Tuesday, May 01, 2007

April 30, 2007 - Colon, Panama

"We went for ham and cheese. We didn't even get peanut butter," so said our taxi driver as we were discussing the 1977 negotiations that resulted in the treaty to the return the Canal to Panama's control. When the US pulled out 10 years ago, approximately 4,000 jobs disappeared. Our driver (who used to work for the Canal Company and now has to drive a taxi to supplement his monthly penios of $300) would have preferred that the US retained control of the canal, and kept the American service men and women here, to help support the economy. "I'm a good Panamanian, but I can't spend sovereignty at the market."

There is so much poverty here. Children rattle cans of coins at us as we grocery shop, begging for change. Grown men ask for help with bus fare. Unsolicited help reaches out to open a taxi door with one hand, another held out for a tip.

Panama might be a beautiful country of rolling verdant hills covered with tropical foliage, but it is awfully hard to see past the pervasive litter along roadsides and around homes, oil spills that seem to happen weekly in the harbor, trash fires, and buses belching black clouds of exhaust. I'm thankful every day here for the U.S.'s environmental regulations, such as they are.

No comments: