Our New Plantation Home

A bananero or banana plantation. Image thanks to naturelandings.com

A bananero or banana plantation. Image thanks to naturelandings.com

The chief cook at the dining hall, ever vigilant of China and her condition, said, “You just pay me the regular and tell that niña to come and eat here because she don’t have to cook!” And so, we were installed in the community as the “black boy and his Chinese wife” to be the strangest couple who ever graced that part of the country. I would, however, have to give up going to the movies on Baseline because the movie house was owned by Chinese people. I had also given up on movies because it was mostly the men who lived in that area who frequented the movies and Pug was already an attraction on her own.

My gut feeling from meeting up with Chinese people in Panama after I hooked up with Pug, was that our union met with their disapproval even though Pug was only half Chinese. I never really saw them mixing, in fact, with Westindians outside of purely commercial contacts. But a union between a Chinese girl like Pug and a black boy like me was not acceptable to them. This was my feeling although they never spoke to me one way or the other about it. It was the same with the Hindus or East Indian community. I don’t know if things changed much in Panama in the years following that time period, but back then, that was my feeling.

Settling into our new home, which had always been a dream for me, prompted me to accept some fast changes in a couple of weeks. We were soon paying off the furnishings and other small household items that helped to make us feel more at home in Baseline. The fact the the Chief Cook at the dining hall had made it easier for me by feeding Pug for the same price of $12 that I had been paying her- $12 a week for three meals a day, every day- helped a lot and kept the stress off Pug and me.

As I said, we were a rare sight, a black boy and a Chinese girl, and she pregnant to boot.  We were the most unique sight to ever appear in that part of the country. In the meantime, the man whom I had replaced at the office returned after his mother’s funeral and he started making it a habit of coming over to our new home every night to sit and chat about the happenings at the office. I also had to transition again back to work in the fields, meaning that I dressed like any of the peons and slept at home in our new quarters. Of course, I knew and accepted this when my supervisor came back.

One evening Bobby, one of my co-workers who’d always been supportive of me, came over and asked me frantically, almost out of control, “What did you do to that fellow who is the supervisor?” “Why?” I asked since I didn’t know what he was talking about. I kept cool about my feelings since I knew that the man hated me being in that office- his office– and that he had showed it in many ways. But, since I had been warned by the big boss man, Carvallo, who ran the whole Plantation, I wasn’t worried. I had felt the onslaught of envy that some of the other workers felt towards me over him sponsoring me and giving me an opening into a better job from common field hand to office worker.  But I was confident.

So, from that moment on Bobby would do his best to get me back into the office. I rested assured that regardless of what others thought, my prayers were stronger, and I would be back where I really belonged. “Look Reid,” Bobby would tell me, “every time one of the supervisors comes in asking for you to give you a job, that Westindian supervisor says, “No, not him. I got a better man for that job!”

In addition, some of the younger workers had also been coming by asking me to help them with some correspondence courses they were taking to better themselves; courses that were offered in ads in the back of magazines that required a background in mathematics and algebra- which I had. My days then would be taken up with young visitors to our small balcony in the evenings and with tutoring these  guys, partially neglecting my pregnant wife.

This story continues.

2 responses to “Our New Plantation Home

  1. Fabulous. Thank you! What years are you writing about?

  2. Thank you for stopping by. The year was 1956.