Getting to the Ground in Panama!

September 17, 2012

A commonly known phrase refers to how ‘familiarity breeds contempt’.  But, contempt is not the sole product of familiarity!  For familiarity dulls the senses…it dulls our awareness of the subtleties that are beneath our awareness.  It is the type of awareness that allows subtleties to feed the nuances that make a moment more memorable than others.  It makes us ignore the obvious!  When we ignore the obvious, we become ignorant!

So, feeling familiar is reminiscent of seeing something every day.  Not seeing what it is…just seeing its form.  The more profound danger of what familiarity breeds is not contempt.  The danger is that it gives life to indifference.  It breeds a lack of awareness of the nature of a thing.  We think we see it…but we don’t!!!!  We see its form, but not its nature!  We see Latino and/or Hispanic culture….it is right there in our face everyday.  But, do we really see it!  Do we know the contributions, the sacrifice that has been made?  The connections?  Do we?  Or is it that we have a familiarity with it that breeds indifference and we think we know more than we actually do….

I once heard a wise man say that “you can tell a lot about a person based upon how they treat people they think they don’t need”!

Standing in the International Terminal at the airport…well, that is familiar ground!  A familiar space!  You can still see CNN, FOX, or whatever…talking about immigration policy… of the few voices of compassion in the public arena is Condoleeza Rice calling for compassion in the debates and development of U.S. policy on immigration.  But, how many times over the past few years have we heard the lack of compassion regarding immigration policy for Mexicans, Latinos, and Hispanics.

Not long ago, I met a fella…a Latino fella…who talked about how he knew his roots going back 7 to 8 generations.  He talked about how he didn’t even learn English until he was an older young man.  It was interesting listening to him talk about his family roots and the comments or discussions he was engaged in within the context of the national conversation on immigration for Latinos and Hispanics.  The interesting part, is that he is from the geographical region of Texas.  If we recall, that land mass was once a part of Mexico…not the United States.  And so as we talked, he chronicled how he didn’t ‘belly crawl’ or ‘sneak’ or ‘smuggled’ himself into the United States…in fact…his family was in Texas when Texas was part of Mexico.

In fact, this area was annexed and acquired by the United States as a result of the end of the Mexican-American War,   and by way of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hildalgo affirming that the U.S. Border naturalized many Latino and Hispanic citizens.  Consequently, much of U.S culture has a symbiotic relationship with those who are, as we say, “south of the border”.  So when this man said, I didn’t cross the border…the border crossed me, then that gives a different meaning to cultural perception or the “group think” that many may have about Latinos and Hispanics.

In the U.S. every now and then we see signs or statements about English!  Learn it!  Speak it!  Make it the national language!  Well, sitting in the boarding area…on your way to a Spanish speaking country…brings you into the full realization of the implications of such.  So, much of what we think of foreigners comes from our comfort!  Comes from our indifference!  From our perfected ability to ignore the nature of things!  Our ignorance!  However, when you now have to rely on the kindness of another…because you are interested in joining the global community…then, our perceptions become more malleable!

Now, “how you treat a person that you think you don’t need “ becomes a much more powerful statement…Now you need them…to help you become a citizen of not just the United States…but of the WORLD!!!!

I know that I am a very fortunate person!  More than blessed to not just see the world!  Not interested in just being a ride along or a tourist!  I want to know what it is like!  What does it feel like to be…to be…

So I have this travel Blog!  Part of it relates to the fact that consciously creating experiences shapes our perception of ourselves and thus our identity…another part of it is to share the experiences so that others may do the same!!!!

This project is rather technical in nature, so the first few weeks involves being immersed and imbedded in Panamanian culture!  Excellent I must say…an Excellent approach and experience 🙂  One of the people who has taken this charge is this vibrant and affable fellow….

Jaime Montenegro (first name pronounced Hi-May)….

Another is Juan Carlos Garcia, an  aspiring Architect….

Both are very intelligent and capable!  Both have been very kind and very responsible for my person!  While I am here as a Fulbright Specialist!  In reality, I’ll learn way more from them…than they will learn from me.  It is my hope that their counterparts that are in or that come to the United States will be met with such kindness from us.
The Journey moves forward….

3 Responses to “Getting to the Ground in Panama!”

  1. joe buck said

    Thank you for sharing and making me think on a hot September morning in Savannah. Have a life enhancing trip! Be safe! jb

  2. Rabiah Muhammad said

    The final paragraph of your beautifully written post reminded me of my visits in West Africa. The people received me like a lost daughter, actually describing me as such. And as I thought back on the reception of continental Africans in this country, I was somewhat ashamed. I was treated MUCH better there than they are treated here.
    Since that time, I’ve made a conscious effort to keep that experience in my frontal lobe, for I want to be among those who return the love. Much success to you dear Brother . . . in your travels . . . and in your representations of Blacks in America . . .

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