Smithsonian Institution Will Exhibit the History and Culture of Panama in the U.S.
By Dialogo July 17, 2009PANAMA CITY, 15 July 2009 (AFP) - An exhibition organized by the prestigious Smithsonian Institution, located in Washington, will present the history, culture, and scientific advances of Panama in a score of events that will take place in the United States between October of this year and May 2010. “We have a very simple goal, which is that people in the United States get to know Panama,” said Eduardo Díaz, director of the Smithsonian Latino Center, upon announcing the exhibit in a presentation in Panama on Tuesday. “Many people know that there is a canal in Panama, or if they’re salsa fans, they know that Rubén Blades is Panamanian,” but apart from that, “there is very little knowledge of what Panama is and what its geological formation means or its importance for biodiversity,” Díaz explained. The different activities will take place primarily in Washington and New York, but there are also events planned in Panama. The organizers estimate that a least a million people will visit or participate in the various activities planned in the two countries. “Panama at the Smithsonian” will display aspects of the geological and archeological history of the country up through its present biodiversity, by way of Spanish colonization, Caribbean heritage, and the arrival of the railroad and the widening of the Panama Canal. In addition, there will be components related to traditional music like décimas or the importance of the African legacy in percussion rhythms and dances, without forgetting modern music like salsa and jazz and its importance in the present configuration of the country. The organizers emphasized that it will be possible to observe that “the formation of the isthmus began in Panama more than 3.5 million years ago” and that Panama “is the origin of many things that have affected the entire world, like the creation of the ocean currents or (being) a bridge that united two continents.” Díaz acknowledged that “it is always difficult to publicize the scientific part, because people are more interested in movies or music,” for which reason he believes that this is a good opportunity to present the scientific work done in the country. “First the indigenous people, then the Africans arrived, then the Chinese: all these arrivals of different cultures and their influence in Panama are going to be dealt with in this program,” said Eldredge Bermingham, director of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, located in Panama, a co-organizer of the exhibit together with the Interoceanic Canal Museum of Panama. U.S. scientists will give talks in Panama on tropical archeology and the history of the naturalists of the isthmus. The Smithsonian Latino Center seeks to ensure that Latino contributions to the arts, sciences, and humanities are highlighted, supporting various programs as part of the activities of the U.S. institution. Díaz also affirmed that a goal is that people in the United States differentiate among Mexicans, Colombians, Cubans, or Panamanians “and understand that they are not the same just because they are Latinos and that each Latin American country is different.” Colombia, Mexico, and Puerto Rico have been the subjects of previous exhibitions, and once the events related to Panama have concluded, Argentina will be the guest of honor in commemoration of the bicentennial of Argentine independence from Spain.