Volcan's Mister History
Osvaldo Ivan Flores, or Ivan to his friends, is a part of Panamanian history himself. Ivan had a lifelong dream of running a newspaper. In September 2001, he bought a computer and with the help of his son Osvaldo Junior, started a small publication in Volcan called “Semanario Informativo.”
The paper was a basic as a publication could be. The first edition on September 16th of that year was two 8½ x 11 inches pages stapled together. It was in black and white with no pictures and advertising was $5 a month for 4 vertical inches. Twenty copies were sold that first week for the princely sum of 25 cents each.
People came forward with stories and ideas. Then the paper went to four pages. Radio Chiriqui in David, received copies and the headlines were read over the air. In 2003 Panama celebrated its centennial. Presales of advertising enabled the little paper to reach a 1,000 sales.
Ivan and Osvaldo junior were beginners with their computer. They didn’t even understand how to save files to disk – and inevitably entire editions would be accidentally sent to cyber heaven because of a wrongly pressed key. Semanario Informativo grew in size and content to 12 pages in color. The little paper that could seemed destined to become a leader in western Panama, but disaster struck 121 weeks after its launch.
In 2004, Ivan had been feeling increasingly unwell and a doctor confirmed that his kidney had shut down. As Ivan said in his own words, “My life had changed 100%, but my life hadn’t stopped.” Indeed it didn’t, Even when Ivan had to drive to David three times week for dialysis he still found time and energy to produce a four-page color newsletter called ESPERANZA DE VIDA. Radio Chiriqui also broadcast the contents of this publication.
Ivan was fluent in the English language - thanks to the schooling he obtained from the legendary Monk, Brother Elred Wetli. It was his desire to see a statue erected to “El Brother” in Volcan, sadly the necessary finances could not be raised and that project is on hold.
In 1968 Panama came under the control of a military dictatorship. Few people dared to question or oppose the cruel and authoritarian rule from Panama City. But the Mountain town of Volcan was different. Onofre Quintero was a leading freedom fighter in the Chiriqui mountains.
The brave exploits of these hold-outs-for-democracy would be lost to history except that their story has been faithfully recorded in a book by Ivan Flores.
In 1998 a memorial statue was erected in a park in Volcan to the memory of those brave men. At the inaugaracion, Ivan’s son, Osvaldo, handed a copy of the book to President Endara.
In the months and years after his diagnosis Ivan visibly weakened. At times the pain and discomfort has led to many sleepless nights. The fatigue and lack of sleep led to his accident when he ran off the road south of Volcan. Fortunately he survived the accident with a few broken ribs.
NEVER GIVE UP AND NEVER GIVE IN.
Ivan Flores was far from being a quitter. In January of 2009 he launched a weekly newspaper in Volcan called “Chiriqui Libre.” This publication featured local news, sports events and happenings. Distribution initially was in the Volcan, Cerro Punta and Rio Sereno areas, but eventually Ivan hoped to extend distribution throughout Chiriqui.
Ivan was realistic and philosophical about his condition and life expectancy. His advice for people in a similar situation is that they learn to accept what life has given them. Our adventures into the hills and valleys of Chiriqui have given me tremendous respect for this great Panamanian. Frequently he winced with pain, but moments later he fought back and once again his face lit up with that famous, mischevious Ivan Flores grin.
In 2011 Ivan and I had the great pleasure of publishing these two editions of the Chiriqui Times. Sadly, advertising was almost non existent
But together we produced, what we both believed was, a first class professional looking newspaper.
There is a tradition here in Volcan that people unload the casket and walk the final mile with their friend to the cemetary.
Osvaldo Ivan Flores passed away in David City, Panama on Monday morning September the 5th 2016.
After 12 years of long and painful renal dialysis, his strong and faithful heart finally gave out. “Ivan” as his friends called him, was the founder and editor of this on-line newspaper; The Chiriquí Libre and the print edition of the short-lived Chiriqui Times.
In the years since Ivan has passed I have tried to carry on his legacy of finding and recording the history of this great province.
I have been able to write about many interesting aspects of life here in western Panama. Ivan Flores has helped me see a whole different side to the people of this great country.
The reason I have been able to see so much and to see so far, is that I have been standing on the shoulders of a much taller man.