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An open letter to the country

The Caribbean cultural gala during the ACS summit

Eunice Meneses Araúz --- National Coordinator of Panamanian Black Organizations

This past Tuesday, July 26 at the ATLAPA Convention Center, our country hosted a Caribbean Cultural Gala, on the occasion of the IV Heads of State or Government Summit of the Association of Caribbean States, in which the foreign ministers and delegations of several countries took part. At this event, the organizers of which were the Ministry of Foreign Relations, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the Panamanian Tourism Institute (IPAT) and the National Institute of Culture (INAC), different countries offered the best of their Afro-Caribbean culture, by way of their cultural groups. However, in our case Panama's "official folklore," which on none too few occasions has centered its vision on the Azuero region and the central provinces, excluding the other geographical areas and their features, hid the Afro-Caribbean culture that saturates our nationality. Afro-Panamanians were also made invisible in the discourse of our tourism minister, Rubén Blades, and in the tourist promotion presentations by which IPAT depicted what Panama is.

In light of this incident, the National Coordinator of Panamanian Black Organizations, hearing the clamor and indignation of the Afro-Panamanians who attended the event as well as others who know about what happened, makes public its discontent and concern about such a grave fault in state institutions, which by their actions have manifested that which we have so many times denounced: racial and ethnic discrimination in Panamanian society. On this occasion they offered explanations, in every instance an excuse, claiming that they had organized another even in the city of Colon, where the Caribbean visitors "could enjoy negroid folklore."

We want to tell our government authorities that Afro-Panamanians don't just live in Colon province. We are present in a significant way throughout the national territory. To ignore the black presence in this country at official acts like the IV Heads of State or Government Summit of the Association of Caribbean States --- a forum for reconciliation and interchange in which Panama aspires to play a relevant role --- without recognizing and taking advantage of the cultural ties that have historically linked us to the Caribbean region, leave much food for thought, and much to say about the seriousness of the Panamanian foreign policy with respect to the nations of the Greater Caribbean and to the efforts to strengthen the ACS. And that's to say nothing about the Panamanian government's tourism and cultural policies.

To ignore Black Panama, in addition to promoting an aberrant and factitious version of history, also means to ignore the magnitude of the impact that the Caribbean has had on the isthmus in the process of building the Panamanian nation. A country that denies its history exposes itself to the loss or at least dilution of its identity as a nation. In Panama's case this would be very distressing, to say the least.

 

The author is the executive secretary of the National Coordinator of Panamanian Black Organizations (Coordinadora Nacional de Organizaciones Negras Panameñas)



Also in this section:
Meneses, Blacks excluded from Panama's Caribbean culture presentation

Jackson, Even the miserable Henry Ford...
Henderson, The bochinche culture

Hassan, Panamanians don't burn their flag

Gutman, Telling kids about the bogeyman
Morrow, Multinational drug company loses a battle in Brazil

Greenpeace, Shutting down coal exports

Schaffer, Tarker & Morrow, New US subsidy to Cuban-American right wingers
Bernal, The university demiurge

Leis, Illiteracy's facets and effects

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