8 Oct 2014

A Full Moon to Celebrate!

By: Jorge Ventocilla

When you look up to the full moon this Wednesday, October 8th, remember there are reasons to celebrate. Our own Biomuseo opened its doors and we are all excited about it!

Even nature was pleased that bright, sunny morning, on October 2, 2014. We could see amazing beauty everywhere, with the architectural details envisioned by Frank Gehry as a unique frame for all that. All these details will position our Biomuseo as a true national icon.

We know people sailing through the Panama Canal will turn their heads to take a look at this magnificent building. Generations of Panamanians will continue to be proud of it for years, and will cherish all those colors that seem to fly up to the sky as if defying gravity, as an example of non-traditional architecture.

Long live Biomuseo!

In the words of Pilar de Alemán, President of Fundación Amador, “poetic justice” was served when these grounds, used as a military base before, were turned into a space for culture and coexistence. She also mentioned that there are so many people and institutions to thank for, as their contributions and support helped lay the foundation for this museum.

I would like to point out that many scientists have been doing research in the country for decades. The same day of the grand opening, I was talking with Tony Coates, geologist working at the Smithsonian Institute. When I asked him how he felt about the museum, considering that his scientific thesis and findings concerning the emergence of the Isthmus of Panama have been included in different exhibitions of the museum, he told me that one of the happiest phases of his life began when he arrived to Bocas del Toro many years ago, when he discovered millions of years trying to tell a story through fossils waiting for an interpretation.

Now that Biomuseo is a reality he is really pleased. Thus, not only science is the cornerstone of Biomuseo, but we can also see that great ideas and great work can only come from human happiness.

That morning, Juan Carlos Varela, President of the Republic of Panama, escorted by Gabriela Pinzón and Ricardo Young, 10th grade students from Escuela Pedro Pablo Sánchez, along with their Biology teacher, Anayansi Ramos, planted an Allamanda cathartica plant in the grounds of Biomuseo.

Symbolism was everywhere, by having the President of the country planting a native perennial plant, known as Alamanda in Panama, side by side with students from a school that constantly excels through effort and perseverance, like many other schools that have visited and learned at Biomuseo.

Following our tradition, let’s talk about the Alamanda, which was the plant chosen for the grand opening. Alamanda is its name in Spanish, and it is also known as golden trumpet in English, orélia in Portuguese, Goldtrompete in German and Wilkens bitter in Dutch. As we mentioned above, its scientific name is Allamanda cathartica. The Allamanda genus was named after Swiss botanist Dr. Frédéric-Louis Allamand and it was first described by famed naturalist Carl Linneo.

The cathartica species means "purgative, cathartic" in Latin. In Cuba, the infusion of the leaves is used as a laxative. This plant was considered to be native to all tropical America, even though for some specialists it is native to Brazil, in particular. Today it is used mainly for ornamental purposes and it very common in the tropics. It grows vigorously to be several feet high. It is also used for fences.

People like the fact that it does not need too much care and that it has bright yellow flowers almost year-round. Stakes can be used successfully for growing this plant. Its flowers have a subtle, pleasant smell.

And now, an advertisement and some good news. Five galleries, out of eight, were officially opened on October 2. Phase 2 (three galleries) and the Biodiversity Park surrounding the museum still need to be completed. President Varela offered to help; and he said in front of many businesspeople, contributors and donors. We must remember that efforts like this should be part of our project as a nation, and they need our full support.