A Brief History of Colegio Abel Bravo

Entrance to the College. Image thanks to Patrimonio Histórico.

At the beginning of my last article I stated that Don Abel Bravo’s “life and work helped to unite us as Abel Bravistas, even when we found ourselves living in the States and other overseas locations.” May I just add that the College, as we West Indian kids called it, also gave us a sense of belonging and place in this world that we inherited from our forefathers. Let’s talk about the actual school building, how it was founded, its facilities and its human inhabitants.

As always happens with the city on the Atlantic coast, it took the first forty years of our republican life and the most important port of our nation, Colon, did not have a place to impart knowledge to its young population.  Finally, Abel Bravo College opened its brand new doors to students in 1942.  At least initially, the school included two major sections or departments, one academic and one vocational. It should have continued that way in its focus but, in actuality, there is only one body and direction and one faculty and administrative section.

The original student body consisted of 250 students and perhaps ten teachers made up their faculty. Professor Jose María Guardia Vega was its first director and Maestros Manuel de Jesus Pereira and Carlos M. Gallegos followed in the list of its first group of directors. Over time, the school and its facilities blossomed and acquired its necessary additions as a respectable institution of learning.

We must keep in mind that, in the beginning, the institution was created as a junior high school. However, its first five years hadn’t drawn to an end when another two wings were added to complement the badly needed workshops, library and gymnasium that were built during those formative years. This, however, was only a small part of what the burgeoning student population actually needed. There was more to come.

The first graduating class of 1948 was a scant total of 15 “experts” – peritos– in commercial studies. Today, on the other hand, thousands of students and hundreds of teachers go to Abel Bravo to receive or impart knowledge on the part of those responsible for these critical tasks.

Although other schools have since been built to meet the swell of Colon’s population Abel Bravo was the cradle of the future generations of West Indian as well as Hispanic citizens of the Atlantic Coast and it continues to grow and transform so that it never loses its importance to us as Abel Bravistas.

As I relate my experiences in Colon and in Abel Bravo College I will always underline my new and refreshing experiences in contrast to my experiences in El Instituto Nacional. In Abel Bravo I would come to meet up with and understand what fraternity with my countrymen could mean.

This story continues.

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