Solely to ponder that our forefathers “The Silver Men” have, since the nineteenth century, been one of the key sources of economic and social advancement for the whole of humanity simply boggles the mind. That we continue to face historic segregation and discrimination, however, is still an awesome issue to be faced now as in the time of our ancestors. Though we were the hands, shoulders and brains of the world’s push for modernity, our sense of community has faltered greatly to the brink of disappearance. Today, nearly ten years after reversion, we still suffer the same feelings of isolation that our forefathers felt even after the inauguration of the Panama Canal.
Historically, our attitude towards “community,” that special endowment or feeling of power needed to combat our common enemies in Panama, has been to join with them. Whether it has been “for the good of the children” or not, we, the children, their descendants whom they sacrificed so much for, continue to be plagued with the ills of myopic separation.
From our perspective our history would describe us as a community acting in a prescribed role even to the point that we have been separated the one from the other, barely able to even see ourselves as part of the Westindians of the Caribbean basin. Whether Spanish or English speaking, our separateness has generated a distinct reticence and a fear between us. We are so reluctant to recognize our historic and cultural link to one another that we are often loath to even say “How do you do?” when we meet as strangers on the street anywhere in the world.
The constant dispersions over the years to the industrial areas of north-eastern United States, rather than uniting us, have further hampered the sense of unity we have so much needed to reverse that familiar “cold shoulder” we are so accustomed to meeting in our community, especially in the capital city of Panama.
Whether in the barrios or ghettos, or in the major urban centers, those of us who have never lived on the Black Canal Zone retain a direct ancestry with those who did. Regardless of where in the Panama of our collective memory we lived as Blacks or “Chombos” we are from one root- The Silver People– who started out as laborers on the Panama Canal Zone. This is a fact that overwhelmingly unites us.
Dispersed in body and spirit, as black people we have been “incarcerated” as our laboring ancestors, having grown up on minimum wage expectations. Many of us in our yearning for education have been lead to finally accept teaching positions that eventually leave us in the same position it has for the minimum wage people in private industry, thereby, once again, limiting our economic reach.
Therefore, monetary support from persons on minimum wage from schools, colleges and universities- institutions that only see us as perpetual “adjuncts,” or what a friend of mine calls, “junk professors” and end up retiring on very small salaries- have little wherewithal to support our efforts at rescuing our intangible cultural heritage. Your letters of support to government representatives and powerful organized churches can add up and make a great difference achieving our goals.
The manifest negligence we descendants see expressed towards our cultural past is just a small part of our own complacency that continues to destroy us as a people and the Silver cemeteries are just a part of this continuing saga of our struggle for our Human Rights here in Panama, in the United States and anywhere else in the world that has been touched by our heritage.
Your letters of support and your renewed sense of pride in being elevated in stature just by being acknowledged as descendants of The Silver People of Panama will go a long way to support us in seeking perpetual care for our heroic people buried at Mount Hope, Corozal and Paraiso. Such recognition is what we all need to empower us to bring to fruition this first rescue and conservation job.