In our attempts at restoring our once vibrant and prosperous Westindian Panamanian heritage here in Panama, we have embarked upon presenting a Bill in our country’s National Assembly. History has demanded such protection and safeguarding to place us where we rightfully and legally belong after centuries of abuses which included the denying of our humanity and culture.
Few attempts have been made since the nefarious passage of the 1941 Constitution in which our beloved Republic of Panama had classified us descendants as a prohibited citizen class to finally:
1. Identify us and recognize us as a significant ethnic group of Panama.
2. To establish and legitimize our nationality once and for all as Panamanian citizens.
3. To establish our culture and heritage as a legitimate cultural expression of the Panamanian people.
4. To establish our uniqueness and distinctive racial and cultural identity as Westindian Panamanians and not solely Afro-Antillanos, as there are many Afro-Antillean groups who are Spanish speaking, who do not necessarily share our history and development in the country of Panama.
5. To establish the fact that we were the largest ethnic group laboring in the country of Panama, before the Canal and during its initial construction period, and that our labor and intellectual prowess was crucial in its completion and effective operation.
6. To identify the presence and culture of the Black Canal Zone and the Westindian “Barrio Circuits,” as a natural culture and valuable heritage worthy of safeguarding as intangible cultural heritage, Mr. George Westerman outlined in his studies and the various UNESCO human rights Conventions has established since 1948-2005.
7. To establish the fact that ours was a systematically weakened and demoralized culture and that both the governments of the U.S. and Panama participated in carrying out a methodical or calculated program of weakening and “invisiblizing” the culture, history and contributions as Black Westindian Panamanian Silver people, making us invisible and excluded from the Panamanian cultural, social and political mainstream even of the international community.
In this “Proyecto de Ley,” as it is referred to in Panama, since it is at the Bill stage, we discuss many things pertinent to our Intangible Cultural Heritage, protection against cultural theft, our exclusion from the Reversion process, the unresolved issues regarding our Panamanian citizenship, and many other errors of belief that many of us as well as our fellow citizens in Panama have harbored for many decades. We also call for public recognition, compensation and restitution. The introduction is rather lengthy but it serves to prepare the reader for the text of the Bill which is rather “legalese.”
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We promise to keep you updated on the developments behind this Bill as we are keeping a running log of our activities in regards to this important piece of legislation. For the very first time in our history in Panama we will be “defined” and placed on the Heritage Cultural map in the world’s atlas of diversity.