How many times have we read boastful statements from high educational leaders in our big newspapers that while other countries ignore the history and culture of the United States, our educational system does instruct our children in the history and traditions of other countries?
As far as instruction in the most elementary knowledge of Latin America is concerned, we are forced to state that what our children receive is a hodgepodge of romantic generalities and chauvinistic declarations spread further and wider by Hollywood movies.
We do not have to emphasize that the people are not to blame.
Blame rests on those persons and reactionary forces that represent and defend the interests of finance capital in education.
Last summer my wife and I had an experience that could be presented as proof of our assertion.
“Look, Jesus, look!” said my wife pointing excitedly to a junk truck in front of the building that was being torn down. A truck full of the accumulated debris of many years was parked with its rear to the sidewalk, littered with pieces of brick and powdered cement
Atop the driver’s cabin of the truck and protruding like a spangled banner, was a huge framed picture of a standing figure. Upon his breast was a double line of medals and decorations.
“Did you notice who the man was in that framed picture?” my wife asked insistently as the bus turned the comer of Adams and Fulton Street.
“Who,” I answered absent-mindedly.
“Bolivar,” my wife shouted.
“Who did you say he was?” I inquired as if unduly awakened from a daze.
“Bolivar, Bolivar,” my wife repeated excitedly and then she added, “and to think that he is being thrown out into a junk truck,” she stammered in a breaking voice.
We got out of the bus in a hurry. Walked to where the truck was about to depart with the dead waste of fragments of a thousand tilings. The driver caught us staring at the picture.
“What do you want?” he shouted to us in a shrill voice above the noise of the acetylene torch and the electric hammers.
“You know who he is,” I cried back pointing at the picture tied atop the cabin of the driver’s truck like Joan of Arc tied to the flaming stake.
“I don’t know and I don’t care,” the driver counter-blasted in a still higher pitch of voice. But I noticed that there was no enmity in the tone of his voice, though loud and eardrum-breaking.
“He is like George Washington to a score of Latin American countries. He is . . .”
“You want it?” he interrupted in a more softened voice.
“Of course!” my wife answered for both of us, just about jumping with glee.
As the man was un-roping Bolivar from atop the truck cabin, the usual group of passersby started clustering around and encircling us — the truck driver, my wife, myself and Bolivar’s painting standing erect and magnificent in the middle of us all.
“Who is he, who is he?” came the question of the inquiring voices from everywhere. The crowd was huddled on top of us, as football players ring themselves together bending from their trunks down when they are making a decision before the next play. “Who is he, I mean, the man in the picture?” they continued to ask.
Nobody knew. Nobody seemed to care really. The question was asked more out of curiosity than real interest. The ones over on the third line of the circle of people craned their necks over the ones on the second and first lines upping themselves on their tip toes in order to be able to take a passing glance at the picture. “He is not an American, is he?” someone inquired from the crowd.
My wife finally answered them with a tinge of pride in her voice. “He is Simon Bolivar, the liberator of Latin America.”
Curiosity fulfilled, everybody was on his way again. Only my wife, myself and Bolivar remained.
Well, what to do next. It was obvious that the bus driver would not allow us in the bus with such a large framed painting going back home. Fortunately we have a very good American friend living in the Borough Hall neighborhood.
“I see that you are coming with very distinguished company today — Bolivar,” he said, simply and casually as if he had known it all his life.
John took some cleaning fluid and a soft rag and went over the whole frame in a loving and very tender manner.
We heard a knock at the door. In came a tall and very distinguished looking man dressed in black, a blend of Lincoln and Emerson in his personality. “He is a real representative of progressive America,” John whispered to us. The reverend spoke quietly and serenely. Looking at the picture he said just one word: