CHIRIQUI LIBRE February 15 2009

A bi-weekly newspaper, in English and Spanish, serving the Western Panamanian Province of Chiriqui.


Well folks we may have witnessed something historic. This may have been Panama’s first ever hurricane. According to some media outlets we had wind gusts in excess of 175 Kilometers an hour, for us North Americans that’s around 108 miles an hour. According the experts when a wind storm exceeds 74 miles an hour it is classed as a hurricane. If you look at the data below you can see that we qualified for a category 2 hurricane and came close to a category 3. Some 500 trees were blown down and there was damage to water lines and houses. Sadly, there was a fatality.

Many of us love to moan and complain about Union Fenosa, but I was personally a witness to the fact that they had crews up here with replacement utility poles and were working hard before the dawn came up. I am aware that many people were without power for up to five days, but we can’t blame Fenosa for that. A friend noticed that we went through the eye of the storm around midday on Thursday. Most of us – and I am sure Fenosa felt the same – that the worst was over. Then an odd phenomena occurred. The winds that were blowing from the North suddenly started blowing in the opposite direction. This was evidenced by the many signs that were blown down facing south only to be later flipped over and planted flat on the ground facing north. I think this same effect was the reason we lost so many trees. I checked out one tree at the El Valle school. The roots were about 10 to 12 feet across, but they went less than two feet into the ground. As we all know if you bend a piece of wire back and forth a few times – it breaks. I think the same thing happened to our Cypress trees.

I did go out and help a friend with her damaged roof and the it became apparent that the old system of using roofing nails is no match for our increasing wind storms. Roofing nails simply pop out of dry wood. The only sure method is to have screws driven into metal studs.

There is talk of having the new administration donate money for 10,000 new trees. The question is ,what kind of trees can stand this kind of storm? Still, it’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow someone a whole pile of firewood. · Category 1. Minimal, 74-95 mph (119-153 km/hr): Some damage is expected, with most of it limited to shrubbery, unanchored houses and items. · Category 2. Moderate, 96-110 mph (154-177 km/hr): Considerable damage can be expected to shrubbery and some trees may be blown down; there will be damage to mobile homes, signs, roofs, windows and doors. · Category 3. Extensive, 111-130 mph (178-209 km/hr): Large trees and most signs may be blown down; there may be structural damage to small buildings; mobile homes will be destroyed. Hurricane hits the highland.

Huracán golpea las Tierras Altas.

Ciudadanos bien pudimos haber sido testigos de algo histórico. Éste pudo haber sido el primer huracán de Panamá. Según algunos medios de comunicación tuvimos ráfagas de viento superiores a los 175 kilómetros por hora, para nosotros los norteamericanos esto es alrededor 108 millas por hora. De acuerdo a los expertos, cuando una tormenta de viento excede 74 millas por hora se clasifica como huracán. Si usted mira los datos al final de este articulo puede ver que calificamos para un huracán de la categoría 2 y estuvimos cerca de uno categoría 3. Unos 500 árboles fueron derribados por el viento y hubo muchos daños a las líneas de aguas residenciales y a las líneas de 8 pulgadas de abastecimiento. Tristemente, también hubo una fatalidad. Muchos de nosotros nos quejamos de UNION FENOSA, pero yo personalmente fui testigo del hecho de que tenían las cuadrillas de trabajo en el área, los postes para el remplazo y que estaban trabajando 24 horas. Soy conciente que mucha gente estuvo sin energía hasta por cinco días, pero no podemos culpar a UNION FENOSA por ésto. Un amigo notó que pasamos a través del ojo de la tormenta alrededor del mediodía el jueves. La mayor parte de nosotros,- y estoy seguro de que UNION FENOSA tambien pensó que lo peor había terminado.

Pienso que este mismo efecto fue la razón por la que perdimos tantos árboles. Comprobé esto mirando un árbol en la escuela del EL Valle. Las raíces tenian cerca de 10 a 12 pies de largo pero entraban menos de dos pies en la tierra. Como sabemos, si usted dobla un pedazo de alambre hacia adelante y hacia atrás algunas veces - se rompe. Pienso que la misma cosa sucedió a nuestros árboles de Cypress.

Salí a ayudar a un amigo con su techo dañado, y llegó a ser evidente que el Viejo sistema de usar clavos de zinc no es efectivo en un lugar donde las tormentas de viento son cada dia mas frecuentes. El único método seguro es tener tornillos conducidos en los pernos prisioneros del metal. Hay rumores de que la nueva administración donará el dinero para 10.000 nuevos árboles. La pregunta es, ¿Qué tipo de árboles se puede plantar en esta area de fuertes vientos? Algunos arboles que una ventisca no convierta en una pila de leña.

