A three-fold celebration…of sorts
Today was a big day in Panama City, if not all of Panama for one of three reasons. Today is the Feast of the Assumption of Mary (I’ll explain later), the 503rd anniversary of the founding of the City of Panama City (as it is known today) and the 108th anniversary of the operation of the Panama Canal. Yes, banks and some federal offices were closed.
Panama is basically a Catholic country. The founders and presidents have been Catholics. An exception to the presidency was when there was elected a Jewish president when he declared that there are two Jewish presidents in the world: Panama and Israel. Recent negotiations between the government, and worker groups that were mediated by Catholic bishops at what was called the ‘Only Table [for talks]…Mesa Única’ by the Catholic bishops of Panama. I can’t imagine that happening elsewhere.
Like the rest of the Catholic/Orthodox world, today is the Day of Mary’s Assumption, when she, as the Mother of God and of Jesus and conceived immaculately received an ‘auto-pass’ to heaven without what most of us see for ourselves: bodily corruption, temporary separation of our bodies and souls and an eventual reunion of body and soul and eternal bliss in heaven or eternal not-so-bliss in hell.
I went to Mass today where the statue of Mary was displayed lying in bed at her death. Her bed was beautiful, but Mary was nevertheless depicted dead. This is something I believe we forgot to teach in the United States and Europe. Mary was special, but she was human. She died, but was, because of her immaculate conception (especially singled out by God from all female humanity to bear Jesus in her womb), spared the route that most of us self-appropriate (listed above). We often think of dying and then being automatically in heaven (self-assuring condolences), yet we incinerate and bury bodies. Catholic and Orthodox creeds say that we (as we were created, body and soul) will be reunited on the so-called Last Day. Thus Catholics pray for the dead (Second Book of Macabees) whose souls pass through a purgation (perfectification) to be intelligible to God who is Perfection.
Today is also the celebration of Panama City’s foundation. The Spanish founded Panama City in 1519, but there were at least two other foundation cities in the same year. Because I now live here and it is the largest, most prominent population in the country, this celebration is what I know better than other foundation celebrations. This is true not only for me but for Panamanians in general because the cathedral tower of the early foundation is a notable, unifying symbol for the whole country. I noted this celebration in an earlier blog and pointed out that most of the public celebrations took place during the weekend when most people are available to participate in activities. In one of this morning’s newspapers, there were a couple of congratulatory remarks. One from the newspaper (left) and one from the Mayor of Panama City (right). These accolades clearly show the cathedral tower from 1519 as it appears today. It’s a national symbol.
Finally, this day also marks the 108th anniversary of the first official operations of the Panama Canal, known originally as “Canal Interoceonique de Panama” (Interocean Canal of Panama) because, of course, bonds were sold by a French company, which started the building process. The French company, which had built the Suez canal, did not anticipate the moisture in Panamanian soil, so building a canal without locks (as in the Suez and Corinthian canals) was deemed impossible. The photo below, which shows 500 French franc bonds was taken at my barber’s salon. I thank and recommend Porfirios Barberia and the management’s permission to take and to use the photo.
The canal was modified in 2016 to accommodate supertankers and other such massive boats of later years.