Panama Day 16: The Bone Collector

Arturo was an abandoned boy that Gloria and her family took in at the behest of their youngest, Luis, who had met Arturo around the pickup basketball court. Arturo, Luis said, needed a family. The Samanegos are a family. He asked Gloria and Luis why they couldn’t take Arturo in. Good souls that they are, they did. That was in 2010, when Arturo was 12. He looked much younger. Arturo had never been to school, lived God knows where, grabbed or stole food where he could. Small and thin and innocent looking, he was being used as a drug mule by his father.

Arturo lasted a year, before the structure of living with a family became too much for him and he went back to the streets, leaving a heartbroken Gloria. He participated in Gloria and Luis’ wedding in 2011, and ran away the week after.

Arturo returned to a life of petty crime, and was shot in the chest by local Rio Hato police in 2014 at the age of 15. He was unarmed. Gloria says he was never violent. She thinks the police were simply fed up with him, and decided to end it.

The saga of Arturo is long, and if you want to read more you can enter “Arturo” in the search box on the blog page and his posts will come up. The pic below is from the time Gloria was still hopeful, before he ran away and a couple of years before he was killed. He didn’t look much older at 15 than he does here. Doesn’t look like a gang banger either, does he?

Arturo’s father in the village and his mother who’d long ago left for Panama City to have another family certainly weren’t going to pay to have him buried. Arturo had an older brother who was not yet working, and two younger sisters. A distant family member loaned Gloria and Luis the grave below, unmarked, and Arturo was buried there with the understanding that when the family member needed the grave, Arturo’s remains would be removed. Apparently this is still common in the village cemetery, as it was during the Peace Corps years. A person who has been buried three or more years and is mostly bones is taken out and put into a much smaller square cement ossuary, like the container behind the yellow flowers in the grave pic below. That one, unfortunately, is already occupied. A  new one will have to be built, a new space found.

The family member needs the grave now, and Arturo’s remains must be removed. Like the requirement that the official Prayer Lady lead the rosary following someone’s death and be paid for doing so, the official Bone Collector must be paid to gather the bones and re-inter them. Arturo’s brother is now working, but so far hasn’t come up with the money. If no one else does, Gloria and Luis will see to Arturo’s re-burial.

A few months ago, Arturo’s sisters came to Gloria to ask if she had a picture of their brother to share with them. They were little girls when he died, and they loved him and miss him. She had many pictures from the wedding, and was happy to give them one.

The beach pic was in 2011, just before he ran away.


2 thoughts on “Panama Day 16: The Bone Collector

  1. for Phyllis: Yes. Gloria and her family tried so hard with this boy, and he tried. A tragedy all the way around.

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