Poetic Tribute to the Silver People – Part 3

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West Indian workers arriving in Panama aboard the “Cristobal.” Image is property of the ACP.

Before we bid farewell to the month of August during this year of remembrance, we wanted to post the last two poems written by our contributing poet, Mr. Louis Emanuel.  They sum up vividly how many of us felt years ago and even today.  As he put it in his message to us, “Many of us can relate to this…” Continue reading

Poetic Tribute to the Silver People – Part 2

This photo is of a derailment at Bas Obispo in 1886- the French Railroad days. Note the Jamaican workers - See more at: http://thesilverpeoplechronicle.com/2007/02/jamaican-workers-on-american.html#sthash.hj31A3gz.dpuf

This photo is of a derailment at Bas Obispo in 1886- the French Railroad days. Note the Jamaican workers.

Here are two more poems by Mr. Louis Emanuel during this period of recognition to our Silver ancestors.

The Train

This railroad was built, many years ago
In the US this idea, was concocted as known
To move gold from west, to northeastern shores
Crisscrossing the isthmus, since then until now.

History recalls, those contractors of yore
Imported Asiatics, as the labour force
Not adapted to the harsh, tropical woes
Many perished, escaped, hid, who knows.

The railroad company, desperate for men
To Jamaica they went, and hired right then
Whom brought this venture, to an early end
The trains are rolling, right round’ the bend.

While awash in nostalgia, I have often recalled
Many miles of tracks, from Colon to Panama
Steam engine in tow, and passenger cars for all.
Thus I ponder, why such things had to pass.

No longer the transport, for many ingots of gold
Nor for our Diggers, from the great ditch, of old
Diesel engines, haul containers, stacked twofold
The leisure cars can be pricey, so I have been told.

**********

An ode to the men, whom came to Panama as the main
labor force to build the world’s seventh wonder, The
Panama Canal. And whilst doing so perished leaving
behind their wives, mothers children, and loved ones.

Sorrows

The land is parched, sugarcane won’t grow
On this island, the economy is very slow
My husband’s earnings, so abysmally low
I am with child, which he is soon to know.

He paces the fields daily, and is very sad
And vies for work, earning whatever he can
Contractor work, in some faraway land
As a last resort, is shrouding his plans.

My darling husband, please do not leave
I am carrying our child, consider my plea
You must be here, when I do conceive
To greet our firstborn, honey, let it be.

One dreary morning, I rush to the dock
Men boarding a ship, waving nonstop
My dearest husband, is amidst the lot
I prayed Lord, please bring them back.

His letters I cherish, so often each month
The earnings sent home, begins to mount
Our child in waiting, soon to be born
The days seems as years, since he’s gone.

Received that letter, on a sad gloomy day
My beloved, will no longer, come my way
He was blown to bits, on Contractor Hill
Dynamite explosion, many Diggers killed.

I screamed, cried out loud, this is not true
He promised to return home, so very soon
Then I prayed, Father in the heavens above
To bless, comfort him, with thy eternal love.

Louis Emanuel

Poetic Tribute to the Silver People – Part 1

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This post is the first in a series of three posts sharing the poetic talents of one of our contributing poets, Mr. Louis Emanuel, who was born in Panama City and now resides in New York. He tells us that he graduated from the Artes y Oficios Secondary Schoool in 1961 and that he was immediately accepted into the Panama Canal Apprenticeship Program and assigned to the Industrial Division in Mount Hope.  After two years he migrated to New York. Then spent four years in the U.S. Army and later received an Associate Degree in Arts at a N.Y. University. He finally retired from the N.Y. City Transit Authority with the title of Supervisor, after 21 years service. His talent as a poet, is what we wish to highlight here on our Heritage pages during this times of paying tribute to our Silver People of Panama. PleaseeEnjoy reading these first two poems. Continue reading

An Ode to the Panama Canal on its First Centenary Experience

Mrs. Shirley Johnson

Mrs. Shirley Johnson

The following is a contribution from a member of our Silver People Community,  Mrs. Shirley Johnson, the Superintendent of Sunday Schools at the Wesley Methodist Church in downtown Panama City.  She is sharing it with us because, as she expressed to us, it comes from the heart during this historical moment in the history of the Silver People of Panama who had so much to do with the successful building and completion of the Panama Canal.  It is a fitting tribute. 

As we look back and try to keep abreast with the fascinating history and life – line of our canal we could fervently call it: The National Inter oceanic Canal of Panama. Because it was given to our nation by God; and He gave it to a place where many foreigners and local citizens have tried so hard to do something worthwhile, something of value for the present and future generations of this land.

