Osvaldo Jordan


The story of the Ngobe widow Isabel Becker, living in the Province of Bocas del Toro in Northwestern Panama, who entered at mid-day to an unknown business tower in Panama City, and was not able to leave that building until mid-night, may easily be interpreted as yet another of countless cases of local indigenous women being abused by the mighty power of corrupt governments and multinational corporations. For the casual observer, the same plot could be laid out in almost any country in the humid tropics: Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Brazil or Guatemala. Yet, under the surface of what Paul Farmer (2004) has called the "ethnographically visible,' 2 we can discover that the drama of Isabel is not simply an archetype of the continuous tragedy of indigenous peoples, but instead a reflection of a complex web of social relations, embedded in and creating of the legal framework of a national state that is simultaneously global and parochial, liberalized and oppressive, the booming Panama of the XXI century without the welfare state that sought for the protection of the Ngobe regime of defacto political autonomy in the 1970s.

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