In part because the Panamanians are with us — and the servers are secretly delighted to see some of their own being treated like gente fina — Pedro and Marcos talk with us in a much more honest and open way than they would with other tourists. They’ve worked for the hotel for years. Every day, they still get searched as they leave the premises, to make sure they aren’t stealing anything. Pedro’s wife works as a room cleaner; she often gets challenged about her right to enter the hotel complex at all.
This year something new is happening: two young and very beautiful Venezuelan girls have been hired to do the same work Pedro and Marcos do. The girls earn $21 day just as the guys do, but they haven’t gone through the same rigorous and expensive process of securing the health cards and work permits that the guys have to maintain current and pay for. And the two women get free lodging; small rooms in the hotel. They get some of the better gigs, like serving at weddings and hotel-sponsored parties. The guys have nothing against them personally, but wish the goodies — like opportunities for bigger tips — were spread around more fairly.
What’s up? The guys think the girls are the escorts of wealthy and powerful Panamanian men, who have smoothed the way for them to come and are paying for their rooms.
Puede ser. Could very well be.