By: Pauline Marx, City and County of San Francisco
A Peek at Indigenous Culture
I’m just back from a two week trip to Panama and this month I will share a bit about my trip.
The population of Panama is approximately 3.8 million, with approximately half of them living in Panama City. Panama City is undergoing a terrific boom at the moment with highrise buildings replacing older single family homes and low-rise apartment buildings in many neighborhoods. At the same time there is major street reconstruction, installation of new grade separations, and construction of a metro system, the first in Central America. It is crowded, noisy and difficult to drive in the City. In addition to construction in the City, the third set of canal locks to accommodate Post-Panamax -sized ships is currently under construction at a cost exceeding $5 billion.
Immigration to Panama has shaped its population. In the 19th and 20th centuries large numbers of people moved to Panama, primarily to work on the construction of the Panama Canal and Railroad. These immigrants assimilated and mixed with the native indigenous and Mestizo population, Mestizo describing descendents of a mix of Spaniards, natives and Africans. As a result, there is no typical “Panamanian” look and the society is strongly integrated.
There are several hundred thousand Native Central-Americans in Panama and many of them live in autonomous indigenous provinces (called comarcas) that have an independent governance system. We visited the Guna Yala comarca in the north of the country, which is home to the Guna s (sometimes spelled Kuna) Indians. This area of the country is also known as San Blas. And most of the people live in the San Blas Islands. There are approximately 40,000 Guna living in Panama, some on the mainland and others on 40 of the 350 islands in their archipelago.
What is remarkable about the Guna is how they have succeeded in preserving their traditional way of life. Difficulty in accessing the area has certainly helped! The San Blas Islands are reachable, but not easily. And while there are some lodges on the islands, they will not appeal to most tourists (given the mosquitoes, sand fleas, indoor lizards, and lack of: 24 hour power, air conditioning, screens, and hot water). As is typical in a primitive society, there seems to be extreme division by gender. This division includes both dress and labor. Men dress in clothing similar to other casually dressed Central Americans. The women universally dress in a traditional costume consisting of a blouse and skirt, the blouse a print peasant style with an ornate body consisting of hand-made reverse-applique panels called molas, a printed wrap skirt, sandles, a head scarf (generally a red bandana) draped over short-cut hair, and strings of red, yellow and black beads which are wrapped around the forearms and calves to form intricate geometric designs. The women wear a lot of gold jewelry including nose rings, and sometimes paint a line down the nose and highlight their cheeks in red.
The men fish and harvested bananas, coconuts, gourds, corn and cocoa. The women cook and sew, making the intricate molas that are part of their dress. When the blouse is no longer used, the appliquéd panels are removed and sold as art work. Other molas are created to sell as art work and have become an important source of income. The traditional designs are geometric prints, but there are also representations of local animals, and in this season some Christmas molas.
We visited the San Blas Islands by flying in a 20-seat propeller plane from Panama City to the airstrip at Achutupu, where we were met by a representative from the Akwadup Lodge. We transferred to a motor boat for the 20 minute ride to the lodge, with its seven thatched-roof sleeping huts perched on the dock. Later our lodge host took us to Dog Island in Achutupu for a cultural tour and a visit at his family’s home. Dog Island has about 2500 closely packed residents living in thatched roof houses. We learned a bit about the very strict legal system, the drinking customs, the emphasis on marrying within one’s own village (and its resulting issues of inbreeding, such as albinism), the tradition of village councils, and the ability of the council to adapt to modern life. For example, traditionally all girls cut their hair short and wore traditional dress after puberty, but in some villages they are now allowed to delay this custom until they have completed their education or have married.
We saw traditional dugout canoes, some turned into sail boats. We saw groups of teenagers playing volleyball, some wearing team uniforms and others in native dress. We saw young men with edgy haircuts and headphones, listening to music. We visited homes with 4 generations of women and children, all the adults sewing or beading, the men out for the day. We saw dirt-floored rooms, kitchen huts with wood fires cooking plantains, naked toddlers and half dressed children, stores with a few things for purchase, outhouses perched on docks, women talking on cell phones. We learned that people not only sleep in a hammock; they are born there and they die there. And they are buried in their hammock along with some food to take to the next world.
