“Georgie Porgie pudding and pie, kissed the girls and made them cry. When the boys came out to play, Georgie Porgie ran away.”
My irritation and the rashness in my attitude made me take a step closer to her as she, becoming uncomfortable with my approach, started to say, “No, no!” Suddenly, it was done, I’d kissed her on the cheek and she started to cry profusely. Her tears immediately made me regret my thoughtlessness, as the rest of our committee came to see what had occurred.
“He kissed me and I don’t like it!” she whimpered. The more she cried, the more I regretted my imprudence. “Don’t cry, don’t cry! See what you did you made the girl cry!” said the other boys, all the while glaring at me who was visibly disconcerted by then. “I’m, I’m sorry… I didn’t mean for her to be … like that. I’m sorry I will never do that again for real,” I said.
It had been intended as an adventurous prank designed to make the girl flee in childish fear to the other side of the room and leave me alone. The whole incident, however, turned into a disconcerting experience for both the lighter skinned girl and me. Soon they all got her to calm down and agreed not to report the whole incident to the teacher. We all remained in the classroom to put the finishing touches on an excellent job of prettifying the room that evening and the next day things proceeded as usual.
During the days that followed there were no reproaches from my teacher for my impertinence. However, I noticed that the little white girl never returned to school after that day. What started out as an “assimilating” experience on my part would not, it seemed, be marred by so childish an incident and did not, apparently, become a cause celebré amongst all the teachers which it could easily have been.
At the end of that school year, however, I would suffer a reversal in my educational progress which, in my view, would mar my reputation in that Barrio magnet school until my very last day there as a student. I was kept back in the fifth grade one more year. Although, my teacher gave no explanations, I attributed so severe a decision to what had transpired between the little girl and me since my academic performance was impeccable.
In researching The Panama Tribune for the month of November of that year of 1948, a little before my involvement in that foolish childhood prank, I found articles pointing to a parent teacher meeting between the teachers of the Pedro J. Sosa Primary School and the parents of Westindian children. The parents, it appears, charged the teachers with racism and racist acts against their children. The accusations, of course, were minimized by the vehement denials of the teachers, but were serious enough to be published in The Panama Tribune.
The following school year would, undoubtedly, become my worst setback since I would have to repeat the whole boring year with a sizable reduced number of Westindian counterparts attending that particular school. It would also be the year that growing up Westindian and speaking in Westindian English as fluently as I spoke in Spanish, would gain for me some acceptance and appreciation by the children in both groups.
My upbringing during those precious years, however, would find me, a black boy, more integrated into the Westindian community simply because of the political battle ground that the Spanish schools had turned into.
This story continues.