tv Quadriga - International Debate from Berlin LINKTV May 16, 2022 11:00am-11:31am PDT
(sophie fouron) not having a boat here is unthinkable. it's because here, everything happens on the water. it's their main way of transportation. people travel on boats, construction materials, food supplies, water, students in the morning. when you first get to bocas, the diversity in the population strikes you. the ngäbe people, the indigenous people of panama, live side by side with the afro-caribbean community of bocas. they're descendants of panama canal workers and they're established here. i guess it's that mix of cultures that makes this place so unique and
(george h. weir) we're in bocas del toro. we're located in the north-west of panama, close to the border of costa rica on the caribbean side. bocas del toro is an archipelago forming nine islands and more than 300 islets. the biggest island by land mass is bastimentos, but the main island is isla colon. the climate is tropical. it's more caribbean. we have two seasons: dry season and rainy season. (sophie fouron) george h. weire. diver and surfer, he proudly calls bocas del toro the most beautiful playground in the world. of afro-caribbean descent, he holds his cultural heritage in very high esteem, and these are his islands. (george h. weir) the population in the whole archipelago: we're talking about 7954 people.
because we live on the caribbean side of panama, the culture is totally different than panama city. we have the afro-antillean culture, like rice and coconut, rice and beans. those typical dishes, you don't find any in panama city. every single island has its own magic. for example, on the main island, everything's happening there. all the economy, whatever. san cristobal is plants and cows and stuff like that. zapatillas, natural beauty. isla popa, small community of natives. bastimentos is like the root of bocas del toro. everyone in panama calls it little jamaica because it's still creole. [speaks creole] i'm from bastimentos and i love my island. (sophie fouron) dayra, this is a very special island. where are we? (dayra powell) we are on the island of bastimentos,
a very historic island, because it's the first island christopher columbus reached, so hungry and tired, and here he found lots of fruits, and that's why he chose the name abastecimiento de alimentos [...]. bastimentos means provisions. (dayra powell) the first populations on this island, they were black people from jamaica and honduras. they came through the construction of the canal. they came here and became residents. and this was an island where everything was in english. - really? - really. - bocas del toro, you see when you arrive that it's a mix... - exactly. - ...of so many cultures. - yes. - tell me about that. - well, on this island, we used to have german families. now we have families from england, china,
and america, as more people began to arrive. people became to buy lands and began to build, and tourism began to have more of an influence. - do you find that it's a threat to your identity? - no, because we need them to come here, but we don't want to lose our culture and our principles. because sometimes, people want to imitate what new-comers bring... - yes. - and i don't agree with that. - i wouldn't want to argue with you, dayra. - now, we are going to a historic place where they're continuing a great tradition from my mother. she used to bake the journey cake. - the journey cake. - my sister is still keeping up that culture and that custom. - i can't wait to taste it. hello, hello! how are you? your hands are too busy. (melisia powell) yes.
(sophie fouron) so what is it that you're making? (melisia powell) what i'm making is what we call a journey cake. (sophie fouron) look at that! you bake them like that, at the bottom? (melisia powell) yes. that is the old way. (sophie fouron) why is it called the journey cake? (melisia powell) because you go for a journey for three, four or five days and you have journey cake. - and it's still going to be good and fresh. (dayra powell) still very good and fresh. - what is it made of? (melisia powell) flour, we add salt to flavor and we add one full hand of sugar and a little baking soda, butter and lard, and then we add the coconut milk, because we here, on the island, make everything mostly with coconut. we use the hearts for helping us bake, we use the shell for catching fire, and then we get the milk. - you've done how many in your life? (melisia powell) muchos. - muchos y muchos. (melisia powell)
yeah. i make them every day, maybe 100 or 150. - every day? (melisia powell) yes. we sell them at isla colon. the tourists, they come and buy buns, and these buns go to canada, to the united states, all over the place. - the buns from bastimentos. (melisia powell) yes! (sophie fouron) oh, it's heavy. (dayra powell) that's why we say "journey." you have a journey. - o.k. it's for my journey back home. it's delicious, sisters. (melisia powell) o.k. - do they have it with jam? (dayra powell) yes, we use it with jam, with cheese. - of course. (dayra powell) we put a little butter. - how do you call it in guari-guari? - journey cake. - journey cake. - don't laugh at me now! do you speak guari-guari together? - yes. - yes. - [speaking guari-guari] - wapin? [phonetic] what does that mean? - what's happening! - what's happening? wapin! is it taught in the school?
