Respite for the Weary Teacher, and Guerilla Fighter?
November is a good month to be a school teacher in Panama. Nov. 2 is the traditional Day of the Dead celebration so no school that day. Nov. 3 celebrates Panama’s separation from Colombia, followed by Flag Day on Nov. 4. Then came Friday, Nov. 5 which isn’t a holiday, but school was cancelled anyway. Nov. 10 celebrates some uprising, followed by Panama’s version of July 4th on Nov. 28. No problem if teachers and students still feel run down after all the festivities—summer vacation starts in mid- December.
Jaque is a peaceful little town but gets lots of unfavorable publicity due to its proximity to the Colombian border. An older version of the popular “Lonely Planet” travel guide had this to say about the village, “Unless you’re here to surf out front of town or explore the Rio Jaque, there’s really no good reason to come here.” The latest version has no mention of Jaque.
A 2004 article in “Outside” magazine about Panama’s Darien Gap mentioned the author’s visit to “Jaque, a village of a few thousand where the guerrillas buy groceries and get their cavities filled.” (he forgot to mention them taking surfing lessons). Then there’s that billboard sponsored by the Colombian government a block from our house calling on the guerillas to turn themselves in for an amnesty program (see attached photo). With an image like this no wonder tourists never visit Jaque, which suits me just fine.