Race and Caste in This History of Betrayal

Images: 1. A painting, “Cuadro de Castas” by an unknown 18th c. Mexican painter depicts the almost dizzying combinations and labels given to the inter-racial groups of people in Latin America: see
2. Detail from a painting. Inscription reads “From Sambo and a Mulata produces a Calpamulata.” see

The Indian Revolution of Victoriano Lorenzo was not only a revolution that patterned itself after the ideals of the creoles of the Americas such as General Simon Bolivar and others of his caste. Lorenzo’s revolution sprang from the grass roots, the people of the mother earth, the native people known as Indians.

However, within the Indian caste was also included the former African slaves, the blacks, Negroes who, at this juncture, had been woven into a history of the Americas that had begun in the latter part of the 15th century. Four centuries had elapsed and this revolution in Panama had suddenly taken on the hues of the complexions of the hated and always feared races of people. Once again, the ever present fear of slave uprisings prevailed in the minds of an elite class who had always regarded the colored races amongst them as a tasteless, dull and heavy spiritual burden, with an inadequate intellect resting on their “contaminated souls.”

The dawning of the new 20th century had reached the small ruling class of a previously insignificant country called Panama, who now saw themselves obligated to deal with problems that their conquistador predecessors had presumably taken in hand two or three centuries ago. These were times when the building of forts and great walls was not going to protect them from the further miscegenation to come.

Presently, however, they, the elites and their military supporters, had signed an accord and had the chief “bad guy” incarcerated. Together, they had closed a deal with their counterparts, the northerners, the Americans who had shown support in landing their fearsome army of “Indian killers” who had cleared the northern countries of that problem and insured that the blacks in their society would never “dare” to rise up against such a force which ruled and protected their white race. However, what the people of the northern hemisphere and, now the people of the southern hemisphere, would hardly imagine was that the ones who had really won the Indian wars for the “Blue Army” were their “Buffalo Soldiers,” their afro-American army of Indian killers.

This little Indian man that they had made a General, however, had been able to win the war against the Conservadores for them with his band of people, that race that they considered a prodigalized mixture of Negros, some still fresh from Africa, which they called Bozales, and the rest still considered “wild” Indians. The Blacks under Lorenzo’s command were Mulattos- a mixture of people that the elite class thought should have been disbanded as soon as the signing of the peace accords aboard the USS Wisconsin was carried out. The recommendations from the northerners had been “to chop off the head and the hated serpent would die.” The head, meaning General Victoriano Lorenzo, now languished captive in a very well guarded cell, and was looked upon as a “malhechor,” a known common criminal.

Their hope was that the threat would be reduced further, with the added measures sent out to the church, that it should preach a discolored society to the Indian and mulatto populace. In fact, they would renew their campaign of population control through this method and it would eventually yield a society of beings who would become a parody of the white race of people; Indians who would grow up believing that they all really proceeded from that Spanish race that they were still trying so hard to dislodge from power, but were intensely attempting to imitate in all forms.

Formerly, with the Padrino System, the die had been cast through the parish churches. They held the Padron, those listings in their archives or list of parishioners that could be used to promote the reward and punishment system. The hope was that the church would play an ever more important role in making the changes seem more benign and undetected by the masses. We must remember that General Victoriano Lorenzo had learned to be literate at the table of the parish priest of the little town of Capira, some distance from Coclé were he was from. Victoriano had been an acolyte and had continued to discover himself as an Indian who had lost his identity centuries ago through the constant massacres of his ancestors. At this stage in the history of the country of Panama, however, nothing, as yet, was written in stone.

There was no Decalogue to dictate the welding of the classes of people in the population.

This story will continue.

One response to “Race and Caste in This History of Betrayal

  1. Please do not stop now. I want to read the rest. You got my attention, I will be back to see the rest of the story.