Then, at length, after the numerous exoduses of foreign nations trying hard to dig high and low in order to pursue their ultimate goal, which was: the construction of an inter oceanic canal through the narrow pathway of the isthmus of Panama, which today is known to be,  “The eighth wonder of the world”. Thanks be to God! It was really the french government under the direction of Ferdinand Lesseps and, most of all, the British West Indian workers who finally accomplished the masterpiece of the Panama Canal’s construction, project which was also shared with the government of the United States of America.

Today, the Panama Canal and its wonders continues to function as a strong witness of our “rich heritage” which remains tenderly in our hearts. It’s really ironic for us to plunge into the past to recall the many obscure days and years of uncalled for discrimination and cruel treatment our forefathers received from our former employer who today has been simply thrown out of this project. (The Torrijos – Carter treaty signed 1977; the Canal was reverted in 1999).

So, as you may see, we have quite a rainbow of nations in our midst making our country a great cosmopolitan host who is able to generously attend people from around the world.  Our people are prone and dedicated to do this. We usually give our visitors the best we have to offer: our homes, our hearts and our treasures; not withstanding the cost of whatever we must do to make our guests enjoy their stay in Panama as long as possible. Therefore whenever they leave this country we are sure they’ll carry the better part of us in their hearts for keeps.

The Panama Canal is our unforgettable and perpetual heritage and we must be proud of its stability, continuous progress and of the great amount of quality human resource who came to accomplish this outstanding project for us. In conclusion, I’ll bring to memory just a few of our West Indian Men and Women who have left us a legacy of their God-giving talent and life style which is worthy to be mention for the benefit of the growing new generation.

This portion will help them to realize that black history is not only based upon or related to their culinary efficiency, or dancing and dressing ability – No, it goes beyond that. They are as follows: outstanding Black Panamanians! News reporters editors of daily news papers, vocalists, religious leaders, doctors and others:

1. David Constable; the Panama America News Reporter 2. George Westerman; the first Panamanian to represent our country at the United Nations. He also was owner and editor of The Panama Tribune, a Saturday daily newspaper only in English 3. Sidney Young; assistant editor and publisher of The Panama Tribune  4. Mr. Ernest Jamieson also news reporter of the Panama Tribune his articles were entitled “Drops and Turnovers” every Saturday.  5. Two prestigious vocalists: Madame Olga King; She received a gold medallion honoring her talent. Ms. Esmey Foster a dynamic soprano with a voice that filled the church and the hearts therein when she sang.  6. Mr. Henry Hairwood senior man of extraordinary expertise on wood work – who made the large benches of our Wesley Church that have remained through the years.  7. Lic Hugo Wood, Radio communicator (Hog Radio Station).  8.  Religious Leader, Dr Ephraim S. Alphonse who taught the Guaymies language at the National University of Panama (to age 75) translated the 4 gospels to Guaymi, a Dictionary the prayerbook and a Hymnal Book,  9. Doctor Fiffe, Dr. Lindo and Dr. Charlie Fairweather the best black doctors in the Republic in their time. 10. Sir Arthur Pyle a Poet- one of the many.  Indeed this gives us the assurance that our people are capable of overcoming many challenges today as they did in the past.

May God continue to bless our country, our people and our canal which now has victoriously reached its first centennial of laboring experience.

Happy Centennial to our Canal!

Shirley Johnson

The Silver People and the British Presence in Panama

British Minister Hugo Swire standing next to

British Minister Hugo Swire standing next to Roberto Roy, Minister of Canal Affairs

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Plaque unveiling

The event officials joined by Reverend Ruthibell Livingston.

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Rev. Ruthibell Livingston joined by Ing. Wesley Jones Alphonse (grandson of the late Bishop Efraìn Alphonse), and two of our guests from the Comité Pro Colón, Camilo Santos and Arline Rushing.

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Another view of the Plaque.

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Roberto Reid flanked by two members of the SAMAAP group.

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Left to Right: Ing. Wesley Jones Alphonse (grandson of the late Bishop Efraín Alphonse), and Lic. Tomás Edghill from the Wesley Methodist Church.

The morning of Thursday, July 17, the Miraflores Visitors’ center was buzzing with the voices of excitement and expectation.  The leaders of three groups of the West Indian Panamanian community, at the request of the British Embassy, had managed to bring together many old and new faces, to this historic event: the unveiling of a memorial tribute, a bronze plaque,  commemorating the enormous contribution of our British West Indian forefathers in the construction of the Panama Railroad and the Panama Canal in both the French and American periods, the hardest parts of the labor which had been left to them. Continue reading