Born to March

Image thanks to the Panama America

Looking back on last month’s patriot activities in Panama I couldn’t help but conclude that we Panamanians are natural born marchers; we love parades, marching bands, and all street exhibitions that allow people to march in a group like comparzas.

It is actually such a serious pastime that the president of the Republic has validated the Independent Bands, Las Bandas Independientes and established a genuine competition in which different bands may compete for various cash prizes.

Back in 1952 my activities at the National Institute took up most of my time.  Nothing else seemed to matter until I got the opportunity to experience the school marching band. Practice, practice and more practice filled my afternoons and nothing, not even the dental clinic that I loved so much, meant anything to me anymore. What it symbolized for me was that I had arrived.  Yes, I was in the “Big League.”  I was finally involved with something that most kids in the Barrio only dreamed of!

I thought of those other neighborhood kids amongst whom I had made my mark; places where I picked up and delivered small packages for years with my grandmother’s Susú business.  They too where barrios filled with Westindian kids who had gotten to know me and accepted me as another one of the kids living around there.  I was sure that they too would stop to notice me on the 3rd of Nov as I paraded with the well known Instituto Nacional marching band.

I suddenly remembered some of my fun activities of the past year’s Carnaval and considered how they had become small to me in perspective to marching with the Drum Corp of the Institute. It was mostly the Westindian Comparza groups, however, that had made the biggest impression and had elevated the morale of all the people in the neighborhoods.  And during those hard economic times people surely needed a boost.

They were particularly inspiring when they dressed up in the classic Panamanian típico getup marching down “M” Street to Central Avenue, singing and playing on their home made “Tumba” drums and crossing Calidonia.  It was so exciting to me and it made me feel extremely proud of my race.

It was natural for us school boys to eagerly follow behind them, up into the Santana and Chorrillo Districts, with me and every other kid from Wachipali, San Miguel and even kids from as far up into upper Calidonia making a backup train of admiring hangers on, following close behind them.

Nothing I’ve witnessed these days except maybe for the crowds of kids around the Bandas Independientes is comparable to the feeling everybody felt during these parades and I would even say that many of us felt we were born to march.

This story continues.

2 responses to “Born to March

  1. I agree with you. Also Panamanians are some of the most musically gifted people on the face of the earth.
    Existe algo muy interesante: nuestro andar por la travesia de este mundo suele entablar muchas cosas, pero tambien es puro ritmo , sabor desbordante , un dulce poema y una linda melodia.
    And this is why just like you, I believe, ” many of us felt we were born to march.”

  2. Anita,

    I didn’t know exactly how much this love of parades and marching I had inherited until I got into the U.S. Air force. But more about that in later articles.