In the midst of my long awaited moment during our march in the School Marching Band, for the first time in my life I was thinking about us Westindians taking our rightful place in honor and glory for Panama, for the honor and glory of “my country” that I had so much insisted upon since I had any recall from infancy.
A driving force, a special sense of electricity came over me the moment I donned my military uniform for the marching band. Rapt in solemnity and a sincere sense of patriotism I became totally immersed in the preparations for our band’s performance.
All the humiliations, slights to my person, offenses to my people and race seemed to be swept away and forgotten. Even the music teacher at the National Conservatory who had rudely rejected me, blocked me from entering and prevented me from even applying for admittance to a basic class to learn to read music, was forgotten, wiped clean by my nationalistic fervor. Even today I note how among our Olympic hopefuls, kids from very poor neighborhoods who are just happy for a chance to honor their country, show the most genuine sense of patriotism.
It would be one of the last times in which I would feel the sting of humiliation but, as with bad memories, they would not be forgotten forever. I would relive them time and again in my life until I had the opportunity to write about them.
During our march I would also remember every incident of my childhood in which I had cooperated willingly with my grandmother who I was living with since age seven years and how I spent long hours of hard labor, obediently put into real work with and for the whole Reid family. Today it would probably be classified as child abuse or child labor but, nonetheless, I did it for love of family- a concept I held unto before it escaped me for good. By the time my sentiments would fully ripen the other branches tied to the Reid clan such as the Greenidge and Julienne families, had all married into the tribe.
My memories raced back to my first trip to Paraiso to spend the entire day with my uncle’s new wife and her parents thus becoming a part of the Black Canal Zone; a first for me. In fact, on another occasion I’d join a gang of men dismantling and moving construction material from the old town of Red Tank, up and down the steep hill behind the town of Paríso into the bush to store it all only to return another day to join the same crew to reassemble the house we had dismantled in Red Tank for the old folks to live in more comfort and security from the elements.
I witnessed how we all worked together as a unit to re-erect that house perfectly as if it had been magically airlifted over there. It was then that I felt a part of the family and a regular fixture at that house in which my uncle’s in-laws would live in their retirement. This was my sweet memory of the Black Canal Zone as I marched proudly up the avenue.
This story continues.