Filtering by Tag: Panama

Afro-Latina actress Tessa Thompson saves the world in 'Men in Black: International'

By Arturo Conde

Tessa Thompson considers herself Afro-Latina, a black woman, a person of color, and Latinx. But when fans go to see the sci-fi action blockbuster "Men in Black: International" this weekend, she hopes that they will only see her character, Agent M, on the silver screen.

“I hope we can get to the space in Hollywood where it’s not noteworthy for a woman, and particularly a woman of color, to top line a franchise film,” Thompson, who has Afro-Panamanian and Mexican roots, told NBC News. “I hope we can get to a place where we don’t have to congratulate it, or comment on it because it happens with such frequency. But we are still really far away from there.”

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Following protests, Nike recalls "Puerto Rico" Air Force 1 Edition misappropriating Panamanian indigenous art

Credit: Arnulfo Franco/AP

Credit: Arnulfo Franco/AP

Nike has recalled its latest edition Air Force 1 which attempted to pay tribute to Puerto Rico, by using art from indigenous communities in Panamá. After coming under criticism for cultural misappropriation, Nike issued a statement on May 21, "We apologize for the inaccurate representation of the design origin for the Nike Air Force 1 'Puerto Rico' 2019. As a result, this product will no longer be available."

Comments across social media were swift including from famous Panamanian -American hip hop DJ Clark Kent and thousands signed several petitions that had been initiated. 

The mola design is the cultural patrimony of the Ngobe Bugle or Ngäbe-Buglé, an indigenous community in Panama which has been recognized by the Panamanian government via century old treaty. They primarily reside in autonomous territory regions and set their own laws.

Representatives from the Ngobe Bugle also denounced the use stating  The indigenous groups of panama consider the design an unacceptable disrespect of Panamanian culture and history. ["Los grupos indígenas panameños consideran el diseño un irrespeto inaceptable a la cultura y la historia panameña”]. 

Others including Belisario López, the traditional leader of the Guna Yala community stated, “We are not against our ‘mola’ being commercialized. What we oppose is it being done without consulting us first."

What is striking is that Puerto Rico has its own indigenous cultural heritage attributed to the Taino,  including famous historic and cultural symbols, such as the coquí. More baffling is that Nike had an internal example of a successful country tribute effort with its Fall 2018 De Lo Mio campaign celebrating the Dominican Republic.

These occurrences of culturally problematic or appropriative designs are not new in fashion, as Gucci and Nordstrom have come under recent criticism from the Sikh community for their use of "indy turbans" in the Fall 2018 collection or Gucci's use of blackface on a turtleneck last winter. One hopes that the recent introduction of a house of Fenty by Rihanna to the LVMH portfolio will ensure that a new standard of cultural awareness will be set across the fashion industry.  

Afro-Panamanians nominated for 2019 Emmy Award for Univision's "Afrolatinos"

Credit: Facebook

Credit: Facebook

Stephanie Murillo, a young Panamanian professional, specialist in multimedia productions, is among the nominees for a 2019 Emmy Award in the United States. The good news came to her this week, after receiving a call from her best friend Edwin Pitti, also Panamanian, who serves as the Univision correspondent for the White House.

"My Whatsapp [Edwin] was blowing up to announce that the report we did together last year, AFROLATINOS, is nominated this year for an Emmy Award among the four nominations that he has" announced Stephanie on their social networks.

On the other hand Pitti, based in the United States, shared in his personal Twitter account his joy as this year is nominated in four categories. In 2018 and 2016 Pitti won awards for Best Series-Special Generic Report, Best Report-Medicine Science and Technology, Best Promo-Specific Report.

"The AFROLATINOS report was born out of a concern of his, of knowing more about our history, our ancestry, our culture and our shared struggles throughout the region, and he asked José Antonio Gil and myself to support him as producers in Panama, through Mambriche Media, to raise Afro-Panamanian voices "explained the happy nominee.

Translated fromSpanish/Version en Español:


As Panamanians Vote for the Next President, Where Do Afro-Panamanians Stand?

