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VOL. 13 #3 -- Jan./ Ene. 26 - Feb. 8, 2007
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Isthmian Update

Some of the news in Panama

Vehicle Insurance Obligatory
New traffic regulations have made third party vehicle insurance obligatory. The insurance industry has an enormous task in front of it this year to sell policies to some 400,000 uninsured vehicle owners. According to data provided by the deputy director of the Transit and Land Transport Authority (ATTT). Heraclio Batista, only 33% (203,000) of the total vehicles in the country (612.303) have some type of insurance.

The most controversial aspect of the new traffic regulations seems to be the use of the alcohol breathalyzer. Bar owners lament that this "will cause less sales of alcoholic beverages, which will result in losses for the businesses dedicated to that trade" according to one daily newspaper.

New Car Sales
Sales of new cars rose a scant 2% in 2006. The car market is worth $500 million in Panama. The majority of buyers (57%) opted to purchase for cash. Luxury models took a 13% drop but SUV sales almost doubled, with Panamanians apparently seeing them as safer, more comfortable and having more caché. The Nissan Patrol was most popular followed by the Mitsubishi Montero, the BMW x 3 and the Toyota Land Cruiser. Also sold were 38 Range Rovers and 11 Hummers.

Panama as U.S./ Latin America Bridge
As leftist political movements spread among the countries of Latin America, the Panamanian president Martin Torrijos, has great value for the United States as its communications "bridge" with the other governments of the region. This it how the US undersecretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Thomas Shannon, defined it recently in Nicaragua.

Hotel Occupancy Up
An increase of 10% was registered in hotel occupancy last year. Jorge Loaiza, the new president of the Panamanian Association of Hotels (APATEL), described the figure as positive and requested the continued monitoring of the strategic plan of tourist development.

Electricity Subsidies
Some 90% of the electricity consumers in Panama will not see any increase in the new tariffs for 2007 that will come into effect on February 1. The administrator of the National Authority of Public Utilities (ASEP), Victor Urrutia said that some 636,201 electricity users with a smaller turnover than US$72 a month will continue to be subsidized by the State. He explained that the users with a monthly consumption of between 501 and 1,000 Kwh will continue to be partly subsidized, for which their invoices will reflect a low increase that oscillates between 2.8 and 8.5%.

Govt to compensate for Poisoning
A total of 113 families have to be compensated by the government following the poisoning deaths caused by the contaminated medicines made by the Social Security Fund (CSS). The figure was revealed yesterday by Juan Antonio Tejada, appointed by the Executive to head the Presidential Office in Support of the Victims.

Canal Reaching Capacity

The capacity of the Panama Canal to attend to the demand of US ports will reach its limits by 2008, according to a study made by the consulting form Drewry Shipping for the shipping line APL. According to the executive director of APL, Ron Widens, as a consequence "of the great demand for transport between Asia and the US coasts, the improvements being carried out on the canal in the short-term will not be sufficient for the long-term and shipping companies should begin to take into account this factor at the moment of planning their logistic chain.

Bocas Food Check
In sweeping operation in Bocas del Toro, the Authority of Protection of the Consumer and Defense of Competition detected 1,143 expired foods and 12,805 products without the price; 417 products without the respective due date and 21 deteriorated products.

More land for Colon Free Zone
The Ministry of Economy and Finances (MEF) has transferred, under free title, to the Colon Free Zone, an area of over 29 hectares, with a total value is US$14.8 million. The area, located in the former Fort Davis, near Cristobal in Colon, was previously administered by the defunct Davis Export Processing Zone.

The Colon Free Zone, general manager, Nilda Quijano, delivered a check for US$5 million for the Colon Trust Fund.

Fires in Kuna Yala
Several fires have swept through village islands in San Blas recently, causing speculation of sabotage related to the drug trade. "The black hand of third parties can be seen in fires over the past few weeks in native areas of the country". Said the Minister of Housing, Balbina Herrera. "This deserves a deep investigation, since it is not explained how three native communities suffered from fires in such short periods of time".

Training for Progress
With increated economic activity forecast consequent on the canal expansion, the National Institute of Vocational Training and Training for Human Development (INADEH) has begun a program of mass training, with a budget of US$110.4 million, (only US$27.4 million less than that of the University of Panama). The courses will have duration of from 25 to 1,200 hours with an envolment of 31,200 participants. According to the director of INADEH, Juan Planells, courses include data processing, English, tourism, hotel trade, gastronomy, administration, construction and mechanical trades.

