Panama 2017: Big Guy Arrives

Gloria has come a long way since the early years when she struggled to feel as if she belonged poolside with us, much less in the pool. Her first employer here, Sra. Patricia, made a point of treating Gloria like a servant, and would never have tolerated Gloria’s presence where hotel guests and villa owners congregate.

As you can see here, Gloria is normally very comfortable in the pool. But that old social class distinction reared its head — a surprise to her — while we were having lunch and Sr. Vallarino, the rich guy who is head of the wealthy group that owns the entire complex, arrived. She became instantly uncomfortable, which she verbalized. I was glad to know, so we could talk about it. I asked her what she thought might happen. She said she was afraid he might come over to our table and tell her she didn’t belong, to go back with the servants. She said that would make her ashamed.

I said if he did that I’d punch him in the nose. My pretend fierceness  made her laugh, and she recovered her equilibrium.

But look how deep that learned sense of social class inferiority goes, and how even after all this time, the fear of being shamed is there to be awakened.


11 thoughts on “Panama 2017: Big Guy Arrives

  1. I can see Gloria’s concerns. As Americans most of us are egalitarian. With the exception of the super rich American and the homeless, most Americans live in a socially equalizing culture.

    I watched the entire Downston Abbey series on PBS that took place in the 1920s in Britain. At that time the elite class had staff including cooks, ladies maids, butlers, footmen, and others. The staff had titles and were considered to be ‘in service ‘, a noble career. The staff did eat and sleep in separate, and simpler quarters. On special occasions, e.g. concerts and church services, the nobility and staff mixed. When the Lords driver fell in love with and married the Lord’s daughter, there was a big stir amongst nobility an staff.

    Downton Abbey is an accurate reflection of 100 years ago in Britain. It seems these mores have not changed in Panama, which is more akin to the Philippines in my observation. Time does march on. I believe that empowering Gloria and talented workers that cook, clean and care for others is an uphill journey. The egalitarian and family centered Tia Pamela, family and friends are the catalysts for social change in Rio Hato. Bravo!

  2. for Katie: I find the comparisons with culture in the Philippines interesting, and I”m sure your observations are accurate. It is an uphill march, but I trust that the next generation — the kids who are now teens — will take bigger steps.

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