terça-feira, 18 de agosto de 2009

Defining Pedasí......

Pedasí is a beautiful small town situated on the south-eastern tip of the Azuero Peninsula on Panama’s Pacific coast. It is located in the Pedasí District, in Los Santos Province. It is, mainly, a small village with a population of around 2.000 people, according 2004 Census. Although living in Brazil for 25 years, I grew up in this village and my parents live there yet.

Human settlement in Azuero dates back anywhere from 11,000 years to 4500 years ago ,based on Pre-Columbian artifacts and other archaeological evidence recovered from various sites on the peninsula. Spanish colonizers arrived in the 16th century, largely wiping out or displacing existing indigenous populations. The district of Pedasí was created in 1840, when Panama was still tenuously united with Colombia. At the time, it was a division of the County of Los Santos (today Los Santos Province), in the Province of Panama (which covered all of present-day Republic of Panama, except for the provinces of Veraguas and Bocas del Toro). The population of Pedasí in 1845 was 701 inhabitants.

District of Pedasí, with 3.864 inhabitants, covers an area of 378,3 square kilometers, and, it is part of a region known as the “Arco Seco”, or the dry Pacific arc, due to the relatively little rainfall it receives during its "summer" (January to April) compared to the rest of Panama. Average temperatures are 25-27 degrees Celsius year round. It was once home to one of Panama’s few swaths of dry tropical forest, however, the area underwent heavy deforestation to make room for cattle pastures during the Spanish colonial era, leaving many of the hills and lowlands denuded.

Since then, the land of Pedasí District has been used extensively for cattle farming; the cultivation of sorghum, corn, cantaloupe and watermelon; and the coastal villages support also a small fishing industry. The district is now attracting the attention of real estate developers and a burgeoning tourist industry. Its borders on the Pacific Ocean to the south and east, with several sandy and rocky beaches along its coast. The area offers extensive sport-fishing, scuba diving, surfing, and birdwatching. Also, it has already begun making international headlines with celebrity visits by the likes of Mick Jagger, Sylvester Stallone, Sean Connery, Mel Gibson, Michael Jordan and Tobey Maguire.

Pedasí’s town boasts medical clinics, a bank, a library, and a handful of restaurants, supermarkets and small shops. The town is equipped with telephone, cable and high-speed Internet service throughout. This small city consists mainly of a central road (Avenida Central), a plaza (city center) about two blocks away, and several nicely maintained civic buildings, surrounded by quiet, residential blocks. With its quaint architecture and neatly laid-out streets, it is one of the main attractions of Los Santos region. The area’s local architecture is a combination of the fastidious Spanish colonial style awash with more subdued pastels of Caribbean influence. Most homes feature wide, colonnaded verandas, and several historic homes have hand-painted details. Gardens are well-tended with colorful tropical flowers.

Pedasí’s townspeople are laid-back, friendly, and regularly greet visitors with a smile. Men can often be seen wearing cutarras (traditional sandals) and the region’s folkloric black and white hats; women, during festivals and carnivals, don polleras, traditional hand-stitched multi-layered dresses, some of which can take nearly a year to complete. During local fiestas the women adorn their polleras with ornate jewelry and gold chains. February’s carnival is the annual high point of local life in Pedasí, which is renowned for the most exuberant celebration after Las Tablas. The town divides itself into two factions, Calle Abajo (lower street) and Calle Arriba (upper street), with their respective queens, each trying to outdo the other with floats, music and fireworks. Pedasí also celebrates the fiesta of Santa Catalina Day (Saint Catherine) on November 25.

As I said before, actually I am living in Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil, for about 25 years, and, the last ten years, I left to visit Panama for seven years. Last year I was there for twice, and, I met many changes in Pedasí. But, I think one thing has not changed, which is the warmth, education, simplicity and friendship of its people. I like a lot when the people says "buenas" (good evening). I miss it, especially the friends who did not call you by your name but by "compa", "mopri", "laopé", "paisa", "líder", "cuñao" and so on. Nowadays, the town is more beautiful, clean and organized, without mosquitos, and the environment maintains its richness. I think that the fact of Mireya Moscoso became the first panamenian woman to be president of the country, brings development and fame to Pedasí. Beside this, it is urgent that we, people from Pedasi, begin to see to the nature, to preserve it, because these types of care were neglected since colonial times until today.

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