Veteran Pilots Visit
More than 23 aircraft of an association of veteran pilots of Baja California U.S.A. arrived in Panama last week on their tour through Central America.

Six New Banks
Six new banks will be installed in the Panamanian banking center during the first quarter of this year, reported Olegario Barrelier, Superintendent of Banks. He did not name the new banks but said that the licence requests stem from large European banks and banks of medium size from South-America.

Chorrera Fair
With 500,000 visitors and near 700 stands for businesses and exhibitors, the International Fair of La Chorrera ---- the most visited in the country --- expects to generate commercial movements of more than US$10-million, according to Mario Jaén, president of the fair’s organizing body. Jaén explained that for version number 47 of this event, "we expect an increase not only in income from the ticket window, but in the internal commercial transactions". He added that there will be many new attractions for visitors.

Copa Says "No Transatlantic flights
Following unfounded news reports Copa, Airlines clarified that it does not anticipate initiating flights to Europe. A representative said Copa Airlines continuosly evaluates the launching of new destinations on the American continent, as well as alliances that permit it to expand their global network and to reinforce their "Hub of the Americas" located in Panama City.

Betting Up
Panamanians and visitors to the country wagered US$669.3 million in the casinos during the first 11 months of 2006, a 19.8% increase over the same period of 2005. According to statistics of the Comptroller’s Office, the casinos and "A" type poker machine parlors generate an average of US$55 million monthly, which indicates that by the close of the year, the total spent on gambling will exceed the record of US$700 million.

Banker speaks out about city traffic
It will be difficult to sustain growth in the real estate market of Panama City without serious changes in the road infrastructure and the use of it, because the traffic is already a daily chaos, according to the new president of the Banking Association of Panama, Alexis Arjona. His statements were made when he took possession and launched strong criticism of the public transport system and urged the authorities to evaluate the systems that have been successful in other cities to decide what is best for us.

Canal Toll Increases
Within a few days the board of directors of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) will present to the Canal users a toll increase proposal with which the work of enlargement of this waterway will be financed. This was reported by the administrator of the ACP, Alberto Zubieta. To get the financing for the enlargement the toll must be doubled over the next 20 years, at an average of 3.5% per year.

David Airport Upgrade
The Enrique Malek airport in David recently made another step toward the possibility of scheduled international flights with the instalation of a new CVOR/DME locating beacon. President Martin Torrijos passed by the airport to give the formal authorization to instal the equipment.

The Last Word
An anti-drug prosecutor interviewed by the newspaper Panama America, related that in the case of Pablo Rayo Montaño, it was impressive to see the amount of goods he collected. He said that among the eccentricities of drug trafficers were luxury cars, and “exotic collections of objects, animals, plants and women”.

 
 
 

How to develop property in Panama (Part 2)

By: Steven A Rich, MBA
Marketing Manager for Panama Offshore Legal Services

In our last edition Mr. Rich explained the experts needed and costs involved for the permit process. In this second part he details the Goverment agencies which approve property development plans-and how to deal with them.

In you missied the last issue, go to thevisitorpanama.com

The Permit process requires submission of all plans and documentation with the appropriate governmental agencies. Then you must do constant follow-up with them. The eight agencies are:

