The Correct and Moral Path

Image is of our beautiful Kuna Yala paisanas.

By Lydia M. Reid

It is patently clear to any one of us who has lived on both sides of this hemisphere that there is glaring racial injustice in Latin America. The article about Pedro Rhodes accentuated the racial bigotry inherent amongst the Panamanian elites during those historic times. Nothing apparently has changed except that, more and more, the perpetrators of racial injustice now have a darker complexion and come from the poorer economic strata. And, God help us, should they acquire wealth!

I was crossing Cinco de Mayo Avenue not long ago and, if you’ve ever crossed that four way intersection, you know how much traffic is always passing through there. I waited patiently for the traffic light to change along with a group of pedestrians among which was a couple of paisanas- two Kuna Yala ladies dressed in their tribal fashion. The light changes to green and we get ready to proceed into the crosswalk- the Kuna women were in the lead albeit visibly nervous.

Suddenly a car plows into the crosswalk almost hitting the startled Kuna women and the crazed driver hisses at them saying (in Spanish) something like, “You better watch it I don’t run you over you stupid Indian b______ (an obscenity)!” Shaken by the really offensive and irresponsible action of this man I immediately reacted by upbraiding him and threatening him to call the cops. I even surprised myself since I normally try to remain cool and serene even in Panama’s emotionally charged atmosphere. He looked up at me in the strangest way, as if to say, “Why is this white women taking up for a dumb Indian?” But he sped off immediately instead.

Surprisingly, the Kuna women didn’t look phased by this remark as if they were accustomed to these kinds of offensive attacks to their person and continued on their way. I have witnessed many more incidences similar to this one directed at Blacks, other Indians, and Chinese with varying degrees of crudity; all usually committed by persons of a darker hue of skin.

This is just one example of the social hell we have allowed to develop here in Latin America due to, among other things, a very warped attitude about our racial identities. I do uphold the position of one of our readers that the martyrs who shed their blood and died on January 9, 1964 were on “the correct and moral path.”

The Americans as well as the Panamanians have fostered, in the past as well as in the present, cruel racially and socially unjust systems- and cruelty begets cruelty. The cruel and wholesale disenfranchisement and indifferent attitude towards a group of people who helped them build up and develop the Canal, which they eventually inherited speaks to a meanness of spirit and a stolidity of attitude that is ripe for judgement.

But, meanness of spirit and attitudes are damn hard to change. Whole revolutions have been fought over these “secret crimes,” to very little or no avail. I think this history, the Silver People’s history, has to be brought out into the light and taught to little children so that they may learn to change their attitudes and turn away from the grave moral errors their forefathers have been promoting. Otherwise, Latin America will remain on the same destructive path in which it is headed, sovereignty or no, to be governed by the worst of tyrants- greed and violence.

This story will continue.

3 responses to “The Correct and Moral Path

  1. Anita Cumberbatch

    Mirrows have never worked well in Latin America. The mirrows they purchased in our homeland have all always been different from the ones in other non-Latin countries.

    Race and identity in Panama are a strange thing.
    They were foolish to believe that the only Blacks are “los antillanos”, or despectively “los chombos”.
    They were many instances where “los antillanos” were even much lighter than the non-antillanos.

    More than likely, that darker complexion person who yelled insults at the Kuna women believed he is white because he is not “chombo”, Kuna, Ngobe Bugle and Embera .

    This is the very reason why the elites are able to control such a vast population.
    The darker ones see the white ones as brothers and sisters.
    It is difficult to fight one’s sibling for power.
    The enemy is the sole outsider.
    They don’t know the time of the day yet in Latin America.

    And I refuse to blame the U.S.for Latin American’s plain stupidity.

    Some latinos who have never had any contacts with the Americans, run around believing they are white and hence have the right to be racists.

    Ironically,people in the U.S.seemed to have graduated to a higher level than Latin Americans where race is concern.

    I believe Americans have always been more honest about race and identity.

    Sadly enough, many latinos have exported their confusion and stupidity to these shores, and sometimes it can be very funny and even sad.

    I used to teach High School Spanish History to a vast Dominican population.

    My students were unaware that they were not white.The Dominican population as you know is very dark skinned.

    One day an incident took place and they had to describe someone to a Jewish adminitrator. The Dominican student turned to the Jewish woman and said: “The student(Dominican) is white like you and I”.
    The Jewish woman enraged looked at the sudent and then said:” No,I am white, you are Black.”
    Spanish tv stations here in the States have a bunch of people who look Slavic or Russian.American tv stations have more diversity than Spanish speaking stations.

    For the past years most of the entertainers coming from Latin America have been white.
    If they are dark skinned talented people there, they hardly get noticed. For them to succeed they have to do it outside of the region. Remember Basilio?Even El General, flourished outside of Panama.

    “El latino es un ser acomplejado”. Latinos have a big complex.

    This is why whenever latinos come to me talking about racism,I have a constant fight because sometimes deep down inside of me, I want to just laugh and say “fine”.

    How can a people see racism,bigotry and injustice only when it applies to them?

    Yes, the story of the Silver People must be told.

    Also, Latin Americans must confront their biggest fear,ignorance, obsession and nightmare:
    The bulk of the population living in the region is predominantly dark skinned and non-white.

    Anita Cumberbatch

  2. Wow, Anita, I see that you had to get these thoughts out! It is really an emotionally charged issue and the word “stupid” keeps screaming out at us.

    You’re absolutely right and I, for one, agree with you about not blaming the Americans for the stupidity of the Latinos. In fact, and I’m probably going to get some flack for saying this, I wholeheartedly agree with the new anti-immigration policy in the U.S. and for the process of mass deportation of Latin Americans. Aside from the immigration issues and the fact that you (as a North American) cannot go to Latin America and engage in any economic activity (like employment) without having your papers in order, this will serve as a wake up call to Latin Americans to start dealing with some of these thorny issues in their own “national character.” They might even re-unite with their long lost sense of dignity.

    This might be the healthy push they need to come to grips with their age old prejudices that have been responsible for the ruination and utter frustration of whole groups of people in Latin America.

    We will be discussing many more issues like this in future posts and will relate our experiences in New York as well as in Mexico and Panama that sparked our motivation for initiating the story of The Silver People.

    Muchísimas gracias,


  3. I loved all the comments! I’m here in the states visibly of African descent; the world has come full circle with the race issue. Now that we are truly fighting over the crumbs unless you are the wealthy, Anglo rich, and the economy doesn’t affect you.
    When we brown skinned Blacks speak Spanish it’s not expected or accepted! You learned it; it’s not your first language . I am fortunate, putting Spanish, some patwa, and English together.
    Education here int the states also helped; ESL didn’t exist at the time 1965-1979. My English is much better than my Spanish, racism is alive & well world wide.
    If you have class,educated & conform to the whites in charge, you are not a person of COLOR! May God help our world before I close my eyes.