Gabriel Gonzalez, Vice-Minister of Culture in Panama

Since Gary Malkowski became the world's first deaf person to sit in parliament in Canada, many deaf sign language users have held important positions in politics (you can see an infographic of all of them here). But until now, never before has a deaf person held a representative position in the government of a nation: Gabriel Gonzalez is Vice-Minister of Culture in Panama.

Gabriel Gonzalez, Vice-Minister of Culture in Panama (photo: telemetro.com)

Painter Since Childhood

Gabriel was born in 1978 and became deaf at the age of three due to meningitis. He is a painter and interior design architect, having graduated from Gallaudet University.

His artistic vocation was forged growing up among the paintings of Panamanian artists that his father collected and it was among these collections that Gabriel learned to love painting even before he began to study it. Artistically known as Gaboo, he began painting at the age of 12 and had his first exhibition in an art gallery at the age of 24, delaying the start of his artistic career until he had finished his university studies.

As a plastic artist, he has had more than a hundred solo exhibitions, exhibiting mainly in Panama, although he has also held exhibitions in other countries around the world such as the Czech Republic, Italy and Austria. Gabriel works on large canvases and says that his painting 'is not on an easel', preferring to work on the painting on the floor or on a wall so that he can 'work from all four sides and literally be inside it'.

Gabriel Gonzalez working on one of his paintings (photo: Panamá América)


Passion For Culture

Gabriel took office as Vice-Minister of Culture on 19 August 2019. He confesses that being vice-minister was not part of his plans, although he always wanted a position from which to advocate for inclusive culture, as he is clear about his slogan: "there is no culture without inclusion".

The responsibility assumed is big, as it is the position that immediately follows the Minister of Culture in terms of responsibility. According to public information from the Panamanian Ministry of Culture, the Vice-Minister assumes the task of supporting, coordinating, collaborating and directly attending to all matters and activities related to the institution, assuming the attributions and responsibilities assigned to him, and replacing the Minister for the time he is absent.

So, Gabriel becomes the first Deaf person in the world who uses Sign Language to assume a position of high responsibility in the government of a nation. This is one of the first videos that can be found of Gabriel after his nomination as Vice-Minister:


Promoting Deaf People

As vice-minister, Gabriel strongly believes that it is necessary to strengthen Panamanian identity and take pride in its gastronomy, folklore or typical clothing. In his position, he wants to encourage everyone to learn Panamanian Sign Language.

Also, at the many public events Gabriel attends on behalf of his Ministry, he is often photographed by the media doing the famous I Love You sign (here you can learn all about this sign), as in the following image:

Gabriel González at an event in December 2020 (photo: Ministerio de Cultura de Panamá)

Gabriel's work is unstoppable. Since taking office, he has appeared numerous times in the media reporting on the tasks he is carrying out. This is one of Gabriel's latest videos at the time of publishing this article, in relation to the closing of the Panama Fashion Week forum:


If you want to follow Gabriel González on social media, you can find him here:

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