Submitted by “Le Habla Dios”
Panamanians have a lot of superstitions but the most serious and dangerous one is something known only as “espasmo.” Espasmo is as mysterious as it is harmful and you should not do anything in Panama without knowing the central espasmo rules.
First. Don’t iron. Don’t ever iron. If you iron and anytime thereafter encounter moisture (be it a sink or a toilet or a tropical downpour), espasmo rule #1 says half of your face will freeze for eternity. Have you ever seen someone walking with a serious limp, whose body appears to be half paralyzed? Espasmo.
Second, don’t ever engage the body in a sinister combination of hot and cold. If you are organizing your freezer, for example, and then are forced to cook a hot soup, be extremely watchful. Half of your arm will go limp for the rest of your life. In some countries this is diagnosed as carpal tunnel or arthritis. In Panama? Espasmo.
Third, don’t ever, ever, ever consume watermelon in the vicinity of liquor. Panamanians will drink just about anything but the moment watermelon is introduced, all bets are off. Just about every Panamanian knows someone who has fallen to the watermelon-liquor espasmo. Just ask.
In general, a good rule to remember about “espasmo” is that it cannot be explained or medically proven but that does not mean it doesn’t exist. All Panamanians of all ages know about espasmo yet are very cautious who they explain it to. They are also not too sure exactly what happens when you get espasmo, but all know someone who has gotten infected. If you have seen the crippled man on the street or the lady with the really ugly face, then you have seen espasmo too.