  1. ANAM (Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente - Environmental Enforcement Agency): You must hire an environmental engineer to perform an Environmental Impact Study (EIS.) This takes around one month to complete and approximately three months for approval. The cost can range from $5,000 to $50,000 or more, depending on the magnitude of the project.
  2. IPAT (Instituto Panameno de Turismo - Panamanian Institute of Tourism): If the project is solely "residential" and not "tourism related" you will not need IPAT. If you do, IPAT approvals are relatively easy to obtain. You submit the plans for review by IPAT’s architect. Costs are minimal.
  3. MIVI (Ministerio de Vivienda - Ministry of Housing): MIVI approves the zoning of the project. In rural areas zoning is not an issue. You can get the plans of the pre-project approved through MIVI quickly for zoning purposes (approx.1 to 2 months). This cannot take place until the property is purchased. The MIVI approval costs are minimal.
  4. MOP (Ministerio de Obras Publicas - Ministry of Public Works): The MOP is the governmental organization that approves roads, drainage, sidewalks, etc. Usually, once MIVI approves the project, MOP approves it as well. Please note that MOP requires specific details of the road and drainage plans completed by a qualified engineer. The MOP approval costs are minimal.
  5. MEF (Ministerio de Economia y Finanzas - Ministry of Economics & Finance): The MEF is the governmental organization that oversees taxes and fiscal issues, such as property taxes, income taxes, etc. You need to hire a licensed economist to prepare a study on the estimated financial projections of the project (cost is approx. $2,000) submitted to the MEF, who then provides a resolution of approval. This is simple and takes only 2 to 6 weeks to obtain. The costs for the MEF approvals are minimal.
  6. MICI (Ministerio de Comercio y Industrias - Ministry of Commerce & Industry): The MICI is the governmental organization that oversees business operations and business permitting. The development company needs to obtain a business license as a developer of real estate, which is fairly simple and straightforward. It only takes about 4 to 6 weeks to obtain this. The costs for the MICI license are minimal.
  7. Bomberos (Fire Chief): The Bomberos of the area reviews the architectural plans (primarily the electrical plans) and makes a physical inspection of the area. Once they determine that there are no fire hazards, they issue a resolution of approval of the project, normally in conjunction with or after the Municipal permits are issued. The costs for the Bomberos permits are included in the Municipal permit costs.
  8. Municipio (Municipality): The Municipality is the government organization that oversees municipal issues of the city or town where the project is located. Submit the master plan and all construction drawings to the municipality. The costs for the Municipal permits vary with each Municipal office. In general, the Municipal construction permitting costs range from 1% to 2% of the construction costs (of structures or homes), and can sometimes be negotiated down with the Mayor. If you have the right contractor with the right connections with the municipal offices, the construction tax can be very low as they declare a lower value of construction costs.

With Permits in hand you are now ready to begin construction of your project.

TAXES: In order to reduce your income taxes, there are specific steps you should take before developing your projects. This is a subject requiring more space than allowed here. Contact a competent real estate & corporate attorney for further information regarding this.

 
 
 

In the moonlit, magical mountains of Volcán


Singing in the light of the moon.

With our
correspondent
David Dell

"Mariachis in Panama?", I hear you say. "Wait a minute, aren’t they supposed to exclusively Mexican?" Not so. Mariachis are no more exclusive to Mexico than chili sauce, burrito’s or tequila.

In Panama we have imported the very best of Latin American culture – including Mariachis and José Cuervo tequila.

My first encounter with a Panamanian Mariachi band was at a function at the Guaimi restaurant in Volcan. The Guaimi sits on a small hill to the west of town and affords a stunning view across the town and up to the Baru Volcano.

This was made more romantic by the fact that we were enjoying a full moon.

The word "Mariachi" is a derivation of the French for "Marriages Players." because during Emperor Maximillian’s reign over Mexico the bands were a firm favourite with the troops and mainly they were seen playing at weddings (a little bit of history for you).


The group's leader, José Gabriel Solórzano Pinzón.

I thought this band, called Mariachi Cielo Bugabeño, was just a small musical oddity, but I was wrong, the band’s leader –José Gabriel Solórzano Pinzón, says there are ten such bands in Panama, and five in the Bugaba area alone.

The band consists of seven musicians – three guitars, two trumpets, a violin and one of those big, wonderful, Mexican bass guitars. The band was attired in matching green uniforms and all bedecked with the mandatory sombrero.

The organizers of this musical soiree, did a great job of giving the night a true Mexican flavour – when you entered the gate and presented your tickets they in turn presented you with a shot of neat tequila. With lots more shots of tequila and quite a few burritos (or was that the other way around?)The evening was a great success.

Mariachi Cielo Bugabeño, which roughly means: "Mariachi, skies or heaven of Bugaba," started off the night with that old classic: "Guadalajara." I must admit the vocal and musical qualities of this band were as good, if not better than the bands I had heard in Mexico. That great foot stomper "Rancho Grande" followed.


Mariachi Cielo Bugabeño.

The band did come with a humongous sound system that filled the back of a semi-trailer, but strangely they only had two microphones. Being an ex-sound engineer I would have loved to have put mikes in front of the bass guitar and some on the violins. This would have made the sound balance even better. Ok, I am being picky but the problem with totally acoustic Mariachi’s is that the trumpets always tend to overpower the rest of the band.

José Gabriel tells me the band has been performing for nearly ten years, mainly at special functions and of course at weddings. They charge $150 per hour.

