Jackson, What changes — if any — should be made to Carnival’s legal holidays?

Daniel Ramos, a PRD legislator from a semi-rural corregimiento of Penonome and computer guy who learned his craft at the Tecnologico and surely with a lot of home tinkering, has an idea about what the legal holiday for Carnival ought to be. The editor disagrees with him, but thinks that it’s actually a good thing that the subject is broached and discussed. As it is, to most of the churches Carnival is this disgusting heathen rite before Lent, to people who live full-time in the Interior it’s an often-annoying influx of people from the city and for many people — not only the young — it’s a great party. This year, like last year, it’s not happening as such because we are in plague times. But it’s also a huge and in many ways undercounted part of our economy and a salient feature of our national culture. Portrait of Ramos from the National Assembly website.

So what SHOULD be done about Carnival, this year and beyond?

by Eric Jackson

Deputy Ramos proposes shifting Carnival to a “bridge day,” that is, celebrating the legal holiday on a Monday instead of the traditional Tuesday. Well, what about this?

The law has been that Tuesday is a holiday, as is the morning of the next day, Ash Wednesday. The social reality is that from the previous Thursday until the Thursday after, a great many Panamanians are off of work, spending substantial parts of their time on the road going from the capital to and from the Interior.

One economic reality is that cops — especially the Transito folks — and emergency room staffs are usually quite busy. Another applies to the informal economy that embraces MOST of Panama’s economically active population. Carnival is an important source of income for many informal vendors, performers of various descriptions, small media and freelance photojournalists and a lot of artists.

This legislator apparently embraces the bankers’ notion that if it’s not via a corporation with an RUC number and paying tribute to lawyers and CPAs, an economic activity does not exist. You can’t properly regulate Carnival with that sort of thinking.

Plus, it’s not yet over and it has been a long and terrible ordeal, but this COVID epidemic is not forever. I know of the abuses, and I know of the legal arguments, but these temporary situations are better addressed by emergency decrees than by legislation.

Carnival, going forward, should continue as it has usually been, the legal day and a half off on Tuesday and Wednesday, the de facto week of vacation.

But what about THIS YEAR, when by Carnival the omicron wave may be mostly a bitter memory but the economic devastation will be all around us?

For me, a media person and fruit and vegetable gardener in the informal economy, I think that the rancher president ought to ramp up MIDA and use his bully pulpit to promote home production of food. As in growing food in pots on balconies and rooftops, raising barnyard fowl and conejos pintados on tiny farms, and helping that along by distributing literature and sending out instructors with plants, seeds. pots, potting soil, chicks and ducklings and such with food for them. As in a week of dry season garden preparation for the soon-to come rains. As in augmentation of that part of our national food production that doesn’t show on the books unless you want to look at hunger statistics.

The climate is changing, but February is the back stretch of the dry season, which usually sort of ends with a few days of heavy rain in March and then more regular rain in the months following.

Late dry season garden prep instead of drunken debauchery? Sounds un-Panamanian but the churches would like it better than Carnival. This year it might be done in such a way as to lend a hand to the uncounted but very real working people who are hurt by not having Carnival.

A tradition that would be a COVID super-spreader.
Archive photo by Eric Jackson.



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