The village council understands the interest of outsiders and they use it to their benefit. Outsiders are not permitted to own land or businesses. Tourists are captivated by what they see and want to take pictures of the women in their native costumes. The village council set the price of taking a picture at $1 per person in the photo. Women will typically turn their heads away, but are happy to pose if they have sold a mola to you. Children will ask to have their picture taken and run to buy candy!
Choosing one mola was too difficult, so I brought home several.
Other highlights of the trip included: learning about the history of Panama, the city-wide ad-hoc fireworks at midnight on New Year’s Eve in Panama City, catching a taxi to a restaurant in the town of Bocas and joining our cabdriver as he did some errands on the way ($2 cab ride), attending Jewish Sabbath services in Hebrew and Spanish, meeting my friend’s’ extended family and their very polite teenagers, finding out why American expats move to Panama (cost of living is the major factor), drinking coconut water straight from an iced coconut, enjoying Panamanian cuisine and an occasional Chinese, Greek or Italian meal, eating an abundance of fresh seafood including lots and lots of ceviche! And oh yes, we also boarded a boat for the day and did a partial transit of the Panama Canal!
¡Yo nunca olvidaré Panama!
Executive Director’s Message
By: Melissa Dixon, CAE
Around this time of year you see a lot of “Best of 2013” lists…so I thought I’d give you all one for CSMFO.
1. Record-breaking attendance at a northern California conference, with over 800 registrants.
2. Our membership numbers going into 2014 are higher than ever, with a total of 1,814.
3. We had over double the amount of attendees for the Introduction to Government Accounting class (306 this year v. 142 in 2012).
4. The Fiscal Policy class had 98 attendees as compared to the 55 in 2012.
5. Intermediate Accounting attendance in 2013 came in at 251, 584% of 2012’s 43 attendees.
6. We had 292 job postings in 2012, compared to 343 in 2013.
7. Webinar attendance in 2013 topped 3400, 18% up from 2012.
A big “Thank you!” to our members for making 2013 a banner year for our organization. Here’s to an even better 2014!
Top Reasons for Attending the 2014 CSMFO Annual Conference
We are only a few short weeks away from kicking off our 56th Annual CSMFO Conference at the Renaissance Hotel in sunny Palm Springs, CA, February 19-21, 2014. At this point we are attending to the finer details of the program as we prepare for “Playing the Next Round.” Allow us to tempt you as you contemplate registration.
- Register by Monday, January 6, 2014 to receive your reduced conference rate as a CSMFO member. If you’re not a member, then join and enjoy the reduced rate!
- Attend our opening Keynote session with Mark King, CEO and President of Taylor Made-Adidas Golf. He will be speaking on “Lessons in Leadership.”
- Be a part of the CSMFO tradition as we continue to offer a medley of activities including golf and tennis tournaments, excellent educational breakout sessions and outstanding keynote speakers.
- Be part of our new Early Bird Session, on Wednesday, February 19 at 9 AM when Michael Coleman will present the “California Municipal Fiscal Health Diagnostic” tool. This is essential for every finance director!
- Come meet all our outstanding vendors. You will have the chance to compare different offerings side by side to ensure the best choice and value for your agency. Our vendors are what help support our conference every year, and keep municipal registration fees at a minimum.
- Experience our Thursday night special seated banquet. Just a think…Rat Pack or Mad Men. What a special era and you can be a part of this past as you dress the part on Thursday evening!
- Take this opportunity to attend the pre-conference training session on “Information Technology for Finance Managers.” This training is based on the GFOA publication, IT Budgeting and Decision Making: Maximizing Your Government’s Technology Investments. Or Take the Certified Public Finance Officer exam during the conference and become a CPFO.
- Take advantage of several pre-conference tours. Take the famous Palm Springs Tram, travel through the “playground of the stars” as part of the PS neighborhood tour or visit the nation’s largest Wind Farm. (Guess how many windmills there are in Palm Springs?) Register for any tour on the CSMFO conference website.
