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That time of year

17 November 2009

Rose Cromwell, a photographer in Panama,


Photo by Rose Cromwell (

… sent out an email a week or so ago asking my dear family and friends to donate to my cause to create a xmas party for the children of the Coco Solo community in Colon, Panama…


My friend and fellow Panama Fulbrighter Larnies Bowen wrote this little snippet about Coco Solo for those that didn’t receive my email:

“Coco Solo is a former US Naval Air Base that now houses some 200 families who were displaced after the1989 invasion to oust Noriega. Fast forward 20 years later, and many of these families continue to live in these squatter settlements without running water, proper sewage, or trash removal. These families live in those very same buildings the Americans built during the early 20th century. The Panamanian government has promised to move these tenants to more humane living conditions, but residents are still waiting for that and many other empty promises to be fulfilled.”

Coco Solo was also, it’s interesting to note, the birthplace of U.S. Senator John McCain — who, if any of the Mex Files readers are in contact with him (and you’d be surprised, not all the readers here are left wing nuts… I have a few right wing nuts too!) — might be able to part with a few bucks to help out his old neighborhood.

Of course, the place has changed since McCain was a lad.  During the United States invasion of Panama (December 1989), poor neighborhoods in Panama City were heavily bombarded (see John Le Carre’s “The Tailor of Panama” for a fictional account of the war) and — although the poor had nothing to do with the causa belli (that being Manuel Noriega, who was hardly a poor man) — the poor were left with no homes to return to, and have been squatting in the abandoned military base — which also lacks regular transport to and from jobs in the city — for lack of anywhere else to go.

bishopRose has been working with Bishop Brenda Barber of one of the Afro-Antillean church on a small, manageable project.  Bishop Brenda (that’s Her Grace in the turban) who is more involved in more projects than any one person should be, throws an annual Christmas party for the Coco Solo children.  With toys… which runs into a little bit of money.  Last year Brenda’s bash ran about 80 U.S. dollars … a bit less than what it costs to keep the lights on, and the phone connected at the Mex Files a MONTH (no internet tax, but electrical rates have gone up and telephone connections probably will be taxed).

SO… when you send your annual “keep Mex Files creaking along another year”  this way, also send five or so bucks via paypal to Rose to pass along to Brenda.

Mark the payment a “gift” and include in the message a note that it is for this party, since Rose also sells her photographs through this paypal site. Excess funds last year went to pay bus fare for residents to get to and from their jobs.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 2 December 2009 9:22 pm

    thanks for posting this! but the first photo is not mine, could u please change the credit? it was taken by Sandra Eleta, a renowned photographer that I print for. She is Panamanian.

  2. 13 December 2009 3:44 pm

    Oh that’s quite long to stay in the same place for 20 years. I hope they’ll be relocated to proper place.

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