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The Axis of Evil...Grocers

In the "Cult of Escapism": The Axis of Evil...Grocers

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Axis of Evil...Grocers

The Arabs are coming – and they´re bringing groceries.

Angry store owners from Soloy and neighboring towns crowded into the mayor´s office this morning to protest the potential arrival of ¨The Arabs.¨ Rumor has it that an Arab* family is trying to purchase land in the area to open a grocery store.  This sounds pretty good to me, but to them, it is increased competition and they will have none of it.   
*I´m going to continue to refer to them as Arab because I don´t know what country they are from.

Lately, I´ve been hearing a lot of concerns regarding the Chinese and the Arabs.  I never knew they had such a strong alliance but apparently when it comes to setting up convenience and grocery stores, they are the Axis of Evil. 

The Chinese in Panamá are the equivalent to the stereotypical Indian shopkeeper in the U.S.  Chinese owned stores are so prevalent in fact that many people simply refer to the corner store as the Chino (literally, Chinese).  When speaking to shopkeepers, people will simply refer to them as Chino or China, depending on their gender.  Literally translated, this is an example of a common conversation among customers and Chinese store owners here:
Panamanian Customer - ¨Hey Chinese, how much does this cost?¨
Chinese Owner – ¨$2.50 and my name is Yungling.¨
Panamanian Customer - ¨Don´t be ridiculous, Chinese people don´t have names

I´m yet to actually see an Arab person in Panamá, let alone an Arab owned store, but apparently they wield groceries like scimitars and more competitively than the locals.  Site-mate Laura recently attended a town hall meeting (she goes to these purely for the comic value), where many community members proposed that they set up a checkpoint at the entrance of the town and screen all entering cars for foreigners.  We don´t have one single policeman in the town, ever, and they want to set up a checkpoint.  They also insisted on prohibiting the Chinese and Arabs from setting up stores, the main argument being that they´re just too damn good at it.  Every time they said something xenophobic however, they would turn to Laura and say, ¨But not you, you´re different.¨

The increased competition argument is an interesting one for me, as an American and a student of business and a consumer in the town but the store owners have another weapon – property rights.  Foreigners are not allowed to purchase land in the Comarca (unless it is underground…hence the Canadian mine).   This of course, cannot stop foreigners (like me) from renting space, so I feel that their argument will not get them very far and the only weapon left in their arsenal is full on, unfiltered, discrimination.
The meeting is happening as I write this and I am conveniently far away from it, maintaining my neutrality.  I have no idea what will end up happening but I feel like the Arabs will soon have a store.  Hopefully they sell beef jerky.  


At November 26, 2012 at 10:46 AM , Blogger bama said...

A challenge, I am sure, to stay nuetral. An excellent spiritual practice to just observe and let all things be as they are. Good luck!


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