Today is Panama’s 110th independence anniversary from Colombia. It’s a Sunday and I am sitting with my wife’s 78- year old grandmother (Panamanian who lives with us) and we are watching the Independence Day parades on Telemetro. (I must say I am watching from the patio while enjoying a beautiful tropical day with my rum & coke – so read on with care!)
As I watch the festivities, I am amazed at how proud Panamanians are of their lifestyle and their country. They worship their soccer and baseball teams. They wave the Panamanian flag with zest. They tip a few with friends and family and laugh at politicians and politics – and gripe about what isn’t and what should be. They treasure family and often the extended versions all live in one place. They like their big-screen cable TV and eating chicken and rice. In short, though the average local lives what could be termed by others as a ‘simple life’, they make their daily way and seem mostly content.
This contentment to me is both a lesson and an inspiration. Let’s look at some day-to-day realities. The average worker makes around $300 – $350 a month (that’s for 42-hour weeks, often without benefits). They spend hours on crowded buses or in traffic jams to go earn their pay.
I just am amazed at how they can be so sedate. Now I’ve lived here long enough to be on my 4th Panamanian President, El Toro, Moscoso (female), Martin, Martinelli. During this time, Panama has gone from a ‘where?’ to a favorite place for FDI, tourism, retirement, maritime and others. The money is flowing in, but the trickle down effect is not getting to families like mine.
I still don’t know how Panamanians do it. Though inflation is low by international standards, costs for the basics jump daily. In fact, some estimates say that the minimum monthly wage needs be $500+ now to hit a break even point. Believe me, it’s not happening.
Still the philosophy is keep on keeping on. Congratulations to my Panamanian family and friends. Enjoy the holiday and keep up the great example! I am happy to be able to learn from it…