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Thursday, April 12, 2012

The More the Marry Her

In North America and Western Europe individuals marry each other, and then they put up with their in-laws as best as they can, ignoring them if necessary. However, in Panamá the extended family is still very much in evidence. It was clear to me that I was not going to be able to marry Andrea unless her family entirely approved of me – which, fortunately, they did after each of them met with me, often several times, probing, though always politely, to see what stuff I am made of.

Simply put, I didn’t merely marry an individual, I married a family. Moreover, I did not become through marriage just that eccentric foreigner who wedded the matriarch of the family, a tolerated presence at gatherings of relatives, best ignored. No, I am henceforth a full member of a large Panamanian family, and in fact much more than that: I am the paterfamilias. Already the grandchildren are calling me Abuelo, Grandfather, and when they arrive at the house they run to throw their arms around not just Andrea, but me as well. I often am called upon to guide wisely, to console, and to teach.

In Panamá, at least here in the Tierras Altas, the extended family survives – though I cannot say for how long it will continue to do so as the corrosive arrogating influence of consumeristic “America” laps upward like a flood ever higher on the isthmus. It is marked by much togetherness and much love. My bride Andrea’s children all live in greater Panamá City, putting up with the pollution and traffic and stress because there they can earn more money to support their families. She regularly travels seven or eight hours on the public bus to spend a few days in the city – a couple nights with this child’s family, a couple nights with another, and so on – and she does so joyfully, not complaining as a North American surely would about the lengthy travel and the humidity and heat in the capital.

What is more, every chance these children get, they take some vacation days, pack the children into their cars, and drive the same long highways here to Paso Ancho. Here they bask in the sunny but cool climate, such a relief from la ciudad de Panamá, going fishing or swimming hiking, visiting with friends, or simply lying back in the sunshine with a can of suds. Andrea’s sons look for things they can fix in the house, and her daughters help her with her various cottage industries, making tortillas or duros or knitting.

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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:

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