‘Tis the season…

Yes, Christmas approaches, and an abbreviated Christmas shopping season is underway. However, there are businesses formal and informal that didn’t make it through the more than a month of strikes, the outdoor advertising signs of economic activity are meager and for various political or business reasons there is a lot of gloomy talk being published. Here the Christmas tree has gone up at Penonome’s El Boulevard shopping center.

More people in the restaurants, more people shopping, but nature and the economy combine to give us a lean year

notes and photos by Eric Jackson

The November patriotic holidays came and went, with people taking to the streets to defend Panama against the imposition of a foreign mining colony and a great many official observances called off. The economic effects of the strike linger, as do criminal charges brought against the Donoso fishers’ flotilla and the Tierras Altas. They can complain about defamation or attacks on the press in general, but the company shills working in the rabiblanco media and the swarms of company Internet trolls have permanently damaged reputations. When their pro-labor, pro-environment critics say why, said skeptics don’t lie.

There are certain sorts of tourists who come for adventure, so you’d expect some young backpackers coming to enjoy the spirit of a country that rose up against corporate predators and allied thug politicians. On the other hand there are people with more money than brains who will have read a few of the news reports and calculated that Panama isn’t actually the real estate flippers’ paradise about which the usual suspects for such things have told them. Is the government going to give away free money to the tourism business hustlers who need it the least to compensate for that? Perhaps, but Panama is in this debt hole that limits such things.

But the strikes are settled, concerns about being stuck behind roadblocks are eased and the old mafia lawyer assassin misidentified and celebrated as an American gun rights hero by yellow media elsewhere is behind bars. Palls of fear and uncertainty have lifted, so, albeit with fewer resources this year, people are coming out to play. There are more people in restaurants. People are buying roscas, bicycles and inexpensive gifts. Tensions have largely dissipated.

Can we stop talking about our anger and get onto safe subjects, like the weather? We are getting a sort of early start to a dry season, after a rainy season without much rain. The onset of dry season ordinarily happens in December.

THIS YEAR, however, scant precipitation has severely affected the operation of the Panama Canal. Will people who preached climate change denial way back when, not again in high places, be taken to task? Perhaps, but the problem is the climate, not the bum steers we have been given over the years. We’re in an El Niño drought which is about to get worse. Our wetlands are dry, and it will be months at least until that begins to change.

But it’s DECEMBER. The day after tomorrow is Panamanian Mothers Day, observed on the Catholic Day of the Immaculate Conception. On the 20th we have a national day or mourning to remember the hundreds, the great majority of them noncombatant civilians who were just in the way, in the 1989 US invasion. Then CHRISTMAS! — perhaps more spiritual and less materialistic this year, arguably for the better. Then the 29th birthday of The Panama News, then the drunken revelry and muñeco bonfires of New Year’s Eve and Day. After another day of mourning on January 9 — for the people who died in the 1964 protests that were the beginning of the end of the Canal Zone — the country gets back to business until Carnival.

Well, as much as we CAN get back to business in the campaign season running up to next May’s elections. Those, too, shall pass. The world turns, tilts and orbits the sun, no matter what anyone says.

A dry wetland in El Bajito. The dogs who like to splash around in the water will miss it. PanCanal planners ought to take it even more seriously than that.

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