On Friday March 23, 2012 I decided to take my cousins on a promised visit to one of the cemeteries where the bones of their ancestors rest and which, by the way, now belongs to the three cemeteries protected by our Silver People Law. The Law was newly passed by the National Assembly on March 1, 2012, so this would be a perfect time to visit Corozal Cemetery. There rests our Uncles Eric J. Reid, Vincent (Vicente) Reid, my grandmother, Fanny Elizabeth M. Reid and several of my aunts on my maternal side. We were met with a surprise visitor.
We had already made our way to the top of Section M, which is on hill overlooking the Gold Roll Cemetery known as American Battle Monuments- Corozal American Cemetery- as well as the Silver Cemetery where our West Indian ancestors are buried. As we prepared to leave after our attempts to find some of my aunts’ graves failed, we were met with what turned out to be the cemetery’s administrator, or should I say the ex-administrator. According to him, he and the rest of the cemetery staff had been fired by the City (municipio) since “The Cemetery had just been handed over to Patrimonio Histórico,” who would be running it from then on.
We informed him that we were the lobbyists who had promoted the law to turn these cemeteries into Historic Patrimony and in that moment he received a call from his bosses in the City Office. The ex-administrator said, “The Señores from The Silver People are here,” and his boss told him to leave us alone, that we were authorized to be there.
We reassured him that the cemetery was looking a lot better than the last time we were there. The potholes in the roadways had been filled in with gravel somewhat and the grass appeared to be freshly mowed. We saw some benches and the Gazebo had received a fresh coat of white wash. The administrator also stated that they had been sending in truckloads of gravel to some burials that had been sinking badly. The cemetery sections we were looking at had obviously been attended to just recently, probably when the Law’s passage was imminent.
With a look of regret on his face, since he had just lost his job, he accepted the reassurance and accompanied us for the rest of our visit. This year’s first good rain started to descend upon the five of us.
It looks like we have our work cut out for us, however, since the ex-administrator warned that we were still in dry season but that the coming rains would require a fresh crew of grounds keepers to keep the grass from taking over.
We thanked him and we left our beloved ancestors. If we learned anything from this visit it was the enormous power of citizen participation and of how words still wield great strength in Panama, the words written in our laws and the intention behind them.
This story continues.