Fostering a Mythical Panamanian Character

The lyrics of the Instituto Nacional de Panamá by Ricardo Miró.


With the Rector’s threat of expulsion from the National Institute this was just another notch on my list to add to my hard time for that year.  The thought that I would not fit in remained with me constantly and my stay at the famous National Institute became a quiet hell instead of the joy I had originally hoped for. The rest of that year was spent in activities that didn’t enhance me in any way either culturally or academically.

Although Professor Ramos’ art class decidedly prevented me from quitting the National Institute all together, what I now saw as the school’s “philosophy” convinced me that we were being molded based upon a myth, an illusion of what the Panamanian man’s character should be.

It was plainly evident from my actual experiences that our moral education was being shaped from anything but patterns of virtue. Things like honor, honesty, valor, ethics and integrity were not really being fostered in this important stage of our social formation.  Following the massive First Communion ceremony, the rest of my time spent in this celebrated institution of learning was dedicated to learning on my own initiative.  It became a daily and hum drum routine of just showing up for school to simply mark time until graduation.

The only element of pride that I was able to salvage was in being singled out back home in the Barrio neighborhood where I lived as someone who had chosen to be different and attend The National Institute rather than the more popular Arte y Oficio Secondary School which was the choice for most youngsters in the neighborhood. Secretly, I was beginning to regret my decision to become a lawyer or a writer rather than just learning a trade.

My experiences thus far had had led me to believe that we who had such high expectations were really not encouraged to foster that personality and character that the school was supposed to stand for. In fact, about the only place where I found the mention of anything like “principles” was in the lyrics to the school song.  Qualities like idealism and patriotism were not at all in my line up of experiences. Apart from that, “principles” were a rare ingredient in our education.

Ever since my crushing experience with the Rector’s racist threat I finally started to have the time and opportunity to really evaluate the young people that surrounded me in school. I began, however,  missing my old Pedro J. Sosa Primary school friends since back in grade school your friends were real “friends.”

By then in the Institute my “friends” in that room had become mere acquaintances. I thought to myself, “There they are, all acting as though they had seen nothing at all.” By then my expectations were at such low ebb that I tried to ignore even the small group of boys who finally did offer some show of support.

This story continues.

2 responses to “Fostering a Mythical Panamanian Character

  1. Renaldo Manuel Ricketts

    Panama like most Latin American countries are innately racist. For decades people talked about the racial democracy of Brazil .A joke in the making ask the Black Brazilians,they will laugh you out ofj existance . The myth of Brazil has been exposed, today Blacks in Latin Amerika are finally asserting themselves and demanding rights denied them. Latin Amerika is deeply color based , they consciously deny this in their in their feeble attempt to camouflage racism. The Silver People have suffered the most they have struggled like no other class of people in Panama and have survived. We as Black people are the blue print of the human race ,the back bone of civilization and we shall one day overcome your ignorance and malicious envy! Viva mi gente!

    • Mr. Ricketts:
      I love to see that you are trying hard to improve your writing ability, which for me takes lots of practice at reading and writing. I see that you are much as I was, struggling with life’s negative travails, which also took its toll on my character.

      Trying to change the world is not just wating for your chance to get even; it involves using our time as the special black people we know we are at being wise and patient. One does not have to go to jail to have the time to be studious, but taking the time out to attend night school will slow down the one way thoughts of getting back at other people’s “ignorance and malicious envy.”

      You are a smart young man, so stop the rant and be creative and “make frienda and influence people” for good. Demonstrating your creativity is not always easy but it will come with the maturity and patience of a cultured black man.