So the Holiday season, which runs from now until after Easter, is just beginning with November being Panama’s month for national holidays, including not one, but two Independence Days. Lots of paid time off work. Strong labor laws. November’s national holidays, then Mother’s Day the beginning of December … BIG holiday! Much more important than in the US … then Christmas, and then New Year’s. After that it’s the Fair, then Carnival, then Lent, Holy Week, and Easter. Then, things get back to normal and folks focus on work. Come on folks … the reason why we all move to Panama is that it is less stressful and more laid back!
So what’s this about getting ready for New Year’s?
Well I have a friend who, knowing I’ve managed to lose 30 pounds, and like most old men don’t fill out my size 40 pants anymore, so they are bunched up, and pulled up mid-chest with old belts that I’ve punched with extra holes … Well, my friend, knowing it was time for me to get some new threads, asked if I had any “old suits.”
“Old suits?” Who wears suits in Boquete? Even the Presidents of the Republic when they come to visit Boquete usually wear jeans. Most of my suits just hang in my closet, except for one with the least baggy pants, that I may drag out when I’m working on a cruise.
Well it turns out my friend is planning ahead and wants an old suit for New Year’s. Is he going to wear it to a party? No way! He wants to use it for an effigy he’s dreamed up for New Year’s Eve.
In parts of Panama it is traditional to cobble together an effigy, a dummy if you will, stuffed with straw or rags, which looks like someone you don’t like, someone who’s done ill to you in one way or another. They are called Muñecos de Año Nuevo. It may be your boss, the neighbor who slept with your wife, your ex, a poltician you don’t like [These are very popular for New Year’s Eve effigies!], your landlord, or … your lawyer.
Lots of folks thinking about Panama are concerned about snakes. Panama has something like 140 different snakes, but only about 20 are venemous, although some of those are the most deadly snakes on the planet. Most of us never see snakes, although it’s the snakes you don’t see that you are most likely to step on. Snakes are more scared of you than you are of the snakes. So you just learn to live with the snakes. They are doing what they were intended to do, eating mice, and rats, and lizzards. You just watch where you are walking! Believe me, I have two big dogs so you’d better watch where you step!
The truly dangerous snakes-in-the-grass aren’t the ones God put there, but dishonest real estate scammers, some politicians, and dishonest lawyers.
Well my friend had a dishonest lawyer who has screwed him out of a major real estate investment and he is bitter. I’ve been through a dozen or so Panamanian lawyers, so wanting to avoid his corrupt attorney, I asked who he was. Knowing Panama’s free and easy libel laws, he said, “I just call him ‘FB’.” So, wondering if this was Fernando, Franciso, Frankie … or whomever, I asked, and he replied, and I apologize in advance, my friend said, “I just call him ‘FB’ which stands for ‘Fuckin’ Bastard.”
OK, I get it.
So what’s this have to do with New Year’s and effigies. Well, the only people who wear suits all the time in Panama are Panamanian lawyers. And he is carefully crafting an effigy of his former lawyer, “FB.” So the idea of the effigy is this … You create an effigy of the person who has wronged you, or made your life hell. You can hang a sign around his neck, or not. It’s not really to publicly dis someone, but the important thing is that you know who is the target of your effigy.
You stick the effigy, in this case his corrupt lawyer wearing my baggy old suit, at the entrance to your property, and then, on New Year’s Eve, at the stroke of midnight you light the effigy on fire! And the idea is that with the burning of the effigy you release all the hurt, anger, frustration … the curse if you will … that this person has dumped into your life, in order that you can enter the New Year free of that burden. Unfortunately, in my friend’s case, also the $1.4 Million dollar property that was his retirement nest egg.
So, I’m rummaging through my closet, sorting through all my suits with their old, “daddy” baggy pants, trying to help my friend banish “FB,” his “Fuckin’ Bastard” lawyer, from his life.
Point of information: does anyone know how these young guys even get into those skinny, peg leg pants?