A Panama Gun Story

I can’t get over how comfortable I am around guns. They are everywhere in South and Central America. Seems every mall guard, police officer or army troop has a AK 47 with the safety off.

There are a lot of random traffic stops here. A group of four or six police will be on the side of the road, and can pull you over my just pointing at you. When this happens, they search your entire vehicle. Every bag. They are looking for drugs or who knows what. I’ve gotten used to smiling. Yes, that is my dirty underwear. No, you won’t find drugs there.

So on the way to the San Blas Islands there was a stop at a small station. We showed up there right as a group of seven were doing a very impressive march, turn around, march, awkwardly handle semi automatic rifle dance. They saluted the Chief inside the building, who saluted back after a long pause. Our group was told to exit the vehicle and come inside to present our passports to the Chief.

We walked in and a very small Panamanian guy with a small kitten in hand said ‘Welcome!’ and ‘Gato?’

‘Gato?’

He motioned the group to met the kitten. Who wants to hold him? I do, that is who. There are 20 men with very powerful guns, and I now have a kitten, one that the Chief likes, and if shit goes down I am using it as a shield.

Gato! Gato! Gato!

The show of force was interrupted by the showing of kittens.

Off we were, down the road.

So it goes.

*Chief declined my request to take a picture

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