Growing up I always had a piece of tortilla and a small cup of coffee for breakfast. Yes, I ate the same thing almost every morning. My parents did not have enough money to buy anything else. Many times I took my piece of tortilla to school and sold it to a classmate for 10 cents. Dad used to wake up at 3:30 am to milk the cows and then sell the milk to a local dealer. He earned approximately $4 per day. Some of our neighbors used to call dad ‘Andres Plata.’ Plata means ‘money’ in Panama, so ‘Andres Plata’ roughly translates to ‘Andres The Rich.’ Yes, we were better off than some people, but we were not rich. Our neighbors thought my family was rich just because we owned a few cows. A few cows gave us some sort of ‘status’ within the community.
I spent every Christmas Break in Panama City. My parents did not have enough money to buy me presents, so they sent me to my godmother’s house for the holidays. Every year she bought me new clothes, shoes, and school supplies. She lived in a middle-class neighborhood and had a nice car. I loved visiting her because I did not have to eat tortilla! She always made ham and cheese sandwiches for breakfast. I loved the sandwiches! Yes, the ham and the cheese were good, but my favorite part of the sandwich was the sliced bread. I only ate sliced bread at her house. Every time I went to the store with my dad I asked for sliced bread, but he never bought it. He just could not afford it. I used to think that only rich people could eat sliced bread, so every time I ate sliced bread I felt very especial…I felt rich.
I am currently staying at my Godmother’s house in Panama City. This morning I had a ham and cheese sandwich for breakfast. I saw the sliced bread on my plate and I laughed a little bit…then I cried. Childhood memories suddenly started rushing into my mind. I was so innocent back then. I did not fully understand the concepts of ‘rich’ and ‘poor’…heck, what am I saying? I still do not understand what those words truly mean. I will go home Saturday Morning and finally hug my parents and my grandma. My parents still can’t afford sliced bread, but I won’t complain about the tortilla. I no longer need sliced bread to feel rich. I do not need money either; I just need to spend some quality time with my family.