When a vote REALLY matters
SALADINO: On August 18, 2008, Irving Saladino became the first Panamanian ever to win an Olympics Gold medal by attaining 8.34 meters in...
SALADINO: On August 18, 2008, Irving Saladino became the first Panamanian ever to win an Olympics Gold medal by attaining 8.34 meters in the 2008 Beijing Olympics long-jump competition. Within a week and upon his return to the country, the government organized welcoming activities that included music performances outside the Canal Authority’s building, all of which were transmitted through radio and television throughout the day. President Martin Torrijos called for all public institutions—including schools, health centers, and judicial offices—to close to allow employees and students alike to pay tribute to Panama’s champion.
Saladino also headed a parade that ran through the main avenues and streets of the city, with fans waiting to cheer him on and congratulate him for his victory. On Friday August 22, bigger and louder celebrations followed in his hometown of Colon. Regardless of the rain, on both days, the celebrations turned into one big Panamanian party with everyone either celebrating with the athlete in person or following the activities on TV or radio.
MARGARITAMANIA: Margarita Henriquez is one of three Panamanians that qualified for Latin American Idol, a spin off to American Idol, a U.S. reality-competition show that has become one of the most popular shows on American television since its debut in 2002. Now on its final stage, Margarita is one of two finalists who might win the title, depending on the amount of votes she receives between 9 p.m. last night (after their last singing performance) and this afternoon(Thursday). Votes are submitted by text messaging “Margarita” to the number 43657, with a charge of almost a dollar per text and no limits to the amount of messages you can send.
This local superstar has already become a Panamanian idol, providing Panamanians from different walks of life with a unifying icon with whom to identify. For those of you in tune with Panamanian radio or TV stations lately, I am sure you have heard or read her name mentioned more than once. Panamanian civil society groups, private enterprises, and even government officials have been moving the masses to vote for our Panamanian representative. Even President Torrijos has exhorted Panama residents to support Margarita, while the First Lady personally visited her parents in Los Santos to show them her support and a personal contribution.
The “Club Activo 20-30”, who organizes on a yearly basis a telethon to raise money for a good cause, has donated Margarita t-shirts whose profits—almost $10,000--will be used to buy cell phone prepaid cards. During the weekend, several radio and TV stations also sold promotional hats, t-shirts, buttons, cups and even umbrellas in order to raise funds to be used to text for Margarita.
Similarly, throughout the week, concerts and radio marathons have been held in her honor. Several casinos and even fast-food chains like Popeye’s have pledged to donate part of their revenue this week to the cause. Cell phone service provider Movistar pledges to return the value of one text to anyone who texts for Margarita more than twice.
Additionally, several “chat-o-dromes” have been planned so people can gather to send text messages. According to one of the organizers in the city, now that so many cell phone prepaid cards have been collected, what they will need are hands and telephones to actually execute the text-sending.
As for a welcoming event similar to Saladino’s, word on the street is that a massive event with more than 40 artists is being organized in either the Figali Convention Center or the Rod Carew National Stadium, in addition to a caravan, of course.
It is yet not clear whether the President will once again declare it a day off for public officials if she wins.
With a million more cell phone holders in Panama than in Costa Rica, and with the overall enthusiasm expressed across the country, Margarita has a big chance to win. The fruits of the country’s efforts will be seen on TV tonight.
Regardless of the win and regardless of whether you agree with the voting system or not, the truth remains that few things have managed toactivate so many Panamanians in so little time. Many politicians wish they could do the same.