Later in the revised 1946 Constitution some light of justice would shine through the blindfold of Señora Justicia, who, as late as 1948, stood by blindly allowing for the humiliation and harassment of little children and the outright violation of human rights. When the 1946 Constitution came along it gave an indication that there was a tiny sliver, a small crack opening beneath the blindfold for justice to have its day in the country of Panama for the Panamanian born Westindians. It would come in the form of Article 12 of the 1946 Constitution which stated in part: “the State is to make available accessibility for those proposing to obtain access to Panamanian nationality..”
In those horrible years between 1946 and 1950 history would find us, the young ones, battling the tide of these exterior political issues as well as the issues of neglect and lack of love right at home. Love starved and often feeling abandoned I had, nevertheless, seen a modicum of progress in my life until the fifth grade when another “agony of defeat” was added to my life when my 5th grade teacher kept me back without really giving me any reasons for her decision. My primary school reverses had started, in fact, in the first grade and followed me to the fifth grade as our class neared end of year.
One such reverse marked me for life. It all started as a way to redeem myself I thought as I rushed around to complete the essay in the Spanish language the teachers were always insisting we speak at school. It turned out that I’d do all that work for nothing since, ultimately, what I considered my important contribution to the assignment was torn to shreds in my face by my enraged teacher who virtually accused me of plagiarizing the whole thing. She was absolutely livid as she read the composition on Simon Bolivar, The Great Libertador, I had so painstakingly researched and lovingly written, and she demanded I write it all over again. Apparently, she could not believe that a little Chombito could write a composition in Spanish with such skill and conviction.
My integrity questioned in the worse way, none of the other students in the class was aware of what had transpired between the teacher and me. What happened to me that day would remain a day of infamy in my hard earned literary life as flashes of myself scouring the garbage cans of our building hoping to find any old newspaper or blank pieces of cardboard to retire under my parents’ bed for a round of quiet writing practice, came back to me.
That incident for me would cause me more pain than the merciless strappings from my father with my grandmother’s electric iron cord. But, it had given me an indication of how good a writer I could be since it had brought out the worst feelings of outrage in someone who was convinced that “people like me” could never write that well. The politicians and local press of the time had us pegged as incapable of assimilating or learning the Spanish language and my very best shot at writing about a Latin American icon was staring her in the face proving them all wrong.
The 1946 Constitution’s revision of Panama’s policies regarding dual citizenship has received a great deal of media attention lately, in fact, in the controversial case of Bosco Ricardo Vallarino C., the mayor elect of Panama City, who has had his recent electoral victory placed in limbo by the Tribunal Electoral. Although he was approved by the electoral court to run for one of the most important posts in Panamanian politics- the Mayor of Panama City- and won the election, his dual citizenship status (Panamanian-U.S.) is, all of a sudden, now grounds to question his Panamanian citizenship per se although he was born in Panama.
Several legal experts in constitutional law have rallied to Bosco’s defense equating his case with what was done to the population of Westindian children born in Panama before the Constitution of 1941 which basically took away our citizenship, making us nation-less.
It is a red hot topic presently and it will be interesting to see how it evolves as it reopens this almost 70 year old issue that so injured the Westindian generations of my time impelling the era of massive exoduses of Westindians to the United States.
You can bet that I’m following this case closely and rooting for our Mayor elect to have the victory.
This story continues.