The Standard Bearers

This is an old shot of the Teatro Capitolio. Image thanks to our friends at

That early morning light caught me at a time when I was the sole representative from the Magnolia and War Zone Buildings neighborhood.  I stood there like a soldier at rest, a proud member of the National Institute Marching Band drum section.

It would also be the first time I’d become aware of the adolescent flag bearers marching near me. The abanderados, in fact, appeared to be proud of their solemn obligation- to carry our nation’s banner. That alone was enough honor and patriotic glory for me at the time. I was also cognizant of being an excellent student, an equal source of personal pride right along with any of the abanderados displaying our military uniforms that day.

In sizing up my possibilities at getting a chance at playing the drums, an honor every red-blooded Panamanian adolescent would jump at, I also discovered that morning that I had no really close friends in school or in the neighborhood where I grew up and, for that matter, in the drum corp. I wasn’t acquainted with any of the veteran drummers enough to be  asking any favors, so I stood there musing about building up enough nerve. By then the anxiety of not being able to have my grandmother see me play one of those drums along the parade route had set in.

The worry about maximizing the issue made my eyes roam the drummers and I sought out one Westindian boy I’d helped to relieve of his drums on a previous practice session.

I immediately rushed up to him and asked, “Can you give me a chance to play from a little after “Q” Street until we pass the Teatro Capitolio?” Surprisingly he agreed and I returned to my place in the back of the group satisfied at last that I would get my chance.

I was deep in thought attending to all the activity taking place around me when my Aunt Marie Greenidge showed up and stood by me in the line.  “What are you doing here Tía?” I said embarrassed and afraid that my cohorts would think I was the only baby whose parent had to show up to reassure him.

“I just wanted to be with you for a little while. I was on my way to work and wanted to be sure to take your picture,” she answered.  Right then she started snapping pictures with her little black box camera. “Juni, pose with your friend there,” she said to me from time to time as the guys gladly posed with me.

Those would probably be the only photos left of that experience which she would cherish even after we were all in the sates. Just as the parade kicked off that morning my aunt said, “See you later. I’m late for work.” Just as suddenly as she had arrived she took off leaving me with a whole set of unshakable memories that many of us Panamanian Westindian children have been left with- that of one of our adult figures eternally rushing off to work in their Silver Roll job on the Panama Canal Zone.

This story continues.

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