The band can be reached at (507) 770-5361 or by e-mail at: solorzanopinzon@yahoo.es

 
 
 

New speedy business start up law

By: Steven Rich,
MBA the Marketing Manager for Panama Offshore Legal Services

A few months ago, I wrote an article entitled "How to Start a Business in Panama" which was first published in The Visitor. I summarized the long process involving several national and local government offices in order to start a business in Panama. Soon all of that will change.

January 11, 2007 marked a new era for businesses in Panama. On that day, President Torrijos signed a new law (Law 5 of 2007) eliminating all of the numerous licenses, permits, and bureaucracy required to open a new business. This law becomes effective on July 11 when the entire business licensing process will go online.

PanamaEmprende is the name of this online system that allows people to create new businesses via the Internet. In addition, this new system allows all required fees paid by credit card online.

Experts estimate that it now takes 52 days to start a new business in Panama. PanamaEmprende will do it in just 20 minutes.

Instead of some new businesses having to take 180+ licensing steps, this new system can do it with just a few steps.

Every unregulated new business can quickly open for business using this online service. This includes: retail stores, restaurants, car rentals, auto repair shops, distributors, wholesalers, just to name a few.

Regulated businesses can also use this system once their regulators have approved them. These include: law offices, banks, insurance companies, contractors, gun shops, and energy producers.

The new system eliminates the following requirements that current businesses must comply with:

  • Commercial License
  • Health Operational Permits
  • New Tax Account (tax id number) from Ministry of Economics & Finance and local Municipalities
  • All local government approvals
  • IPAT (Tourism Agency) new tax account
  • New Social Security Employer number

Panama will become the fastest country in all of Latin America in order to start a new business when this new law takes effect.

 
 
 

Revolución Dule:

Celebration honors the struggle of the Kuna people


Kunas celebrate with dancing and the haunting music of their bamboo pipes.

For the adventurous or students of indigenous culture, a visit could be made to the comarca (reservation) of San Blas, home of the Kuna Indian tribe mid February to witness the annual celebration of the "Revolución Dule", an uprising in 1925 of the Kuna against Panamanian colonists and authority.

Although celebrations are held on several islands, the most complete is at the community of Playon Chico (Ukupseni) where they re-enact the events of 1925 with participation of the entire community.

The program starts on Feb. 17 or 18 (a certain flexibility as to dates and times is a Kuna attribute) with a representation of the instalation of the "colonial police". Oddly a carnival is held as well with the election of a queen and drinking of "chicha fuerte", a fermented corn liquor used for all celebrations.

On Feb. 21 the actual revolution is enacted and on Feb. 23 they celebrate the "coming of age" of young girls with a ceremony of cutting their long hair as a symbol of the change to womanhood.

This is accompanied by dancing and "mystic and symbolic" acts to re-affirm the Kuna culture.

The Kuna proclaimed the constitution of the short-lived "Republic of Dule" in 1925.

The Visitor has been assured by Beatriz García of the fundacion Dobbo Yala and the Yandup Island Lodge (yandup@cableonda.net) that non-Kunas are permitted to view the celebrations.

The only way to get to Playon Chico or any other San Blas Island is to fly (35 minutes). The airlines, which operate from Marcos A. Gelabert Airport at Albrook, Panama City, are Aeroperlas Regional (315-7500), Air Panama (316-9000), Aviatur (315-031), Transpasa (236-0842), or ANSA (226-7891).

Packages are available from some tour agencies. Pesantez Tours (223-5374) is one. The are small hotels on Playon Chico and nearby islands. Day trips are not feasible since the airlines fly only in the mornings.

 
 
 

How to speak Panamanian

In trying to adapt to this country of ours, expats will soon discover that Panama’s version of Spanish is a bit different from that of Central America. Resembling that of Cuba or Puerto Rico, Panama’s Spanish omits the "s" at the end of the word, it is spoken very rapidly and louder than in other countries.

Due to the country’s role as an international crossroads and the special relationship it enjoyed for 100 years with the U.S.-administered Canal, Panamanian Spanish is spiced with many English words, pronounced in a very local way, and sometimes with a slight variation in meaning.