Carlos Jasso Reuters 2019

Carlos Jasso Reuters 2019

On Sunday May 5, Panamanians go to the polls to elect a president for a new 5 year term (2019-2024). Seven candidates have run a grueling race which began in earnest in mid 2018. With less than 48 hours before voters go to the polls, Lorentino "Nito" Cortizo Cohen of the Popular Democratic Party (PRD), is favored to win succeeding outgoing president Juan Carlos Varela. His closest competitor, Romulo Roux of the Democratic Change Party (CD) is backed by ex-president Ricardo Martinelli, who is currently incarcerated awaiting trial for corruption. Other candidates include the Mayor of Panama City, José Isabel Blandón, Ricardo Lombana,  and Panama's former attorney general Ana Matilde Gómez and Saul Méndez, leader of SunTracs, Panama’s strongest labor union.

The campaign has been dominated by issues of ongoing corruption scandals across the political spectrum, rising inequality and crime, education system, strengthening /reworking of the country's Constitution, concerns about the viability of Panama's social security system and a general lack of trust by the population that government institutions are able to address the concerns of the people, in particular the most marginalized.

Despite the corruption inquiries and economic malaise that has gripped the country for the last 3 years, Panama remains one of the strongest economies in Latin America with 5.3% growth and is projected by the World Bank to have 6% growth in 2019. However this prosperity belies the the fact that Panama's black and indigenous communities have barely benefited from the economic boom which has been driven in large part by the financial sector, Panama Canal commissions, real estate and  infrastructure development such as the subway expansion in Panama City. In fact,  "nearly one in four of the population has an income less than half of the median level, according to a study by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean [ECLAC] - the highest discrepancy in 18 countries it reviewed".

Carlos Jasso Reuters 2019

Carlos Jasso Reuters 2019

On March 22 and April 22 respectively, the Foro Afropanameño, a nationwide entity of various social movement organizations representing Afro-Panamanians and the National Coordinator of Indigenous Peoples (CONAPIP) representing indigenous communities, held candidates forums for those running. The objective of each was to address the issues of concern to these communities but also to assess the agendas of the candidates towards these communities.

In addition to national elections, May is also the Month of Black Ethnicity in Panama (the officially recognized “Day”, May 30, was made law in 2000, yet is observed the entire month). According to the Panama based watchdog organization, the Observatory Panama Afro, of the seven candidates in attendance on March 22, four submitted action plans with respect to the Afro-Panamanian community or signed onto the Plan of Action developed by the Foro Afropanameño. Generally, the candidates have agreed to ensure fulfillment of the country’s obligations to the Black community under international conventions, in particular the U.N. International Decade of Afrodescendants. On April 5, frontrunner Nito Cortizo presented his plan, followed by Ana Matilde Gómez whose “Government Plan” called for the creation of a permanent national entity to protect afrodescendant rights within the framework of the sustainable development of the country. On April 15, José Isabel Blandón acknowledged his commitment to the community based on the Plan of Action. Since one of these candidates will likely be the next president of the Republic it is important to understand the public policy agenda they will need to embrace. Mr. Cortizo, in fact provided the most detailed plan, parts of which were extracted from the Foro Afropanameño "Plan of Action: 4 Pillars and 1 Star" presented to all candidates. These included 1) realization of the Afrodescendant Census 2020 in a serious, exact and scientific way to ensure verifiable and useful statistics that ensure fair political inclusivity, 2) a relaunch of the National Plan for Afro-Panamanian Development established in 2007, 3) honor and visibilize accomplished community members and inclusion of AfroPanamanian historical and cultural contributions to the educational system and 4) transparent inclusion of public policy concerns relevant to Afro-Panamanians public sector.

Follow through of the winning candidate will be critical. The first two tests will be the appointment of a secretary for Afro-Panamanian development as well as the expeditious assessment and implementation of the Afrodescendant Cenus 2020 plan. Having campaigned on a platform of participatory community-focused reform, should Nito Cortizo prevail, as has been predicted, his administration will be monitored closely to ensure their plan of action is actually put into action.