“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.
In general terms, I would say Panama City is a relatively clean city. There are of course, places where garbage accumulates and people litter, but as a whole Panama City is a spic-and-span city.
But it’s not clean by coincidence or by chance. It’s clean because there are hundreds of “hormiguitas” (little ants) scanning the city searching for garbage and litter to dispose of. They are the street sweepers of Panama nicknamed “hormiguitas” due to the manner they swarm the city to clean it up.
They work for the Municipio de Panamá (City Hall) and earn very low wages, but their attitude towards their job is remarkable. Even under the most heavy tropical rainfall or melting sun, you can see them day in and day out with their brooms, plastic bags, scoops and gloves picking up papers and litter from the ground. Once they leave the area, the place is sparkling clean.
On a recent visit to el Casco Viejo (Old Quarters) on an early Sunday morning, I saw an “hormiguita” busy sweeping a street near Plaza Santa Ana. She looked so distinguished with her broom and her spotless yellow uniform. Once I detected her, I knew I had to take a picture of her and write an article about their contribution to the beauty of our city.
I asked if I could take a picture doing her job, and with a warm smile she said, “Yes sir.” This is the lady I saw sweeping a street at Casco Viejo one cool Sunday morning. Her name is Xenia. Here we go.
This is Xenia posing for the camera with a friendly attitude. She looks beautiful in her bright yellow uniform. (Credit: Omar Upegui R./Michael Moore)
Photograph of Xenia doing her job of keeping the city clean as a whistle. (Credit: Omar Upegui R./Michael Moore)
Next time you’re about to throw a can of beer or a piece of paper out the window of your car, think again of the effort of these ladies to keep our city looking like a million bucks. Take your litter home and drop it in your garbage can. Let’s make a difference and demonstrate a deep gesture of respect to these never tiring “hormiguitas.”
In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “here lived a great street sweeper who did her job well.” Thank you Xenia for making us look clean to the rest of the world. Good Day.
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