The New Locks of the Panama Canal- Nothing Like What Our Grandfathers Achieved

This is an image of a portion of the Pacific side locks.  They look like a siv

This is an image of a portion of the new Pacific side locks. Honestly it looks like a sieve.

This is my grandfather, Joshua Austin Reid.  From his Pan Canal work recod "badge" photo, 1919.

This is my grandfather, Joshua Austin Reid. From his Pan Canal work recod “badge” photo, 1919.  He was one of the Jamaican Bosses.

By now most of us, both here in Panama and abroad, have been witness to the shameful images of the shoddy workmanship done on the “completed” new locks of the widened Panama Canal by the GUPC (Grupos Unidos por el Canal), a project valued at 4, 357 million dollars (almost 4 and a half billion dollars). I cannot help but reflect on the incomparable work of our ancestors, the black West Indian workmen, who worked tirelessly under the strict supervision of their American employers to complete the particularly demanding work on the Canal locks just about 101 years ago. Continue reading

Rass Not Spoken Here!

Making light of the scramble for the Metro of Panama money.

Making light of the scramble for the Metro of Panama money.

Rass
1.West Indian term referring to the behind.
2.Can also be a word used to enhance any sentence.
3.Used when angry
urban dictionary

A short while ago, not only I but a roomful of visitors to the University of Panama received a cold and rather unfriendly “welcome” to a poetry recital of sorts in which I had been invited to participate. I was summarily cut off from my recitation of a poem I composed using the English of my grandfathers. What followed was a litany of “Spanish Only” poetic voices, much to my outrage and chagrin. Even our audience, full of distinguished people from all parts of the Caribbean and the U.S.A. were sternly put wise that they were in a Spanish speaking country and being hosted by a monolingual university. At least, that was how we were made to feel. I could not hang around and listen to the rest of the hypocritical blah, blah that followed. Continue reading

A Digger’s Story

Contractor's Hill about 1910.  The breaking down of this massive piece of solid rock was a tremendous and dangerous undertaking and the black, West Indian Silvermen met the challenge.  The image is thanks to the Library of Congress.

Contractor’s Hill about 1910. The breaking down of this massive piece of solid rock was a tremendous and dangerous undertaking and the black, West Indian Silvermen met the challenge. The image is thanks to the Library of Congress.

The poem we are honored to post today is about the memories that many of the Silvermen preferred not to remember, much less recount. But, Louis Emanuel, our friend and resident poet – and chronicler- has a sharp recall for the accounts his grandfather rendered of the perils he and his companions encountered as part of the digging backbone of the Silver Roll work crews in the early construction days of the Panama Canal.  Continue reading

Mashup

My beloved Auntie Berenice Charles, 1912-2005

My beloved Auntie Berenice Charles, 1912-2005

Although passed on to Glory now since 2005, my beloved Auntie Berenice, who worked on the Panama Canal Zone as a maid and, finally, a cook, all her life, never leaves my side at my writing desk. It was from her that I learned about the Westindians of Panama and grew to love and understand our English patois.  Continue reading

The Panamanian Retirees’ Breakfast Club- More Insights

As promised, we’re providing our readers with another opportunity to examine additional pages from the unique journal published by The Panamanian Retirees’ Breakfast Club. We’re encouraged to do this labor of “Love,” in fact, due to the enthusiastic readership we are seeing on many of our articles relating to our culture in Panama. This theme has never lost its attraction here in our republic or oversees, however, lately the question regarding racism in Panama has raised constructive discussion about how we blacks of Panama have taken charge and have promoted our own cultural expressions, especially those that we have inherited from our Silver ancestors. Continue reading