The following few words will help the visitor better understand our “Street -Spanish”

Chantin (Chan-teen): House or place of residence. Origin unknown.
Fulo/la (foo-lo/la): A blond or light-skinned person.
Chicha (cheecha): A drink prepared with fruit juices, water and sugar.
Cuara (Quara): A coin worth 25 cents. From the English, quarter.
Daim (Da-eem). A coin worth 10 cents. From the English, dime.
Vaina (Va-eena): The equivalent of "thing".
Mopri (Mo-pree): The word, "primo" (cousin) pronounced backwards. It means buddy or pal among middle and upper-class youths.
Pelao/Pela’a: Little boy or girl, and sometimes guy or gal.
¡Chuleta! (Choo-le-ta): A very popular expression denoting surprise or disappointment.
¡Chuzo! (Choo-zo): The same as ¡Chuleta!
Cranear (Cra-nee-ar): To think very hard.
Chicha ‘e piña (Chee-cha e peenya): A corruption of "Chicha de Piña" (pineapple drink). The equivalent of easy; a "piece of cake."

 
 
 

CALDERA MYSTERIES

Extra terrestrials in Panama?

By David Dell
chiriquivillage@yahoo.ca

Panama is fascinating. If you are one of those people that love the mysterious and un-explained, then this is the place for you. It has mysteries that archeologists haven’t begun to solve.

In late December I was passing the turn-off to Caldera village, just south of Boquete when I spotted the sign for the "Piedra Pintadas." or painted rocks. I promised my wife the detour would only take, "tops" half an hour – actually it took the rest of the day.

You need to be an avid explorer or like myself, a bulldog reporter to find these places – the lack of signs and directions almost makes you believe the locals want to hide these things. After a three kilometer drive we arrived in the Village of Caldera. The place was like a cemetery, not a living soul to be seen. There was an old rusted sign but it pointed to the middle of someone’s house – "can’t be in there," I thought. The sign actually pointed through the house and then half a mile further into the countryside.


Could the carving on this rock depict a space ship?

Fortunately I found a local, in the village cantina. His name was Juan Gutierrez. He led me across the dance floor of the bar and out into an open field. After half a mile or so we passed a series of dark, mysterious rocks. Eventually, we came to a large rock at the edge of a stream.

Extra-terrestrials anyone?
This was the main Caldera petroglyph. The rock was about eight or nine feet high and about 16 to 18 feet long. There were carvings all over it –mainly animal figures including a lion and some bulls but the most intriguing feature was carved on its north-west corner.

Juan excitedly told me that this was believed to be a carving of a UFO. Sure enough it had the shape of something unearthly, with possible exhaust flames coming from underneath.

Its planetary connection might well have been that it seemed to show the alignment of the three main stars of Orion’s belt. Those astute amongst my readers will immediately recognize that this corresponds to the supposed alignment of the great pyramids of Giza.

I asked if there were any accounts of UFO activity in the Caldera area. Surprisingly Juan said that there were not. However, he did add that the west side of the Baru Volcano in the area of Volcan, was well know for sightings of strange lights.

Juan then took me on a tour of several other petroglyphs. Unless you had a guide you would never have found these. The first was some three kilometers away and had a large star-shaped carving in the middle. A kilometer nearer to town was a flat stone with a carving of a human foot, which seemed to indicate a path way to some long extinct village.


Juan Gutierrez pointing at the strange stone carvings.

The final stone was some 20 minutes farther east of Caldera. This was the most surprising of them all as it may have been an early attempt at a calendar. On one side of the patterned rock was a sun sign and on the other, a crescent moon. The patterns could have signified seasons or phases of the moon.

Panama’s lost Mayan city?
On returning to Caldera Village Juan saved his best piece for last. He claims that there is a lost Mayan city in the jungles of Bocas del Torro. A local architect and explorer friend of Juan Gutierrez, was taken to the location by a tribal chief.. His friend was not allowed to take pictures and was led blindfold to the site.

Allegedly there are three truncated Mayan pyramids located there. They measure five meters high and are about six meters along each side. Juan has invited me to go on an expedition to find them.

My dear wife has said, "not a chance in hell are you going," However if there are any aspiring archeologist / adventurers out there who are up to the challenge, this is my email address chiriquivillage@yahoo.ca.

Ps. You will need to bring your own Indiana Jones hat.

 
 
 

Panama’s dormant volcanoes may not be so sleepy after all

An earthquake measuring 5.1 interrupted the electricity in the Boquete Flower Fair, and caused panic on the steps of the Kenny Serracín Stadium during a baseball game between Chiriquí and Coclé. The movement was felt strongest in Gualaca, Dolega and Boquete. There were no injuries or damage but the tremor renowed a controversy among scientists which began after the 5.2 tremor in May last year as to whether the quakes are due to movement of tectonic plates or activity of Panama’s two Volcanos, Baru and La Yeguada which are considered "dormant" but which might not be so sleepy after all.

