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The Immigration Offices of Panama

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Written by Matt   
Thursday, 14 June 2007 10:52

It’s everything you envision: one-eyed hookers, unhealthy scraggly hobos, and a stash of various immigrants clearly not native to the Republic. The immigration office in the city is a loud, tadalafil sweaty, frenzied affair and I desperately want to go back a second time.

It’s this hilariously quirky and bizarre mosh of people who, for one reason or another, are forced into common walls in the name of borders.

At the door, there’s a sign indicating that which is not allowed inside: things like miniskirts, guns, flammables, and an “ombligo afuera” or outside bellybutton. There’s a large metal detector wedged into the front doorway which you have to pass through in order to enter, however no one mans the machine which sounds its alarm all day long like a broken record.

Step through the door and experience the rat race that is being an illegal alien in a third-world country. I’ve never felt more like cattle in my life. The movement of people reminded me of an ant farm I owned and managed in fourth grade: hundreds of crazed bodies darting this way and that, some even walking into walls. The franticness of it all made me a little jittery myself—this feeling that because everyone else was nervous, then I might as well be too.

Sitting next to me in the waiting area was one fat woman who looked like Java the Hut. Brilliant.

I took a number, 98, and awaited my turn a la deli counter (except here instead of roast beef, I was waiting for a permit which’d make me and a business partner officially legal in this country). The chairs we were sitting in were uncomfortable and stained. I liked it.

Around us sat all kinds of illegals, most of whom looked the part. Prostitutes whose silicone breasts were far from small and humble, squatter-looking folk who wore shoes of the cardboard, and even a little warrior child that appeared to be restricted by his mother via something like a leash. When my number was called, I almost missed it as I was enveloped in the conversation behind me regarding a half-goat half-bee that had been spotted in Arraijan. Fascinating.

When I got to the desk, a small man behind a Plexiglas window spoke to me through a cut-out hole roughly the size of a large croissant. “Con que le puedo ayudar?” With all the personality of a wooden peg, he began to input my data through a Mark 1 computer, using his stupid little pointer finger. Tap. Tap. Tap. His English was horrendous and my legal Spanish was just as bad, so in essence, the blind was leading the blind. Upon asking me what color eyes I had for identification purposes, he wrote down the word chocolates.

After a few signatures and fingerprint stamps, I was presented with a receipt for the services—one dollar—and a tissue with rubbing alcohol to clean my hands. The actual process was relatively painless, partially because a lawyer friend of mine was there escorting me through. But having done it once with Alejandro, I am confident I could do it again, alone.

While I do recommend you go with a lawyer or at least someone who speaks Spanish, try not to get intimidated by the Migracion offices. To some visitors the offices are stuffy, crowded and overwhelming. To others like me, they’re just another loveable quirk about this crazy country in which we live. Punto.

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Last Updated on Monday, 11 August 2008 21:42