Flashbacks of Cartagena and Miami

For three years I worked as a Comptroller for a sugar mill in Panama called CALESA (Compañía Azucarera La Estrella, S.A.).  The company had been so badly managed by the Chiari family, that the then Bank of America decided to look for a new administration staff.

They head-hunted for a President, an Agriculture Administrator and a Comptroller.  From the day I started until the day I left the company, it was exhausting hard work.  Almost everything had to be redone.  During the harvest season (January thru April), I remember working more than 18 hours a day.  The Bank of America was always asking for more and more…and then some more.  They were extremely worried the company would not repay a revolving line of credit of approximately $17 million.  They got every copper back before they closed their operations in Panama and headed back North to San Francisco.

During those roller-coaster years, I had to take vacations or else I ran the risk of getting  a nervous breakdown.  That is what the doctor said, anyway.  I was so skinny, my pants waved like a flag under a heavy wind.  My wife used to call me “Omar Banderas” (Omar Flag).   In 1985, I went to Cartagena de Indias in Colombia, since it was just an hour away by plane from Panama.  The experience was outstanding.  I really enjoyed the hospitality of the Colombian people, its rich history and culture.  In a way, it was similar to that of Panama.

While visiting the military fortification, Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, I purchased an interesting souvenir.  It was a  marble egg which rested on a marble tray.  The different tones of gray and light pink of the souvenir caught my eye.  Since then I keep it on my computer desk.  It brings back pleasant memories of this trip down south to Cartagena.

The next year I traveled to Miami, Florida which is frequently visited by many Panamanians on vacation.  The destination most of the time is the Walt Disney World Resort at Orlando.  When I got there, I felt like a kid without a leach.  The Magic Kingdom had so many things to see and Epcot was my trip to tomorrow land.  Sometimes I didn’t know whether the person in front of me was a real human being or a robot.  The Epcot gigantic sphere was fascinating.  For seven days I couldn’t stop taking photos of this great metallic sphere.  I still have these photographs.

While at Disney World, I purchased a Mayan calendar at the Mexico Pavilion and a small black wooden pedestal to make it stand up.  No matter how hard I’ve looked, even to this day, I haven’t been able to see the months of the year.  I guess I have to learn the Mayan language to interpret the calendar.  This souvenir also rests on my computer desk.  It also flashes back great memories.

This morning, when I saw both souvenirs, my mind traveled back in time and remembered both trips with amazing details.  For more than half an hour I re-traveled my vacations to Cartagena and Miami.  After the mental trip, I took a photograph of the egg and the calendar and wrote this post to share the experience.  This is the photograph of  the two objects that are dear to me, for the reasons mentioned above.

Photograph of the Mayan calendar and the jade egg resting on its tray.
Photograph of the Mayan calendar and the marble egg resting on its tray.

2 thoughts on “Flashbacks of Cartagena and Miami”

  1. This is an interesting post, Omar. It seems like you poured out your heart and it all came through.

    I do like the Mayan calendar and think the months are on the outer diameter. I studied this language a long time ago and now, unfortunately, no longer have the book to refer to. Anyway, have you looked under images and Goggled the months? Copy and paste this URL to see it…


    Happy New Year to you and your family from Patty and Abe.

    1. Hi Abe:

      First comment of the year and I’m glad it came from you. Abe, it’s interesting; as you grow older, your memory gets better and you have the tendency to go back back in time and remember the most insignificant details. It’s amazing all that is captured in your mind’s hard disk. It never forgets.

      This year I will travel more around the country and post about my experiences in some of the villages where I did something. This way, other people in other latitudes will have a better understanding that Panama is more than a canal.

      Happy New Year to you and your loved ones from Omar and Aura.

      God Bless,


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