The Good Samaritan of Bocas

Another old photo of Bocas Town (Isla Colon) from our friend, Jos Price's collection.

Another old photo of Bocas Town circa 1910 (Isla Colon) from our friend, Señor José Price’s collection.

The trip to Bocas Town had not been thoroughly planned but I cared less and less about going back to work in the fields of Baseline since I knew the marriage was not a union anymore.

Over and over I thought about the lie I had concocted about my father seeking to send for me to go to the States. It had not been until we had to change train on the trip to Bocas Town at the Almirante Ferry, that I suggested to Pug to take the baby to meet his grandmother, the midnight waitress at the Chinese Restaurant and Hotel. That was probably my only mistake, because rather than making peace the woman rekindled her animosity towards me there while playing with the infant until the night caught us taking the last ferry to Colon Island they called Bocas Town.

All day I stood on my feet outside the little room that my mother-in-law shared with her man “Turo,” facing the main drag of Almirante. Turo’s real name was Arturo. From time to time I would peek inside their tiny living quarters while she made small talk with Pug with the baby in her lap. They made no attempt to even see how I was keeping or invite me inside for a drink of water. I figured that the long day spent there was my major mistake of trying to befriend my mother-in-law.

It was late evening when we left to get to the last ferry ride but I was confident that we would find lodging on the other side of the sea in the only Chinese hotel I knew on that Island. However as soon as the Ferry boat left its birth at the pier, Pug disappeared with the baby in hand leaving me sitting with the rest of the passengers for the remainder of the trip. It was just another instance to bait me into arguing with her over my feelings so that she could run and cry, like she had done in Baseline. This time I held my ground, however, and remained silent. The next time I would see her I would spot her leaving the pilot’s cabin with the baby in her arm. When she finally came to sit next to me all she said out loud was, “The baby wanted to see how they piloted the ship.” My prayers had been answered I thought, as I remained cool and let nothing she could do provoke me to jealousy.

It was very late that night when we landed and took the short walk to the Chinese Inn to inquire if they had any rooms. “No room, no room!” said the China man and we walked in the dark intending to wake up the only people we knew on the island. However, a young woman appeared walking alongside us in the same direction and I asked her, “ You think we could stay at your place, because it is too late to have the baby out and we arrived here before we could let our people know that we were coming?” It was a surprise and a relief when she answered, “Sure you can stay if you don’t mind sleeping on the floor.” I reassured her that that wouldn’t be a problem and we kept walking in the same direction that Pug’s family lived.

Once we got to the house of our “Good Samaritan,” we made ourselves comfortable and our host lit a kerosene lamp near us to protect the infant. I thanked her and she only said, “I am glad to be of help!” The next morning we awoke early and made our way to the home of Pug’s Aunt Roberta who had shared her home with Pug, a husband and four kids, until I could get quarters with the Company.

Since they had been persons whom I had visited while I worked up-the-line and since they knew me from Colon, I figured that news of my alleged mistreatment of Pug had gotten to them via Colon. But we arrived and the four kids took over getting acquainted with their new cousin, who was immediately accepted. None of them, however, could know of my intention to move back to Colon to seek a room with the idea of not returning to Bocas. Faith (not fate), however, would step in to dictate my next move. I changed my mind about returning to Colon.

This story continues.

2 responses to “The Good Samaritan of Bocas

  1. Roberto Reid-trying to helps someone find his Family.
    I am looking for a Family from Panama Canal Zone last name Reid:
    Judy, Beulah, Fernando, Dudley, Melida, and Elvia.
    If you can put me in contact with any of them I would greatly appreciate that!!
    My phone 1.201.460.8904

  2. Hi Stacey,

    I’m not familiar with any of the Reids you mention in your comment but, we’ve published your list of siblings here for our readers to respond if they are familiar with your family. You might also join our Afro Heritage of Panama Group on Facebook and leave your query there. We have some useful members who enjoy uniting people or at least helping to do it.