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A most topical choice of plays by Bruce Quinn?

You don't want to make too much of it. It wouldn't be fair to attribute a political statement to theater director Bruce Quinn that he didn't actually make. It wouldn't be accurate to say that Panama is on the verge of something so catastrophic as being taken over by Nazis.

However, the musical Cabaret is set against the backdrop of a troubled democracy succumbing to anti-democratic forces, and certain parallels can fairly be drawn to what's happening in Panama today. Or should I say, what some powerful people are trying to make happen. Institutions like an independent press, an independent judiciary, freedom of expression and assembly, fair elections and the rule of law run the gamut from threatened to nearly extinct these days in Panama, and it is my hunch that, whatever the result of the October 22 referendum, the current campaign will be remembered as a great watershed event in this country's history. It's certainly dominating the news of late, both the highly controlled news as reported in the pro-government media and what's actually happening in Panama.

Still, I can imagine that especially for you readers who are not living here and immersed in the growing hooplah it may seem strange, even a bit boring. And meanwhile, there is life in Panama outside of electioneering.

This is the second issue of September, which is one of the two months when I ask readers for donations to keep this project going. Yes, it would be possible to make money hand over fist by praising the scam artists instead of giving them the honest coverage they merit, or by selling out to the corrupt politicians and pretending that all is well with this country. But honest journalism is more of a public service than a profit-making venture, and quality journalism is always based on the labor put into it, which in turn is partly a function of the money that can be invested into it.

The Panama News is not about to fold, and in fact there are some new things in the works. But your contributions can help more and better things happen. Maybe they might even allow me the help I'd need to get the whole issue uploaded by the advertised deadline! Click on the box to the left of the logo at the top of this page to find out how to make your donation to the cause.

Although we are going into the final month of an election campaign whose results either way will be far-reaching, in fact this issue is a bit heavier on the arts, sciences and travel stories than most, and if some of the items in each section do at least arguably have a campaign angle, most of them don't.

Bruce Quinn has most of his usual gang and some fresh talent as well together to put on Cabaret, and from what I know of the political histories and family ties of a number of those involved it would be hard to put any sort of partisan stamp on them.

There are suggestions that El Valle's mysterious petroglyphs were created on the cusp of a great historical turning point, the European conquest of Panama. Moreover, those who care to offer this historical monument and its care as an example of how our current government and its tourism minister, Rubén Blades, has done something right will have made a good point.

(For those of you in the tourism business, or thinking about getting into it, or for that matter thinking in terms of fleeing as far as possible from anything "touristy," you can catch Blades among the speakers at the September 23 American Chamber of Commerce tourism forum, which will take place at the Hotel Miramar. I have found the presentations that Blades makes at these events most newsworthy, some of the other speakers fascinating and some not, and forum organizer Nancy Hanna's choices sufficiently unpredictable that I have been on the edge of my seat for folks I had presumed would be boring and conversely nodding out at discussions I had expected to be interesting. These events are much better if you are bilingual.)

Many of you might find Chitre fairly uninteresting, except when in search of tiles for your house. Let Darrin DuFord disabuse you of that perception.

In our opinion columns, check out the piece by Jasmin Garraway of the Association of Caribbean States. She makes mention of Panama, but her main theme is about "roots tourism," wherein people return to the country of their or their ancestors' origins to visit. AMCHAM has yet to get very deeply into this subject, but the day before the referendum there will be lots of visitors from the USA to participate in Portobelo's Festival of the Black Christ, and then there will be a much larger wave of "roots" tourists for the November patriotic parades. It's a tourism sector that we already have and can build upon.

So many of our visitors come for the cultural attractions, and although the Panama Jazz Festival was the event of the year for that highly developed niche in Panama's music scene, on September 29 there will be the jazz event of the rest of the year, a birthday bash for Vitín Paz. Actually, the man's musical influences go beyond jazz and go back for more than 50 years, so "Nostalgia Night" promises to be eclectic and educational as well as fun.

Good news for those of us who grew up in the old Canal Zone! The World Health Organization apparently doesn't think that the DDT to which we were exposed is all that harmful to human health. They are not recommending a renewal of outdoor spraying and the ecological problems that caused, but they now say that it ought to be used indoors in places where malaria is a problem. I guess we're not toxic to cannibals after all.

Some of you recent arrivals to the isthmus from points north may have already sensed the bad news in our science section. Hay fever sufferers don't have to contend with ragweed or goldenrod here. We do, however, have elephant grass and it's releasing its pollen right now.

This issue's Cool Internet sites, found as usual in the review section, concentrate on online videos, most with a Panama angle. However, they start and end with chop sockie. You don't want to pick a fight with Gabriela Sosa's martial artists, nor do you want to offend the Shaolin Temple.

The powers that be and their consultants? Due respect is owed, but I see no need to be as polite to them as one would be to the Shaolin monks.

Because September has five Fridays there will be three weeks instead of two between this issue and the next one. Lots of fun and interesting things will be happening in that time.


Eric Jackson

the editor


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