- yes. - once your generation is gone in many, many, many years, do you think the young people will continue doing it? - no! - it's very hard. - are you saddened by that? - yes. it's going to be over. - but bastimentos will still be here. - yes, always. - but it's not going to be the same without this? - exactly. it won't be the same. - it's not going to be the same. and the people coming also, there are a lot of foreigners coming on your island because it's so pretty. - yes. - that changes the face of the island as well. - yes. muchos extranjeros. but it helps. - it's a good thing. - yes. - it is? - we have a brand new bocas. not a brand new bastimentos, because we are still holding onto our culture, but we have lots of foreigners in isla colon. - this is a new isla colon. - and it helps.
- after all this story, i get to taste it. oh! it's hot! the taste of bastimentos. - yes. - yes. (george h. weir) for everything you're going to do in bocas, you need a boat or you'd better be a good swimmer. every single house has a deck to dock their own boat. your boat is like your horse on a farm, or in a city, your car. on the island, your boat. the taxi-boat job is very, very, very important in the island. [the driver is calling the customer]
(george h. weir) if you don't enjoy softball games on sunday, you're not bocateranian. it's a tradition we have, you know, to spend time with friends and make it more competitive: "solarte island against bastimentos island or against main island, isla colon against almirante." every island has its team and it's really fun. (sophie fouron) ruben, this is quite peculiar. i've never seen this ever in my life. the baseball field right on the tarmac. (ruben dario zarate)
yes. only in bocas del toro. (sophie fouron) only in bocas del toro. (ruben dario zarate) on the island? (ruben dario zarate) yes, there's a smaller field out in bocas del drago; we go there sometimes. (ruben dario zarate) it's bigger, so it's better. - yes. yes, it's right next to the airport. (sophie fouron) o.k, ruben!
(george h. weir) the main industry in the whole archipelago back in the days was the banana plantations. if you're talking about now, tourism is the main source. with the airport built in 1991, i think that was the beginning of the tourism industry in bocas, because a lot of volunteers came in to work and a lot of people realized the beauty of it and they wanted to stay. if you're a foreigner and you establish yourself in bocas, you learn to be bocas. bocas makes tourism different. (sophie fouron) we're waiting for julie. they've been training for three hours this morning.
good morning! good morning ladies! (julie lanouette) no, not every morning. (julie lanouette) on our way back, we were going against the wind. it was rough. (julie lanouette) the competition is 21 miles, so we've been doing 21.5 miles, which is slightly longer. (julie lanouette) it's in panama city. the point of all these races is to cross the panama canal. we cross from one ocean to the other in less than 3 days. (julie lanouette) yes. (julie lanouette) she's from panama. (julie lanouette) she's from panama too. (julie lanouette) and she's dutch, esther. (sophie fouron) hi!
