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Get Some Holidays

In the "Cult of Escapism": Get Some Holidays

Monday, August 29, 2011

Get Some Holidays

This is ridiculous. I've been in the community almost a year now and haven´t participated in one uniquely Ngöbe holiday. As a cultural ambassador and role model within the Comarca, I deliver the following message: get some forking holidays, guys!
A Parade in November
Panamá has unique holidays: January 9 is Mourning Day (for what I don´t know); November 3 is Separation from Columbia; November 5 is Colon Day; November 10 is the Uprising of Los Santos; November 28, Independence from Spain; and December 8 is Mother´s Day (not unique in name but in that it´s a national holiday and a BIG deal). They also celebrate Christian holidays like Good Friday and Christmas. And no, nothing productive happens in November. 

In the Comarca, the November holidays earn parades and Mother´s Day is like Thanksgiving, in terms of volume of food consumed and amount of work mom has to do. Christian holidays are acknowledged but not celebrated. Why not? “No money.” Fair enough, but there are still no uniquely Ngöbe holidays. Why. Not?

Historically, the Ngöbes weren´t unified – families created communities and occasionally there were chiefs or warlords, but otherwise not much in terms of politics or identity. Then (in short), the Ngöbes spent a few hundred years getting their asses kicked by the Spanish and were driven (mostly) into the mountainous area now known as the Comarca. But they still didn´t unify, politically or otherwise, until 1997 when the Comarca (which means “autonomous region”) was formed. So they´ve been slowly discovering a cultural identity, placing previously unrealized value on their language and “traditional” dress*. The next logical step? That´s right, holidays baby.

Drumline from a November Parade
You may ask, “But Jack, you´re a Peace Corps Volunteer that makes your own schedule, living in a region with about 91% unemployment – do you all really need more days off?” First of all, quiet down and keep that kind of dangerous thinking to yourself; second of all, yes. Holidays are different, they carry a sense of entitlement and inherent pleasure. They free everyone in your area and give you all a valid excuse to party. Holidaylessness is not only morally wrong – it´s un-American. And that´s worse than anything right?

Besides, everyone´s doing it, even the Japanese. That´s right, the Japanese, the famously (read: stereotypically) hard-working, baseball-playing, uptight, worker bees of Asia have multiple unique national holidays. My favorite (note: I lived in Japan for four years) is Golden Week, a week between April and May with four real holidays and a normal day that has since been converted into a holiday to make it a full week off. “The logic? F*ck it, let´s make that a holiday too.” That´s the spirit, Japan.

Golden Week is a perfect example of holidays created for the sake of having holidays. The U.S. has Labor Day and President´s Day. Their significance? They´re days off. Boston has Patriot´s Day. Why? So we can host the Boston Marathon (read: so everyone can get drunk and watch the Boston Marathon). Take note, Ngöbes, the U.S. is a young nation but we figured it out quick.

So the solution is simple – invent some holidays. Ready? Autonomy Day – boom, holiday. Urraca (famous Ngöbe warrior and renowned Spaniard-killer) Day – boom, holiday. Memorial Day – of what? Could be anything, the point is – boom, holiday.

See how easy that is Ngöbes? I just made three holidays in three sentences. Let´s get out the calendar and pen and the fermented corn juice and make a day out of inventing some holidays. If the Japanese can do it, we sure as hell can. 

* “Traditional” because it was imposed on them by missionaries in the 1960´s; they now dress this way as a means of separating themselves from Latinos. Does this make it traditional? I´m still debating it, with myself and other volunteers.


At September 11, 2011 at 8:51 AM , Blogger Joy said...

I got confused for a minute because you wrote Colon Day and then I thought, why don't they have holidays for the rest of our internal organs? Liver Day, Spleen Day, Pancreatic Day...


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