Panama 2019: Saying Good-bye to Jorge

Jorge is Minga’s grandson; his mother is Teri. Jorge is in his early 20’s. He’s a gifted artist with no outlet for his talent other than applying tattoos to villagers willing to pay for them. He’s a semi-skilled construction worker, but with building way down, he’s now washing dishes at a nearby hotel, Playa Blanca — a job  he hates. His partner, Lizmary, doesn’t work right now but she’s trying to finish credentialing as a pharmacy tech. That would be a very good job indeed, and she might be able to work at the Arrocha right outside Rio Hato — the same pharmacy chain where Lily works.

He and Lizmary live in a house that Jorge built on the Delgado property, behind my old house that is falling down. His sister Jennifer lives there too, with Josue and Jeorgethe. Jorge is building houses for his mother, Teri, and his other sister Jennisbel, making it a family complex. Right now Jennis lives with Jose and their two daughters Gris and Gris in another house down the road, with a third baby expected soon. I think this new house is to rent.

Construction is pretty basic; they use concrete blocks without even rebar for stability. But with a skim coat of concrete and a little paint, the finished effect is quite nice and colorful. The houses will have electricity, cold running water, maybe an inside bathroom or maybe a shared outhouse. I doubt Jorge does the electricity or the plumbing, but there are other family members who do.

Bit by bit, they create a shared life essentially out of nothing stable or consistent in terms of work. It’s quite impressive, when you think of the resources most of us can bring to bear if we want something. When they have, they build. When they don’t have, they wait. The houses might be finished next year. If the economy stays bad, they might not.

Jorge is the one who took the shovels from the men filling in Minga’s grave, because he thought they were throwing in the dirt as if they didn’t care, just to finish the job and get out of the sun. One shovelful at a time, he filled in his grandmother’s grave all by himself, slowly and respectfully and in a way that showed he cared.

“The blood of Christ has the power.” Sign above Jorge’s front door.

Papa Jorge and Sherlianys.

Tattoo designs — Jorge’s soul work, when and where he can get it.

Not much land, so all four houses are quite close together. The back of the house you see in the distance, by Jorge’s head, is his Aunt Daira’s house. — the land where Minga and Roberto Delgado and their five children lived during the Peace Corps years in a mud and thatch house. My old house is just to the left of that, and both are right on the Pan American highway.

Master builder.

Inside Teri’s house.

Jorge made this little tienda for his child as a playhouse. That’s Lily from the back. The house is Jorge and Lizmary’s.

2 thoughts on “Panama 2019: Saying Good-bye to Jorge

  1. for Katie: I think it’s interesting also that the city family members, most of whom went there for work a long time ago, all plan to return to the village in retirement. True that it’s calmer and less expensive, but there’s also nothing to do there. At least in the city there are movies, malls, restaurants.

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