(julie lanouette) this kind of boat is called a cayuco. (sophie fouron) do you think your team represents bocas? (angie) yeah, i mean, there are so many people living here in bocas. it kind of represents our team as well. we have panamanians on our team, we have europeans, we have canadians. we're a mixture of different groups. - a little united nations. - yeah, yeah! - representing this multicultural destination that is bocas, you know. - because the other teams, they're mostly panamanians? - mostly now, a lot of panamanians. before, it used to be mostly a zonian sport. - zonians are americans who grew up in the canal zone. - you call them the zonians. - yeah. - it's a country of its own. - it is. (everyone) it was. - people are interested, people want to help building the boat, putting it together and helping us do anything. - you're becoming the ambassadors of bocas. - this is it, yes. - great training! good luck! you girls rock! amazing! (julie lanouette)
welcome! (sophie fouron) thank you! - come on in! - i used to live right across there, by a buoy. - to make things a little easier with all the training i do, a friend and i decided to share a dock. - o.k. - this is our common area. - hi john! (john) hi sophie! (julie lanouette) three years. i met john and fell in love with this place, so i decided to stay. (sophie fouron) john, why did you come here in the first place, from bogota? (sophie fouron) o.k. so you're surf buddies as well. (john) yeah. - it's a good spot for surfing? (julie lanouette) really good. (sophie fouron) you've been here for how long? (sophie fouron) how did bocas change since you first got here?
(julie lanouette) things have certainly changed. a lot of people come here by boat and decide to stay. this is the last island in the caribbean. so, when you come by boat, you follow the tide, but to leave, you have to go against the tide, so a lot of people just decide to stay here because they like it so much! a special delivery! (julie lanouette) no, the waterfront is mostly inhabited by panamanian families that kept the lot within the family. but if you make it out to the other islands around bocas, like caranero just across, or bastimentos, there are more available lots to build on.
(julie lanouette) i think it's partly because the population is very diverse in bocas. the culture here isn't strictly panamanian, and there aren't too many tourists either. you quickly feel a sense of belonging here. it isn't like that anywhere else, it only happens here. (george h. weir) if you're from bocas and you're claiming to buy land, well, you're not from bocas. for a bocateranian, if i want to buy land, i just need to go to the government office and claim: "hey! i'm bocateranian and i need a piece of land to live on." people who are buying properties around here, they're mostly foreigners. maybe american retirees, canadians, you know, from all over the world. they want to stay away from the winter. look at this place, fogod's sake. it's beaiful! who wouldn't want to be here?
(sophie fouron) almost there! hi! (jessica m. cummins) nice to meet you sophie! (sophie fouron) nice to meet you! (jessica m. cummins) it's a pleasure. (carol j. lucke) hi sophie! i'm c-j! (sophie fouron) c-j! o.k. this is the most amazing place. (jessica m. cummins) we love it. - you actually live on an island. - yes. - we actually live on an island. it's one acre. - one acre! - once we decided we wanted to live here, i started looking for listings and this one came up and it was for sale for... i think it was listed at 30 000$. - 30 000$! - actually, we got it for 20 000$. - come on! - we bought it sight unseen. - we bought it sight unseen, because it's too good a bargain! - o.k. i have goosebumps! - you do! - i want my island too. i have goosebumps!
(jessica m. cummins) it's one of the top three places always to retire. (carol j. lucke) and look at the beauty! i mean, it's like... (sophie fouron) you don't have to convince me! - and we love the ocean. - yeah. yes. because, i mean... you can jump right in. - we have our own... look! we have our own aquarium! - aquarium. - we have dolphins, we have sea rays. - can i visit your island? - of course! - we would love for you to visit the island. step over our dog. - yes. after you. these ladies bought an island for 30 000$, a year and a half ago. i still can't believe it. this is quite big for a bedroom. - come on! all right. are you ready to see the shower? it's above you. - oh! look at that! - yeah. don't look away. - o.k. i should stand on the side. that's great! - yeah. it's a good use of space. - well thought of. - it's very off-the-grid. there's nothing here except for the generators. - they run on gas, but other than that, it's all solar or it's rainwater catch.
