On the whole the people of Panama have been very responsive and understanding of most of the restrictions imposed because of the coronovirus pandemic. Most people get it: a few don’t. The biggest problem with people cooperating with the “Stay At Home” and other preventative measures has been, as might be expected, in the urban areas in and around Panama City. To date Panama has recorded 2,249 cases of coronavirus although the likelihood is that there are and have been far more cases in folks that have never been tested. The have been 59 deaths, and yesterday, April 7 there were 149 new cases diagnosed. And 797 people were arrested for violating various restrictions.
All-in-all, if with a few comparitively minor inconveniences [“Hey! We’re talking about saving people’s lives!”] Panama, and Boquete in particular, has been a great place to ride out the pandemic.
Since we’ve never been down this path before and like the rest of life it is a learning curve, some things have worked better than others, and some things … well, all recreational drugs ae illegal in Panama, so it can’t be that they are smoking too much weed. Panama’s knee-jerk reaction, which I’ll talk about in a minute, is to ban all alcohol, so it can’t be that folks are just drunk. But some ideas, and some people …
They were spraying the tires and undersides of cars the other day. I guess in case the car had run over someone with Coronavirus. But they sprayed cars like this in China, and cases have dropped in China, so who knows?
What we do know is this: social/physical distancing is the law in Panama. So why do the lawmakers of the Assembly persist in being so eager to have their pictures taken that they regularly violate social/physical distancing? Don’t these folks every learn? Or do they think that they just make the laws for other people to follow?
Members of the Panama Assembly demonstrating once again the power of proper social distancing!
This picture is from last Sunday, Palm Sunday no less, in the heart of downtown Panama City. This is exactly the result desired from the “Stay At Home!” order issued for Sundays. Of course the big test is yet to come. Panama is officially a Roman Catholic country although all religions are welcome, including folks who don’t practice any religion. Many business are closed anyway during Holy Week and under usual circumstances everyone sit for hours in traffic going to the beach. Good Friday is an official, national holiday.
Maybe this year is a good year to recognize that faith, and religious commitment are primarily a matter of your personal relationship with God which is far more important than jumping through religious hoops. And if you must have something more formal even the Pope himself will visit your living room as he did last Sunday for the faithful.
Panama has a knee-jerk reaction to any crisis and that is to ban the sales of alcoholic beverages. Now I can see limiting the sale of wine and beer, two bottles and a six-pack of beer once a week. Maybe rum [This IS Panama! “Vitamin R” is important for dealing with “cabin fever” and I’ve been told that even Drs. Fauci and Gupta agree.] … something like a bottle a month. What’s interesting to me is to speculate how this knee-jerk reaction came about in Panama. Remember, there was no country of Panama until the US facilitated its creation in 1904 so the US could build a canal. To preserve this newly minted country and to keep Colombia from retaking its territory the US was a heavy-handed “partner” in the deal. The Hay-Buneau Varilla Treaty between the Frenchman and the US gave the US rights to a territory cutting the new country in half in which the US could act as sovereign. Working obviously from a sense of cultural superiority, the US Army Corps of Engineers took charge controlling workers recruited from all over the world, molding them into a mighty force to control and eventually eliminate Yellow Fever, create sanitary and water systems and eventually build a wonder of the world, the Panama Canal.
So you had the development of the Panama Canal Zone, a kind of country within a country, a colonial outpost of the US plunk down in the middle of Panama, creating a culture much like that of the Southern US during the same period, Segregation became a way of life with the same kind of racism, white vs. non-white, that infected the Southern States. So Panama is created in 1904. The Canal is opened in 1914. By then US colonialism is in full swing. The Queen had been deposed in Hawaii in 1893, the Treaty of Paris in 1898 ending the Spanish-Cuban American War gave the US control of Spanish territories in Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Phillipines and Guam, and the crown jewel of the US colonial empire was the Panama Canal Zone. As all this was happening there was a growing idea in the US that all of the social problems were directly or indirectly the result of alcohol consumption.
So in the 1920s the US enters into its failed experiment with prohibition, of course impacting its Panama Canal Zone territory.
It is ironic that Panama, with all of its tremendous successes, home to the Panama Canal and Crossroads of the World, beacon of democracy and prosperity for Latin America, still hangs on to the knee-jerk reaction to almost any crisis to ban alcohol, a concept it owes to its former colonial masters.
Isn’t it about time to move on?