Coming from a legacy of a colonial era gone by when betrayal and self-hatred was part of the way of life for our people, I could safely say that Iwas really suffering in its aftermath. It had begun leaving its imprint on us as individuals and as a community in many sickly ways. Even today we continue to manifest these traits of a disastrous inheritance leaving us as an unsound people.
In Colon, where I now sought refuge in my mother’s house, every member of the Westindian community functioned as a separate island, with very few exceptions. I could only imagine and observe things since I did not understand the sickly notions and ideas that were invading particularly us the youngsters and they were wide as the open sea, dizzying and flowing straight into adversity.
In my mind, they were discouraging enough to destroy one’s very soul. I think those were my first seeds of intellectual thought and I also detected the first signs of an inability to assert a manhood I never knew, a feeling I shared with the other young Silver Westindian boys. It was especially glaring when we tried to group ourselves into bands of directionless souls to assert our manhood. If we had any ideas, they were not mentioned, nor even talked about to challenge discussion.
I mention it here after many years of self examination since my high school days in Abel Bravo College. I had been one of the young Reid’s, after all,who made it to the university and earned this unusual luxury to study my people in Panama. My term for it was the “affluent society syndrome.” I describe this syndrome as being akin to a sickly and contagious virus which would later afflict the whole of the Latin American continent at a moment in time when it was still reeling from the disease of slavery and the open slave trade of african humanity.
Members of my generation, including myself, have suffered from an unhealthy and negative onslaught of impressions from those who believe themselves to be “the anointed,” those who conspired against our race while they insisted upon being called “teacher,” while using their education and basis in a colonialist curriculum to indoctrinate and teach against any union or “assimilation,” to our Panamanian countrymen.
Meanwhile our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles- all of the preceding generations- seemed to have survived all attempts at being injected with that poisinous portion that was fed to them. They acted as though nothing was happening- no pasa nada– and continued to present themselves as just part of the working class of Panama.
We are still the heirs of a Silver Roll working class canal culture and of a unique and historic past; a time in history from which we should be reaping good from the labor of our ansestry. Yet, our promise had been replaced with child abuse and neglect, where parents dared to leave their offspring abandoned to their own luck and to a precarious future in a society that was being built on a hatred of them and their humanity.
One thing was certain; Colon was beginning to show the acute debilitating force of this colonial legacy in our Westindian culture. In 1954, what was once la tazita de oro, was only a tarnished shadow of what it once had been and her Silver Roll children were suffering under it.
This story continues.