Death in the Barrio

 

A child’s grave at Corozal Silver Cemetery.

 

The death of my baby sister Lidia was the first death that I would personally witness and by that time in my life it would set a precedent. I would again encounter this issue with the death of a next door neighbor who all of us knew as Maye, a relative of our regular playmate Osiris, and it all occurred in that same building in which we lived.
I only bring up the death of this girl since she was only an adolescent when she passed away and I was struck by the sharp contrast between the way the issue of death was handled by my Westindian family and their friends and by my Spanish neighbors.

Indeed, it was a sorry enough affair for us kids to have witnessed the departing of my little sister. Tragically, we never received even a word of consolation throughout all that experience.

Without a thought, the morning following Lidia’s death we were left grieving as our parents left us standing on the sidewalk in front of our house like strangers, and drove off with the remains of the child in my fathers automobile.

The man we knew as “Mocho Hunt” served as the driver that fateful day. My mother got in the back seat of the car and my father handed her the small white casket which she rested on her lap. Those folks left us standing on the side walk in front of our home and departed without so much as an explanation to us as to where they were going and what they were going to do with that sweet little girl who had graced our home for so short a time.

“Let’s go! What are you waiting for?” my father barked at his friend rather uncouthly after taking his seat next to my mother in the back. The man glanced back at him in amazement, in shock, actually, aware that these two people, these parents, were sitting with a tiny casket in their midst and never deigned to even turn back to look at their small children standing there grieving all alone over the death of their sibling.

We had not taken part in any of the arrangements or were even allowed to insist that we, as kids, had the right to say farewell to our deceased baby sister. She, whom Providence had given us an opportunity to comfort and who, despite her delicate condition, had come to recognize us as her family, had been torn from us, robbing us of the right to grieve for her.

For the remainder of that day we were left alone to comfort each other inside that one-room that had become our prison and dungeon and it was an awful burden to be “private” about even something so human as grief for us kids. Retreating to my hideaway under the bed, I was alone and simply cried the sadness away.

As an older man and after so many years, years of being an adult survivor, I’d finally find comfort in my studies of Spiritualism, discovering an assurance that the place to which baby Lidia had gone for eternity was filled with many mothers and fathers who were ready to receive her and would remain her loving parents for all time.

Baby Lidia Reid would be one of our first victims of the Canal Zone system of Apartheid; a system into which our parents had been born and had learned the lack of “loving kindness.” They would spend their entire lives being cruel to themselves and their children and show contempt for human life as if it were the most normal thing to do.

At any rate, here in this Chronicle I’m forced to take up that divine right to judge the living and dead of my Silver People; a weighty responsibility to carry in life and yet see some freedom to reach the minds and ears of Justice in all the people of our universe.

I confess that it is an awful responsibility that I ask you the reader to share in judging these acts as jurors. In so doing, we would all assist healthy Justice and not judge blindfolded the living or dead for their deeds or misdeeds. The question remains elementary, “Did it all begin with a pair of Panamanian Westindian children?” Did the cruelty of the overwhelming economic and social burdens placed on the virtually uneducated descendants of the Silver Men of the Panama Canal Zone, begin the terrible tide of abuse as experienced by their most vulnerable members?

This is a particularly relevant question in light of all the recent heartbreaking acts on the part of fathers and mothers who, due to their overwhelming economic circumstances, have been driven to desperate and dreadful acts of violence toward their children.

We had not taken part in any of the arrangements or were even allowed to insist that we, as kids, had the right to say farewell to our deceased baby sister. She, whom Providence had given us an opportunity to comfort and who, despite her delicate condition, had come to recognize us as her family, had been torn from us, robbing us of the right to grieve for her.

This story continues.

2 responses to “Death in the Barrio

  1. Kyle and Svet Keeton

    Hey Roberto and lydia,

    Don’t take my silence as that I am not here and reading.

    The subject is a rough one for me because I have lost 3 out of 5 children in my life time. Either from death at birth to a suicide and then a car wreck – have taken my children.

    I would have given my life to have kept them but the good Lord saw things different. But I have two good kids and they have three grandkids. That is the Lords blessing also.

    I am here reading, just not as verbal on these subjects.

    Kyle

  2. Kyle,

    I realize this would be a very rough subject for many people. My original motive behind these articles was to memorialise my little sister who was really like an angel who came to visit us.

    Also, it’s evidence that there are many, many men out here who definitely have profound and loving feelings for our children and we grieve for them as much and sometimes more than their mothers.

    Thank you for sharing your memories with us.

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