A very special event just happened in Potrerillos Arriba last Sunday, July 5. Our road, Calle El Banco, serves approximately 1000 residents, fewer than a dozen of whom are gringos. We all depend upon this road to get the children to school, workers to their jobs and general traffic to Boquete or David. The road was in absolutely atrocious condition and was almost impassable to cars or the buses upon which this community depends. It was last paved 13 years ago and was literally falling apart. The semi-paved areas had more holes than pavement and many of them were more than a foot deep.
Under the sponsorship and leadership of the newly elected suplente, Jaime Gonzalez, the community came together to do for itself what the government was heretofore unable to do. Three gringo families contributed a total of $4000, which purchased 8 truck loads of gravel and capabase, 2 days lease of a retro (backhoe) and 2 days lease of a roller machine. Over 70 men showed up to work from 7:30 a.m. with the newly delivered materials. They hustled all of Sunday morning with shovels and rakes to fill holes in their road. The suplente and newly elected representante, Alvaro Martinez, worked side by side with the local men to complete this project.
Two of the gringo families provided drinks all day up and down the road to the workers. The gringos also bought enough food, along with 50 chickens donated by a local employer, Avicola Athena, to feed 100 people. Six of the local ladies, headed by Mary Cabellaro, spent several hours on Saturday afternoon and all morning on Sunday preparing the food at the kitchen of our local school. Altogether they fed about 80 people a sumptuous lunch at the end of the community work project, which substantially repaired about 5 kilometers of truly horrendous road. Small groups of 4-10 men had previously occasionally taken the responsibility to patch a few of the worst holes, but never before has our community come together as one to bring nearly 100 men, women and children to work so hard on their only day off from their own jobs for such a major project.
Jaime donated the use of his large work truck that all day moved the men from one location to another, as well as carrying the gravel to where it was most needed. He also trucked the workers to and from the big lunch feast at the school. This was indeed a heartwarming day to experience and one I shall personally never forget. It is exciting to see a community, both gringos and locals alike, coming together to share the responsibility of taking care of their critically needed road. Jaime had printed over 250 leaflets to bring out the labor for this whole neighborhood project and distributed them to school kids to take home to their papas, as well as putting them on the buses, in local stores and carrying them door to door. The turnout was amazing, the whole project well coordinated and the results speak for themselves. We now have at least temporarily repaired “our” road until hopefully the new government will see fit to do a major infrastructure improvement here next year.
We are all proud of one another, of our united El Banco community and of what we accomplished. This is truly one of the “feel good” stories that demonstrate why we are so happy to live in our new country.