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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Between the Wilderness and Gringoland

Every time I take the bus to or from Panamá City, a wonderful thing happens. Normally my fellow riders, other than tourists, fall asleep in their seats, or sit listlessly, never looking out at the scenery that so fascinates me. But, at the moment that we cross the Panamá Canal, everyone

looks out of the windows with considerable intensity. People take photographs. They look at each other, smiling. Clearly, they are taking pride of ownership – they are all thinking, “This is our canal.”

This is a beautiful country with a wonderful people. But in many ways this is a country without an identity. And it is a country still deeply traumatized by the past and present.

Ever since the European invasion centuries ago, the isthmus has always had a “Sugar Daddy” to take care of everything, building and maintaining the infrastructure, keeping unruly elements under control, seeing to essential human needs especially after natural disasters. First it was a colony of Spain, then of France; then it became a part of Colombia; then after ostensible independence it fell under the hegemony of the United States; then, supposedly a sovereign democracy, it fell under a series of dictators, most notoriously Noriega, who (like all dictators) got things done efficiently but at a great sociological cost.

When the subject of Noriega or other strongmen comes up, my Panamanian friends immediately display signs of discomfort. When they trust me sufficiently, they speak in lowered voices – as if there is still a risk of arrest – when spies and executioners were everywhere. I have one neighbor who shows clear signs of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) from the Noriega years; he still has a great deal of difficulty trusting others, and often comes up with strange lies evidently designed to protect himself and his family.

* * *

As they come to me to be written, new chapters will be added to this blog, so stay tuned! But the blogs up to a certain point are now chapters are now in a book.

So, to read more, you need the book A WRITER IN PANAMÁ.

The book is available in three formats:

HARDCOVER (large-size edition, photographs on nearly every page)
SOFTCOVER (large-size edition, photographs on nearly every page)
SOFTCOVER (smaller size edition, no interior photographs)
E-BOOK (all versions available, including Kindle and Nook, no photographs)

To browse or order, CLICK HERE!

The book is also available through Amazon (USA, Great Britain, and continental Europe) and other major book retailers.

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