(jessica m. cummins) so you can see we're very much in construction. (sophie fouron) i think it looks great! (jessica m. cummins) we do too, but... you know! - so everything has to be brought to your island. - yeah. - everything. - by boat. every piece of wood, every nail, the roofing. (carol j. lucke) all those concrete blocks. (jessica m. cummins) handbags filled by hand and shovel, put on the boat, brought off, bag by bag. nothing is mechanical or industrial. - i bet you're learning tons though. - yeah. we've learned boat motors, we've learned generators, solar systems, water systems. nothing i ever knew before. - last week, we had an engine blow up and used the fire extinguisher to put the engine out. it was on fire. - oh boy! o.k. what are the biggest challenges? - i think the biggest challenges are that, some days, you're just like: "what the heck?" some days, it's almost too much. - i said to a friend that what i miss is getting in the car, driving to the grocery store in the rain. you're nice and dry. you've got the windshield wipers. you get your stuff,
you put it in the car. here, you take the boat, you're in this pouring rain in a poncho, you're trying to put stuff in bags so that it doesn't get wet. - get ice out of here without it melting. - that's grocery shopping. - it's a whole-day affair! it's an all-day thing. it's not like an hour or two to go to the grocery store. no. it's all day. - you have to plan for it. - exactly. - yes. you cannot forget anything like: "oh! i forgot the butter!" - we've done that. and we're like: "crap!" - that's why we said when we get this place, we're going to store six months of food. - right. (jessica m. cummins) in the centre here - because at night time, the navigation is so bad - we're going to build a 45-foot tower that has a light on top, so our friends and ourselves, if we're in town coming back, can make it through the cuts. - you can't see where you're going. if we hear them in the middle of the night and we hear them lost, we get a hold of our flashlights. - and then we hear:
"thank you jessica and c-j!" - is that... - because it's dangerous! you could hit coral and sink your boat. - o.k. your lives have changed completely. - yes. - from the subway in san francisco, to holding a flashlight at midnight. (jessica m. cummins) look at the view up here, right? (sophie fouron) that's amazing. - and that's our property too, the mangroves. you can see. - i know people who get older, they just want to... i don't know, rest. (carol j. lucke) right. - but that's the opposite for you. - yeah. - it's just a brand new life that started. - we're happy. we're both 53. we're young enough to still be healthy enough to take on such an adventure. - right. i can't imagine people at 65 or 70 trying to do this. it's rough! - people say: "i'm going to retire." and they wait until they're 65 or 70 and want to move to paradise. it's not easy.
(aislenis archibold) most of the time i wake up around 5:30. i start off by taking a shower, then i get ready. i pack my school bag and i go have breakfast. i go take the boat after and i get to school at seven sharp. that's when school starts. i've gotten used to this routine over the years; i've been going to school on another island for quite some time.
most of my friends go to school here; we've known each other since we were small. - yes. - yes, every day we use it, we pay the captain 50 cents. when we have study groups with our friends over the weekend, we don't wear our uniforms, so we have to pay 1 dollar each way, 2 dollars in total. - i got used to it. no matter what the conditions are like, i can pretty much handle it. it needs to be really, really terrible out on the water for me to stay home! (aislenis archibold) i'm going to get in trouble! - cooking.
(aislenis archibold) good morning. - yes. (george h. weir) the education is super complete according to me, and it's not just knowledge and books and stuff. it's about survival and being productive at home. for example, cooking class is a really important class. they learn typical dishes from bocas, like the banana bread, the muogo. this is all typical from bocas. you don't find this stuff in panama city schools. (virginia vasquez) most of my students don't have the opportunity to go back to school because of different problems. and what i'm teaching them is they could be independent. what you see here, they could make it at home and sell it to tourists on their island when they come and visit. (sophie fouron) after the cooking class,
we're going to the sewing class. oh! look at that! (virginia vasquez) this is my class. say hello!... hey, say hello! (sophie fouron) oh, it's o.k. i know. teenagers. - this is esperanza. - she's my assistant. - magical hands, right? - yes... this one is sewing patchwork. she's making a pillow. - o.k. - and here, this is called tembleque, to put in your hair. and then over there, you can see, they're making a rug. - yes. - this is all clothes that they've brought, and so they're making the braids. (sophie fouron) they know how to use this? (virginia vasquez) yes. in the islands, they don't have any electricity. - yes. - so we teach them to use it here. - and this is the pedal one. - yes. you s