Panama City, Dec 5 (EFE) – A cultural gala in Panama once again has provided a stage for people with disabilities to showcase their talent and skills and earn recognition as professional artists, one of the producers of the event told Efe.
Singer-songwriter Luis Mario, who is blind, said this event is the first of its kind in the Central American country to combine disability and the arts.
“This is gold and many people are not aware of it,” he said.
Luis Mario, who has a presence on various digital platforms and was a finalist at the International Song Festival (FIC) in Punta del Este, Uruguay, in 2018, said it is crucial that people attending the gala “realize that people with disabilities are also professionals.”
“So they don’t see it like, ‘oh, how cute, the blind guy who plays guitar; how pretty, the girl in a wheelchair who does her little dance. No, they’re dancers and they’re guitarists. They’re singers. They’re professionals, and that’s what the gala is selling: they’re professional artists,” the Panamanian musician said.
The “Inclusive Cultural Gala,” which has been held since 2019 and includes artists both with and without disabilities, is organized by the Ministry of Culture (MiCultura) to promote the creativity and talent of people with disabilities from a human rights standpoint.
The gala’s fourth edition took place over the weekend at the National Theatre of Panama, located in Panama’s City’s historical center.
Jorge Morales, director of MiCultura’s Equal Opportunities Office, told EFE that providing a stage for disabled artists encourages “other event organizers to open their doors” as well.
MiCultura has provided more visibility and quality of life to people with disabilities, Deputy Minister Gabriel Gonzalez, a deaf person who communicates via sign language and with the help of an interpreter, told EFE.
“When had we ever seen a ballet in Panama that included wheelchairs, or another type of disability in other art forms?” Gonzalez asked rhetorically.
Through the banner of inclusion, “negative things such as discrimination can be changed,” the deputy culture minister said, adding that the Inclusive Cultural Gala should be made a “permanent” part of Panama’s arts calendar so it is not removed by decision of a future administration or cultural minister.
Gonzalez said that since the release of the First National Disability Survey (PENDIS) in 2006 the number of people with disabilities in Panama has doubled to “more than 600,000.”
He pointed out that at a recent meeting of the National Council for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities (Conadis) it was revealed that a new survey is being carried out will be released next year, “so that we can have exact statistics and numbers.” EFE