I don’t have tons of memories of my first couple of trips to Panama at the young ages of 4 and 5, but there are certain things that stick out. Eggs being served at some event related to Tia Ilka’s wedding. Swiping a fingerful of frosting from the wedding cake as soon as Tia Mirna had turned away to attend to something else. The matching dresses Tia Mirna had made for me and my primas. Lying in a beach hammock at Gorgona with my mother and my brother.
I also remember being cranky one night, wanting all of the people (a.k.a. relatives) partying late into the night at my nana’s house in the neighborhood of Rio Abajo to go home so I could go to sleep. For whatever complicated reason, based on stubborn kindergartener logic, I had decided that even though I was exhausted I was simply too inconvenienced by their presence to allow myself to give in to the sleep. My mom says I even asked her in desperation, “Why don’t all these people go home?!”
Anyhow, back in the days of the house in Rio Abajo, my mom, my brother and I would sleep in my mother’s old room – the one she had occupied before she married my father and migrated to the U.S. I think all three of us may have even slept in one single twin bed (I was only 4 or 5 and Igmar was a toddler…but still!). From what I remember the room was quite bare and plain, but something about the memories of it evokes feelings of home, comfort, coziness. When I came across this picture of my mother, taken long before she knew she’d end up with children with crazy names like Anulkah and Igmar, I knew instantly it was that room – not so much from sight but from that feeling. The feeling of nana’s house.
The other day, I heard my mom laugh while talking on the phone with one of her sisters and realized that the sort of laughter that erupted from her at that moment – where she’s laughing so hard her eyes are closed and the giggles are absolutely uncontrollable – most often hits her when she’s talking with one of her sisters. Tere and Hilarion had five girls and one boy. I’m not sure how Tio Lucho handled being the only man in the family after their father passed away, but here’s a look at the ladies he had to deal with.
Though they all live in different states, I don’t think there’s a day that goes by that at least one of these sisters doesn’t talk to at least one other.
All of my life people have told me I resemble my mother, and in my personal opinion this is the most striking photographic evidence.
The first time I saw this picture I wondered why my mom would put a picture of me in an album full of photos taken before I was even born. It wasn’t until I examined the faces surrounding the young woman in the red top that I realized it was my mom, not me.
A couple of months ago my mom gave me an old album of hers. It was filled with pictures that had been taken before she ever moved to the United States. I’m thankful for this priceless and timeless gift.
Out of all the pictures, the one I was most excited to come across was this one. It’s all of the Vallee-Colombs in one picture, looking quite groovy if I don’t say so myself.
would’ve turned 90 years old so I just wanted to take a quick moment to say, “Happy birthday abuelo!”
His birthday happens to fall on a day that is very important to Catholics in Panama and is also ardently observed by many followers outside the country as well. October 21st is El Dia del Cristo Negro de Portobelo. People form all over the country journey to the small town of Portobelo to pay homage to the statue of a Black Jesus (one of many found in Latin America) that has resided there since 1658. When he was alive, my grandfather was among the many that would make this trip each year.
Unfortunately, Hilarion did not live past the age of 37. I wonder, would a 90 year old Hilarion still have been making that pilgramage? Judging by how sharp and feisty some of my oldest Medicare clients are, I can definitely say it’s a possibility we can not rule out!
A few fun facts about El Cristo Negro de Portobelo:
El Cristo Negro de Portobelo is the saint for singers.
None other than the queen of salsa, Celia Cruz, was known to join this pilgramage on occasion.
Another great salsero, Ismael Rivera, recorded “El Nazareno” in honor of El Cristo Negro de Portobelo.
You can go here for a short news peice on this year’s gathering at the church of San Felipe in Portobelo.