Panama, Casco Viejo
Casco Antiguo, San Felipe
I’m sure Margarita Henriquez had always entertained the idea of being a professional singer and at some point dreamed about being on stage. But in Panama, especially at Los Santos, her home province in Panama, earning a living as a professional singer can be a challenging task, so most talented kids choose to study a “normal” profession and keep their dream as a hobby.
More over, making it as a singer outside Panama requires lots of talent, money, connections, luck, family & friends support, prayers and a bunch of things that most people don’t have. And maybe, just maybe, you can attempt to compete in a market that is anyways flooded with a lot of highly produced artists and an ocean of people who frankly sound and feel just the same.
So ever since Spain came up with Operación Triunfo (which was a local success that launched David Bisbal, the Spanish version of Ricky Martin) and United States copied the concept turning it into American Idol, common people felt they had the chance – at least – to get an audition in front of international judges. And the marketing experts in the States realized what a fantastic business they had just found! So eventually, Latin American Idol was born, and little Margarita was able to get her chance as well.
Without much pretension, and with a few supporters at first, she made it through the rounds along with another Panamanian. And that’s where it started to pick up. You see, Panama has had artists/ athletes who had made it in the international market before. But for a while, ever since Roberto Duran or Ruben Blades, Panamanians didn’t really have anyone to look up to. Two years ago, the Rabanes made it into the Grammys and this year Irving Saladino won gold medal in the Olympics. This started to trigger something long time forgotten in every Panamanian: a sense of unity. Suddenly it wasn’t only Margarita competing, it was Panama.
So when Margarita got closer to the finals, Panamanians got organized as they haven’t done since the Noriega´s time, when the nation gathered under the Civilista´s umbrella and stood up to the dictator. In less than a month, effective committees where put together to get votes, fund raising activities popped up everywhere, people voted, voted, voted and recruited others to vote.
Panamanians felt they had a chance, Margarita was doing well and although the Costa Rican girl was good, we could help her win, even if we had far less population than Costa Rica. There where corporations making money and marketing the hell out of it in the back, but it wasn´t just that. You knew how important the snow ball had gotten for both countries and how much rating the show was generating when Costa Rican President Oscar Arias and Panamanian President Martin Torrijos appeared on screen at the final show to send their own personal cheering for each candidate.
You might think this is way too exaggerated and you might be right. And by the way, what does any of this has to do with the current recession, economic markets falling, people loosing their homes everywhere and the worst crisis we have seen since World War II. But here is the lesson we were reminded yesterday at Latin American Idol:
In all fairness, and risking to loose my Panamanian nationality, I think the Costa Rican girl had a better quality of voice. She was prettier too (not much of a dancer, though). Costa Rica, as a country is bigger and has a lot more people. But they lost. Why? They didn’t get organized. In this “war” Costa Rica had the statistical advantage, but Panama was united and more over… we cared. We where able to join hands and get things done.
Historically speaking, Panama, as a country, has done some amazing things when all Panamanians are on the same page and are emotionally involved in the cause. Without violence, we where able to stand up to Noriega (even if the United States had to do the final action of taking him to Miami) and we where able to re build a country from 20 years of dictatorship.
And historically speaking, the world has already done the same… and several times. After wars and depressions, cities and countries had just been forced to stand up together and make a big push into the same direction. Europe did it, the States did it. Humans have an infinite talent to recover and do fantastic things when they are united. And the most incredible thing is that the process makes them not only stronger, but wiser. Until the next generation … of course… where we forget to teach those lessons to the kids and history gets repeated. But we call that destiny… right?
If anything, this crisis will help the world put its differences aside and realize we are all in the same boat. It will take some time to coordinate where to row, but we will row! and the boat will go forward. Make no mistake on that!