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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Artifacts: Art and Facts

In North America and in Panamá, and probably everywhere else in this hemisphere, students are taught in school only about history after the arrival of the Europeans – a clear ethnocentrism in which the subliminal message is not just that pre-Columbian Native American history is not worth mentioning, but that Native Americans are themselves not equal to those Europeans.

This double standard, I think, is especially devastating for Native

American students throughout the Americas. Here in Paso Ancho, where I live, the student body at the local primary school is eighty-five percent Ngobe Bugle. Yet the staff, which is entirely composed of Panamanians (people of Latino culture and claimed Latino descent), teaches only Spanish and not Ngobe Bugle, teaches history only since the “arrival” (i.e., bloody religious and political conquest) of the Conquistadores, teaches only Panamanian dance and music. These Native American children are educated into Panamanians in Ngobe Bugle bodies, never hearing a word about their culture or heritage, like it doesn’t exist. And I believe even the fifteen percent who are Panamanian students suffer too, from never being exposed to the joy of learning about this great civilization that once flourished here, and is still struggling to survive.

The signs are everywhere of the great Native American presence. I

went to what is called an Archæological Institute, situated on a working farm, and was stunned by the beautiful works of ancient art dug up right there. An institute it isn’t – my companions and I were given a tour by the farmer’s son

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