herrera and for the parade they also allowed older and younger students to participate.

“It was a dream come true for everyone,” band member Nestor Valdes, 16, said.

And though the province they come from is the smallest in the country, that doesn’t stop the band members from making history. The band was the first group from Panama to ever perform in the Rose Parade, under the direction of one of the youngest band directors in the parade, 24-year-old Irving Rodriguez Bernal.

“We are so excited and so proud that for the first time Panama was in the Parade,” band member Natalie Valdes, 14, said. “We really hope a lot of Panamanians watch this. We really want everyone to see it.”

The band joins dozens of other international bands that have performed in the Rose Parade over the last 125 years, including the Nagoya Minami High School Green Band from Japan that will march not far behind them in this year’s parade.

The band’s participation in the parade also falls on the 100th anniversary of the 1914 opening of the Panama Canal, which is cause for double the celebration for the band members and the country. The Panamanian government was so supportive of the band’s participation in the Rose Parade that it paid for the majority of the expense of the band’s trip to Pasadena.

“The whole country was united and very excited to see for the first time a band from Panama in the Rose Parade,” Rodriguez said in Spanish. “We have the complete support of the Panamanian government.”

The band members also performed a special song to commemorate the Panama Canal’s centennial and walked in a special formation mimicking a boat going through the canal.

But the road to the big day hasn’t been easy, or short. The band has been practicing since they found out last October that their application for the parade had been accepted. In the last few weeks, the band practiced every day nearly all day long, including marching through the main street of their city, Chitre, which is just a bit longer than the five and a half mile Rose Parade route.

“I can tell you, we practiced under the searing sun, hot, a very high temperature climate in our uniforms,” Rodriguez said. “But we do it with care to prepare for the Rose Parade.”

The group took two planes on Friday and Saturday to California. They participated in various events leading up to the parade, including a concert at the Centinela Valley Center for the Arts and a performance at Disneyland, before ultimately marching down Colorado Boulevard in their military uniforms, accompanied by 20 dancers in traditional Panamanian attire. During the parade the band performed 10 different songs, all by Panamanian composers.

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