Categoría 1. mínima, 74-95 mph (119-153 km/hr): Un cierto daño se espera, con la mayor parte de él limitado a los arbustos, las casas y los artículos no anclados · categoría 2., Moderado 96-110 mph (154-177 km/hr): El daño puede ser considerable se pueden caer los arboles, casas pequeñas y casas moviles. Categoría 3. extensa, 111-130 mph (178-209 km/hr): Los árboles grandes y la mayoría de las casas se pueden caer, puede haber daño estructural a los pequeños edificios; las casas móviles serán destruidas.

Art in the highlands. David Dell

As a reporter I have been invited to several gallery openings and art showings and Panama continues to amaze me with its talent and diversity. The Chiriqui mountain towns of Boquete and Volcan can claim more than their share of art aficionados. Local art is on display in the Lachman Charete gallery on Boquete’s main street and in the Cerro Brujo restaurant in Volcan.

Cerro Brujo Restaurant, gourmet food and art. Gourmet chef, Patricia Miranda Allen, has been Volcan’s leading patron of the arts for several years. Her Chalet style restaurant lies nestled beneath the pine covered slopes of the Baru volcano. Patrons are entertained not only with the finest cuisine in the Shangri-La Valley, but their eyes can also enjoy a visual feast.

At a recent art showing there were displays of more than a dozen local painters. Local artist and wildlife enthusiast Linda Weldon had several large paintings showing frogs and brightly colored tropical birds. Weldon hopes to open her own gallery some time soon. She is also instrumental in promoting the upcoming Art Fair at Casa Grande Resort.

Many of the artists owed a debt of gratitude to David painter and Maestro, Chiru. He has taught many of the artists at his classes in the San Benito College in Volcan. Chiru’s art is striking and vivid and almost leaps off the canvas. One of his students was a young novice painter called Iris de Fonseca. Her piece called “Universo” drew me back several times and of all the pieces on display this was the one I would have most liked to see hanging on my living room wall.

I wandered into the kitchen where host Patricia was preparing Jamaican style food for the guests and artists, I asked her how successful were the local painters. She reminded me that weeks earlier there had been a picture of horses on her wall painted by local artist Carmen Guardia. I did recall the painting and was pleasantly surprised to find it sold for $900. Patricia told me the main buyers for the artwork were local Panamanians although there are a few ex-pat collectors. Within days another piece was sold and as we speak the painting, “Potes de Mi Jardin” by Mechi de Fillis, is on its way to Moscow. So unquestionably Panamanian artists can command high prices from a growing international market.

Art in Volcan is always on display at CERRO BRUJO Gourmet Restaurant. Look for the sign on the right hand side as you enter town. Or call Patricia Miranda Allen: 6669-9196

Best little bookstore
in Panama

Visitors to the Boquete, Volcan area, now have one more attraction to see the biggest English-language bookstore in Panama. On the road from David to Boquete , in the little community of Dolega, is the Book Mark, an unimposing place with a small gravel parking area out front. American owner, Harold De Mun, has been running his crammed bookstore in Panama for the last eight years. His claim of having over 25,000 new and used books is easily believable because, as you venture deeper into his house, you keep finding room after room stacked to the ceiling with all manner of books. Some of the books came from the now defunct Canal Zone library. He does have a small Spanish section but, wonderfully, the majority of the works are written for the linguistically challenged like myself.

The best is always in the back. Harold's assistant, Michael Ellis, showed me around the store. In the front is a comprehensive selection of books on Panamanian political history. Thankfully, the country is now one of the more stable in Latin America, but it is always interesting to read about the former dark and dangerous times. The owner was enjoying the midday siesta when I arrived, but did surface later to show me the "back room." This is the place for true book aficionados as it contains hundreds of out-of-print volumes and those holy grails of the literary world - "first editions." Many of the spines were aged and the titles could only be read from the inside frontispiece but glancing though a random selection I quickly saw the potential that lay on Everything from gourmet to gardening The selection in the rest of the store was all encompassing, to say the least. There were books on every subject an ex-pat could possibly imagine from a bookstore in Panama, and quite a few on subjects you couldn't imagine. Fortunately, Michael or Harold can assist in shortening the search; they seem to be able to direct you to the room or shelf or, in some cases, directly to the book for which you are looking.

When you meet someone with 25,000 books in his home, it begs the question: "What is your favorite book or author?" Harold, who admits doing graduate work in English literature, now says he doesn't do a lot of reading. His favourite author? John le Carre. Outside the store was a grab-bag table with a lot of George Bush books. Was this an indication of his political leanings? "Not at all," he said. To back this up he pointed to a shelf inside the store, and in pride of place was the book, Where's my Country Dude? written by Michael Moore.

In the back room, I spied and bought Hemmingway's Farewell to Arms. My wife, ever the devourer of romance and escapist novels, scooped up a few novels by Arthur Hailey and John Grisham. There was simply too much to see and scout on this one visit, so a return is planned in the near future. I plan to scour the dark mysterious labyrinth that is the "back room", A treasure awaits; I can just feel it in my bones.