Old Year’s trashy cultural baggage

board of bustees
Suspects who allegedly disturbed such New Year’s Eve peace as there was at the Abrook Mall. Photo by the Policia Nacional.

Worst behavior for New Year’s

by Eric Jackson

What WAS the big ruckus at the Albrook Mall?

The first things to hit Twitter said a shootout between rival gangs. Later the police said that no shots were fired, that there was some sort of ruckus between two groups and that people went running, provoking some panic among others, when the badges appeared.

Seven adults and three minors were arrested, exactly for what is unclear but it was not about gunplay. One of the worst things about Panamanian culture is this tendency to copy the worst things about US culture. But no mall shooting on the last day of 2022. We aren’t THAT MUCH like Gringolandia, and the police and most politicians are fairly adamant that we don’t adopt northern practices of gun worship and acquisition of private arsenals here.

However, what WAS this? By one version, employees of two neighboring stores at the mall, said to have a long-running dispute? According to a preliminary official account, two rival groups. Or was it one gang pretending to be two, so as to cause panic and confusion as a cover for something else? Might we only know when stores in the affected parts of the mall take inventory and find things missing? This reporter wasn’t there, and doesn’t know. Neither did those who, via the Internet, first broke the news of some sort of disturbance – which they called a shootout – at the Albrook Mall. Take what the police say with however many grains of salt you must, but understand that they had no obvious reason to lie about it.

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But WAIT! What’s that other disturbance in the national bus terminal that’s adjacent to the mall, on the upper platform where buses come in from the other side and from the Interior?

Just a rowdy argument between a rider and a pavo, so it seems. Over what? Who knows? At least nobody got knocked or pushed over the rail. That could be deadly.

No harm, no foul? At least not enough harm to bring in the riot squad.

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As the turn of the clock that marked start of the next year’s calendar approached, the annual barrage began. Cats and horses sought places to cower. Dogs whimpered and howled in pain – the explosions literally make their sensitive ears hurt.

The worst of it was people – usually adolescent boys – aiming their rockets or throwing their firecrackers of various descriptions, power and loudness at animals. It’s a form of animal abuse within the penal law’s definition, but the National Police aren’t about to send officers out to catch people doing that.

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The cops after dark on the night of the 31st and the morning of the 1st? Busy with other things, serious things in their own right. Like drunk drivers, or people who don’t even need to take a drink to turn themselves into deadly hazards behind their drivers’ wheels.

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Might shrinks, criminologists, priests, judges or sociologists be able to tell us why? And does the cause much matter? A lot of people behave badly on the last day of the year. If there are things about Panamanian culture about which we should be justifiably proud, this isn’t one of them.


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