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.