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Tribal Gathering Panama Festival leaves dozens stranded due to COVID

Credit: “Pixabay” (https://pixabay.com/)

If the fiasco that was Fyre Festival last year taught the live music industry anything, it’s that infrastructure planning is crucial. In a world where Murphy’s Law rings true, sometimes even the most comprehensive plans fall through. And sometimes a pandemic sweeps the globe, and leaves event organizers scrambling to stay afloat. But what happens when a fest is thrown as planned, and the host country swiftly moves into lockdown at the same time?

The “Last Festival on Earth”

At Tribal Gathering Festival in Panama, this means dozens of people are still effectively trapped in the Central American country. In what’s now being dubbed as the “last festival on Earth,” people from around the world gathered on the coast for this retreat. Designed as an immersive experience intended to reconnect people with themselves, attendees got more than they bargained for.

Mounting tensions

Although the lockdown seemingly started off on a good foot, with ample survival necessities, attendees became increasingly anxious as flights home were canceled. The local Panamanian tribe whose mission was to distill culture and worldview to the westerners began thinning out, which was one of the first red flags. As the military began to intervene, ravers seemed to understand the magnitude of the situation.

Tensions rose as British and United States embassies did relatively little for the stranded tourists, as the festival lockdown waged on. Conflict came to a head as police pulled two people off of a shuttle from the festival and confiscated their passports, leaving them to sleep on the side of the road. Finally, their collective outrage boiled over to social media, as tourists began demanding support from their home governments.

Travelers still stranded, without ability to return home

Now two months after the festival was supposed to conclude, dozens are still trapped in the country. By the time the festival site quarantine order was lifted, virtually every international flight from Panama had been cancelled. That’s left the remaining tourists stranded at their embassies around Panama City, waiting to go home with no end in sight.

Although it’s unclear when the stranded travelers will make it home, it appears they are relatively safe and well taken care of. The disaster aspect of this fest tangentially relates to the failed Fyre Festival of 2019, with a key difference. The production crew for Tribal Gathering Festival ensured necessary resources for survival, and the pandemic response was controlled externally by the Panama government. While the situation is still dangerous and uncertain, it’s not one that could have been so easily avoidable.

For the full Vice documentary on the Tribal Gathering festival, check out the video below.

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