(The image above is well before my time, by the way, but the funny thing is that the PX really didn't look that different in 1985, something of a tribute to the way the U.S. Army tried its damndest to remain inside the Leave-It-To-Beaver-Father-Knows-Best world of the late Forties and Fifties to early Sixties that had been its heyday).Inside it was in every way an unremarkable PX, no different from any Stateside version. Which was the idea, of course. Heaven forfend that the GI families or GIs themselves whould actually have to encounter, you know, foreigners in the foreign country they were stationed in.
Outside, however, was Panama, red in tooth and claw.
Specifically, there always seemed to be a street vendor on the approach road with his rolling barbacoa stand and his skewers of what were universally known as monkey meat.
Nobody actually knew - at least, nobody I knew actually knew - what animal this meat originally belonged to although there was lots of pointed and imaginative speculation. The seller, when you asked him, usually claimed it was beef.
All you had to do was taste it to know that whatever the hell it was it surely wasn't beef.
Cat was a popular guess, as was iguana.
One critter that we should have probably suspected but didn't was coatimundi; there were assloads of them around Panama, they are slow and easy to catch and probably produce fairly innocuous meat.
I myself wasn't sure if it wasn't really monkey until I went to the then-Panamanian Army's "jungle school" and had actual monkey and, no, it wasn't monkey.
Whatever it was, though, was spicy and savory and went well with fried plantains and cold beer.
Which, I suppose, is really the moral of this little story if a moral you're looking for.