by James “JB” Bryson
Despite the fact that there was OVERWHELMING traffic near our home (which we more that planned for and expected), I feel that Panama shined brightly and successfully during this monumental Papal visit. As much was paraphrased in an article from La Prensa.
We are halfway through the World Youth Day (WYD) and the papal visit. The preliminary results have been quite positive. Perhaps this is a good time to review the myths with which we Panamanians are harassed and frightened about the realization of WYD.
What is WYD for Panamanians?
Myth No. 1
Panama can not organize such a massive event because there is no capacity to serve visitors, and the country would collapse.
Fact: By Wednesday, January 23, more than 260,000 visitors had arrived, including pilgrims, and the country has not collapsed. On the contrary, people feel calm and things flow quite normally.
Myth No. 2
WYD will cause a shortage of food and an increase in the price of food.
Reality: supermarkets, pharmacies, restaurants, bakeries and other businesses have more than enough supply of products and even several supermarket chains have made important discounts and offers.
Myth No. 3
Public insecurity will cause many problems for pilgrims and other visitors.
Fact: from Curundú to Costa del Este, the incidents of insecurity have been insignificant. Yes there have been some cell phone thefts, and other incidents, but they have been minute. The big complaint has been some taxi drivers who have overcharged, however, there are also incidents of taxi drivers solidarity and altruism with pilgrims that do reflect the best that we can be Panamanians.
Myth No. 4
Such a large number of visitors will bring a plural number of diseases and will become a danger of contagion to the population.
Fact: to date, only 4 pilgrims have been detected with malaria, and the vast majority are very healthy. Those who have had gastritis problem have been because of the nature of our fried food full of fat. Besides, the only guy who is coughing around, it’s me who brought me a cold from my trip to the United States last week.
Myth No. 5
The realization of WYD in the middle of the electoral process was going to be a box office opportunity for politicians.
Reality: surprisingly Panamanian politicians have been measured. Perhaps the booing of the deputies served as a warning of what could happen. No political party reported releases or statements welcoming the youth or the pope. The commercial wedge of the mayor-candidate seeks to rescue a role that the Municipality of Panama should have.
Myth No. 6
The Panamanian will not participate in the WYD events because there is no guaro and bell and because the religiosity of the Panamanians is in crisis.
Reality: the streets are full of people, Catholic or not, who want to see and listen to Pope Francis and who have opened the doors of their homes to the pilgrims.
All the previous myths reveal the existence of a negativist mentality that disqualifies and diminishes our own capacities and qualities. Of course, there are issues within the WYD that deserve a careful examination of the citizenship, not only public spending in the event, but also, for example, the construction of a church inside the National Police barracks in Ancon and that was financed with public funds. It is also worth examining why security forces, such as the National Aeronaval Service (Senan), should carry biblical verses in their uniforms.
Despite this, Panama has looked good in the eyes of locals and foreigners alike. It is clear that we can eat the world and that we can do much more than our attitudes and our comfort zone make us think.
(This note was modified on Saturday, January 26, 2018, at 10:37 am In its original version it was reported that Senafront agents carried biblical verses on their uniforms, the Senan is the correct one).
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