Because of the tremors the Government has installed a technical team to work out formulas for precaution against emergencies and to observe the behaviour of the volcanoes.

This follows recommedations from the international scientific community to periodically check volcanoes which have erupted whithin the last 12,000 years.

 
 
 

Propose animal protection law

Dogs, and other pets had their day in front of a Government commission of the National Assembly to consider a projected law to protect domestic animals.

Members of the Humanitas Foundation took their pets into the commission’s hearing of the proposed law which would impose jail terms of one to eight years for people convicted of maltreating animals.

The president of the foundation, Celma Moncada said they were asking for maltreatment of animals to be made an offence in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Animal Rights promulgated by the United Nations.

 
 
 

Chinese monument overlooks Canal

A couple of years ago foolish and uninformed remarks were made in the U.S. senate about fears of the Chinese taking over the Panama Canal, based apparently on the fact that a Chinese/British consortium (which also operates ports in the U.S.) won the concession to operate terminal ports at the canal’s gateways.

What will the senators say when they see photos of the new visitors’ facility at the lookout beside the Bridge of the Americas?

The beautiful arch and pagodas have been donated by the Chinese Association of Panama. Our photo shows the facility in course of construction – to be completed in coming months.

 
 
 

The little-known story of Paul Gauguin


Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) was one of the world’s most important Post-impressionist aritists.

"Paradise, at last!" was probably the first thought that crossed Paul Gauguin’s mind as the vessel in which he was traveling dropped anchors in the harbor of Colón, Republic of Colombia, in the present-day Republic of Panama.

Although the mangrove forests and swamps of Colón were nothing like the Polynesian lands he would recreate in his paintings years later, the sight of palm trees swinging in the tropical breeze made him remember he was thousands of miles away from the boring bourgeois life, emotional problems and the financial difficulties he suffered as a struggling artist in Paris.

In 1887, the year Gauguin embarked on his tropical rendezvous with the Americas, there was great optimism in France, which was building an ocean-to-ocean canal across the Isthmus of Panama. Although the great project of Ferdinand de Lesseps was already facing major difficulties that would soon result in fiasco, back in France, hardly anybody knew that thousands of young Frenchmen were dying of tropical disease building the canal.

The word "Panama" was romanticized, and countless tales about the distant, tropical paradise were heard around Paris.

Sometime before Gauguin boarded the ship at Saint Nazaire, he had heard about a remote island called "Tabogas" (a misspelling of "Taboga,") that could become an escape from the terrible depression we was suffering. He wrote: "Sometimes I spend up to three days without eating, a fact that is affecting my health as well as my determination...I know of a place on the seas of Panama, a small island on the Pacific which is almost uninhabited, free and fertile. I will take my brushes and sink into the shadows, far away from the city."


"Tahitian Women on the beach"

However, his arrival in paradise was a great disappointment. Although he knew the language of the land (he was of Spanish descent on his mother’s side and lived in Lima, Peru during his childhood) and was not alone (accompanied by his friend, fellow painter Charles Laval,) Gauguin was penniless.


"The Yellow Christ," one of Gauguin’s most oustanding works.

He managed to get to Taboga, which was as beautiful as he thought, but too expensive. In order to survive, he sought employment at the Canal as a common laborer, digging the ditch in the heat, humidity and disease of what was then known as the "White Man’s Grave."

Interestingly, this was probably the only time during Gauguin’s professional career in which he thought that painting was not the way to make a living. The lesser-known Laval, on the other hand, declined working at the French canal venture and gained some notoriety in Panama City painting portraits of prominent members of society and high canal officials –something which Gauguin despised.

Although Gauguin’s "tropical escapade" did not turn out as expected (he became ill, was fired and arrested for urinating in public) his stay in Panama can be considered a turning point in the painter’s long quest for freedom –the carefree, naive and natural spirit he was able to capture half-way around the world at the end of his life. It is also a proof of his strong determination to succeed. After all, he was able to survive a trial in which 20,000 of his fellow countrymen perished: the attempted construction of an inter-oceanic canal.


A plaque on Taboga Island commerates the sojourn of the famous artist.

 
 



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