- Be an active part of CSMFO’s network of finance professionals. This is your chance to get multiple perspectives from peers all in one spot. Engage with CSMFO members and experience our community in action as we learn and grow together.
- Register today! Don’t wait—hotel rooms are selling fast. Help make this our largest CSMFO conference ever!
‘Like’ Us on Facebook!
Want to see pictures of you and your colleagues at the CSMFO Annual Conference in beautiful Palm Springs? CSMFO’s conference photographer will be posting pictures to our Facebook page throughout the week of the conference, February 18-21. Don’t miss out!
This year CSMFO is offering a new time for the pre-conference training that has traditionally been set on Wednesday morning, immediately prior to the start of the conference. In order to allow for a more in-depth course, this year’s training is being offered on Tuesday, February 18 from 10:00AM–4:00PM.
Whether you work with information technology (IT) departments or you have IT reporting to you, this session is for you. It will provide you with the information and concepts needed to communicate effectively with the IT department in your organization. You will receive an overview of IT topics such as:
- Technical infrastructure
- Applications management
- End-user support
- Disaster back-up and recovery
- IT planning and budgeting
- Project management
This session will give you tools intended to foster better understanding and collaboration with your IT department. Special focus will be placed on understanding and interpreting IT budget requests and metrics, and leadership principles.
You do not need to be registered for the Annual Conference to attend this training opportunity. The cost of the training is $125 (not included in the conference registration) and includes lunch.
If you attend both the pre-conference and the conference sessions you could earn up to 23.5 CPE credits!
CSMFO MiniNews Committee Member Feature
Name: Craig Boyer
Agency: Transbay Joint Powers Authority
Committee Chair of: Vice Chair of the Professional Standards and Recognition Committee
Q: How long have you been in the municipal finance profession? I have worked in the municipal finance profession for about two years. Prior to joining my current agency, I worked as an auditor in public accounting for approximately 11 years, primarily serving public agencies. I chose the profession because I have both an economics and political science background and I enjoy the public service part of the profession.
Q: How long have you been a CSMFO member? Served on a CSMFO committee? I have been a member of CSMFO for approximately three years. I started serving on a CSMFO committee in early 2013.
Q: What committee are you a part of now? Why did you become involved with CSMFO’s committee(s)? I am part of the Professional Standards and Recognition Committee. I became involved because I had been a regular participant in the East Bay Chapter meetings since joining CSMFO, and was looking for a way to be more involved. President Pauline Marx attended one of the East Bay Chapter meetings in 2013 and asked for volunteers for committees. I spoke with her after the meeting and joined the committee when the opportunity was presented to me.
Q: How did you come to be involved in the leadership of CSMFO? When I joined the committee, I told Committee Chair Ken Brown that I had many years’ experience auditing CAFRs, as well as reviewing them for GFOA’s CAFR Program. As a result, Ken asked me to take the lead on CSMFO’s CAFR Review Program. I am responsible for coordinating the review of all of the CAFRs submitted to the Professional Standards and Recognition Committee.
Q: What are your goals for the committee for the coming year, and how do they relate to the overall organization’s goals? My most immediate goal is to ensure that all of the CAFRs that are submitted on time are reviewed prior to the 2014 Annual Conference. I also want to consider how the Professional Standards and Recognition Committee might modify the CAFR Review Program to better meet the needs of the CSMFO membership.
“Learn how to interpret your agency’s PERS Actuarial Report”
The PERS Actuarial Reports have changed and provide critical information about the impact of key shifts in PERS rate making. A total of 243 locations across California and over 400 people participated in a highly-rated webinar to understand critical issues for interpretation of the PERS Actuarial Report and gain answers to many questions. If you missed the December 19 webinar or want to review it further, there’s a high quality video available.
Here’s the link: www.csmfo.org/training/webinars and click on “Live Audio & Archives” to find the session. The Agenda includes a PDF of the PowerPoint presentation, sample reports referenced in the webinar, and the results of polling questions to see where your agency stands in comparison with others.
As a new innovation to serve CSMFO members better, we’ve also captured the audio and video in an integrated file that you can watch. Toggle on full screen for best quality viewing.