Earning the Rite of Passage

Images: top CZimages.com; bottom: La Prensa

The act of joining the colorful marching bands of that year of 1952 gave a kid like me access to the needed elements to shine in my world of darkness. This would forever remain “my moment” regardless of whatever else happened in my life.

As I passed the reviewing eyes of my Calidonia neighbors, however, I also thought that this moment in history for me would be remembered by every street thug who had ever fought me or watched me fight my way through the streets of San Miguel and Wachipali.

It all seemed like more than a dream and so, perceiving I had gained my rite of passage  I noticed that even little old Raton, whom I had warred constantly and whom I hadn’t seen for a long time to renew our long standing feud, was out on the avenue as a spectator that third of November day to view me proudly marching by as a bona fide member of the Instituto marching band of 1952.

By then, the fact that the National Institute contingent had crossed over the railroad tracks gave notice that we had crossed over into one of the American’s Canal Zone properties, the last of the American colonial architectural style which still graced the view of a new up and coming Panama.  That crossing always gave me the feeling that we were still part of an excluded Black Canal Zone and that we had left the safety of our neighborhood.

Up towards the revolutionary Santana Park we marched and it again felt to me that we were venturing into a part of the city that, in recent years, had been the scene of all day-all night gunfire and constant political upheavals.

However, a fast glimpse of the Silver Clubhouse we had just passed on the nearby Canal Zone, as well as the well known Lesseps Park, reminded me of the last haircut I had had as I prepared for the upcoming parade. I would walk through this park daily on my way to and from school and, as usual, I noticed that not one white American was in sight in or outside of the crowds of celebrating Panamanians enjoying our Independence Day parade.

As we marched by the Panama Railroad Station that, as with the Tivoli Hotel, an imposing American Canal Zone edifice which was perched on the hill almost behind the Silver Roll Clubhouse, the now growing crowds blessedly obscured the towering view.

This story continues.

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