The Panamanian Rastafarian who helps autistic children to meet the sea

The Panamanian Rastafarian who helps autistic children to meet the sea

Every summer the beaches of the Pacific are visited for surfing, a very popular sport among young people, one of them the Rastafarian Gilberto de Gracia, to whom his passion took him further, now he dedicates to autistic and blind children to learn to ride waves, in return, he gets a smile.

With 42 years, more than half of them traveling the world, this Panamanian wrapped between the colors and culture "Rastafarian" says that the great ocean gives opportunities to these people who suffer from this condition, makes them free and helps them.

"Autistic children often do not have opportunities for a smile, with what I teach them as an instructor they can find nature and have a moment of relaxation, and to be happy when they are taking a wave without limits", he told Efe De Gracia while working on a carved sculpture, whose sale supports his needs.

While working in his workshop located in the historic Casco Viejo of Panama City, between Central Street and Boquete Street, this character with braided hair more than a meter in length, prepares crafts every day to survive and lead a life without many luxuries , but with a "good vibes".

Accustomed to listening to "reggae" music, a musical style that combines Jamaican and African rhythms, when he dedicates himself to carving tagua – a species of vegetable ivory – he declares that until now the people with whom he lives treat him with great respect, and for the work he does with others.

De Gracia states that encouraging young people with disabilities through surfing is a therapy that also helps parents, since they see that their children are capable of achieving what they want.

"This task of teaching children who are always in hospitals, for some reason, encourages them to continue fighting and working from the beaches," says the Rastafarian.

He argues that this "life project" is given free of charge to autistic and blind children, and that other surfers have been involved in social service, since it is a return of what gives life to them.

Now he looks forward to finishing the year to go to the beaches of the Panamanian Pacific coast such as Palmar, Santa Catalina and Venao, all known for being in the ranking of the best waves in Central America, attracting tourists and elite athletes of all the world.

But his life does not stop there, in his space, to which all arrive and leave, countless stories coexist that trap the walls of Hostal Casa Grande, a building that contains a mystical aspect for him.

Although he has only been there for a year, he already feels part of the history of the house, where some claim that his characters have left their mark as the Argentine-Cuban revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara.

This experienced globetrotter says that he will continue using his ingenuity to exploit all the positive things that he wants to share with the population, that is why he adds with a certain security that he will not stop.

"I only use my art and what surrounds me to give free rein to my imagination, from creating handmade figures with the influence of countries I have visited, to exploiting this feeling by the sea and sharing it with children," he says.

So without saying more words and taking his varied crafts, he turns and heads to the romantic Paseo Esteban Huertas, which borders the ocean in the Old Town, where in the evenings he sells his works to tourists who know for a moment the Panamanian Rastafarian.


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