NOTE: This is a cross-post between James David Audlin's two blogs, "A Writer in Panama" (panamawriter.blogspot.com) and "Ranting the Truth, not Gassing Political Platitudes" (rantingthetruth.blogspot.com)
In Santa Rosa, a quiet village well away from the highways and cities, I visited a farm specializing in milk, rice, and platanos. It is a lovely, quiet place, owned and operated by the same family for generations, is spread out over vividly green hills as full of life a new mother’s breasts, with occasional copses of trees.
I was introduced to the owner, a man in his sixties. His sharply observant eyes were set in a face hardened and lined by weather. His feet stood on the earth the way trees do. He showed us around not with pride but with an unspoken confidence: he didn’t have to convince me that the farm was well-managed because he knew this as well as he knew his own name. He felt no need to hear the polite pompous approbation of a foreigner who probably knows nothing about farming, but like all gringos thinks he knows everything about everything, better than these ignorant Panamanians.
So I was ignored. He went on to discuss with family members the high cost of milking machines, which he said he needs to purchase somehow if he’s going to stay in business. The conversation, in rapid Spanish, was rather technical, with a lot of facts and figures. These people knew their subject; these weren’t ignorant, foolish farm folk, as some people from the urbanized United States might think but sharp-thinking, well-informed agriculturalists. I followed the conversation going on around me as if I weren’t there, and then I offered my own comments.
“It’s similar in the United States,” I told the farmer in Spanish. “Gigantic megafarms, run by huge corporations, are dumping huge amounts of cheap rice and milk on the market in the Northeast and other states. As a result, small farmers in those states are going bankrupt, and their farms being turned into suburban developments or shopping malls. And then, just as soon as these corporations have all the customers to themselves, the prices go up again.”
His eyes widened at my words. I had surprised him, and he was surprised, moreover, that a gringo could surprise him.
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