From Our Readers

Here are some letters from our concerned readers:

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(These letters from Rev. Edwards were forwarded to us by Mr. Oswald Baptiste at Afropanavision)

From Rev. Nelson Edwards – 24 July 2008

All burials in Corozal effected after the year 2000 has a annual fee which if not paid will cause the unearthing of the buried after 2 years [sanitary law requirement period for unearthing]. Some of these previous preserved graves have been re used by permission of survivors causing the application of the annual fee from there on. The mayor informed me also that most of the burials occuring at Corozal are gang related.

The reason being that most municipal cemeteries are now in mid city [cities have grown around them: Chorillo, Ciudad Radial, Pueblo Nuevo] thus posing a threat during violence eruptions at these funerals to nearby residents/passersby. Corozal offers a somewhat isolated open air place where cops can be posted even in the trees to be able to handle the violence which usually erupts at these rival gangs funerals. Since gang members are mostly poor folks, no further payments are made after the burial causing the remains to be unearthed and thrown into the heap. This can and will become a stepping stone in an historical site.

Just things to be considered before any definite action[s] may be taken.

nelson “cabeza” ’08

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From Rev. Nelson Edwards- 24 July 2008

I apologize for not being more detailed but I believed that after all the communication going back and forth around 2 years ago, everyone was informed per the Corozal cemetery.

I will summarize: At one point [approx 2 years ago] there were some pics in the “Visitor” [bilingual tourist local news paper] of many “rest of” caskets/coffins unearthed and stock piled in a heap the grave diggers themselves called “pataconcito”. It emulates Cerro Patacon the major land fill [dump] here in Panama. It was said that these were the rests of “long time burials being unearthed”: Our forefathers. US Government never unearthed graves in Corozal and I am sure had they done so they would not have piled the remains right in the cemetery as an eye sore to mourners burying their dead. A call to the Cemetery Dept in Panama by Lic. Carmela Gobern revealed a promise by the superintendent that “no grave inherited [burial prior to the turnover of the cemetery to Panama] will be unearthed”.

Not being satisfied with the oral promise and being aware of the fleetness of promises here, I decided to seek something in writing to hold on to just in case for the future. I went to the government office {ARI} in charge of the “turnover properties” and obtained the only document [they say] which exists: the turnover of 14, 300 from the ARI to the Municipio de Panama. All government/municipal cemeteries [which Corozal has now become] has an annual fee payment per grave. Nowhere does the document mention a exclusion of payment for anyone. We understand that since the early nineties [canal diggers] burials no longer have survivors and also as part of historic heritage, these graves should not be touched nor have a payment fee, but there is nothing in writing found to this effect. I made an appointment and commented this issue with the mayor who asked: Since the Panamanian government does not apportion a maintenance sum for the upkeep of NO cemetery and our folks don’t wish to pay the maintenance fee, what do we expect?

The conversation ended favorably when he sent me over to the cemeteries superintendent to give me a written note whereby these graves will not be unearthed [at least] before 2009 [which is when his authority ends].

When anyone tell me: “they can’t dig up the Canal Digger graves [especially under the condition that they are not being paid annually for], I ask them for the law or decree forbidding this in writing which is never shown.

When we speak of internationally protected sites and obtaining funding for maintenance of the same, the issue sounds great but we need to have some assurance [again, in writing] that all the future governments are willing to obey this request.

I believe in my heart that the site will be respected, but having a written note specifying “until 2009” can become a two edged sword. I don’t believe we should take this situation for granted because it will be a shame that funds are invested to make the site historic and the government decides to do otherwise.

nelson “cabeza” ’08

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From Rev. Nelson Edwards- 22 July 2008

Observing the first paragraph in this present message, I see the cemeteries issue once more.

Just 2 short weeks ago I decided to suggest to our brothers and sisters here who are running along with/accompanying the political aspirants to have them [the politicians] make a signed promise to these effects. While my parents are both buried in Mt Hope, I know nothing about this cemetery’s maintenance status, but during the past many months I have been behind the Corozal Cemetery issue [I have no one there].

Up till yesterday I officiated at a Burial in Corozal and one of the participants voiced: They can’t dig up any of the old timers because there is a law…” I asked him to please cite the law for me and he couldn’t. I will be happy the day someone confirmed this law or executive order. I corrected him on how wrong he was. If there is a law its hidden from us [anyone can guess why].

I went to the Autoridad de la Region Interoceánica [ARI] and there is nothing in writing to such. I went to the Corozal Battle Monumnet to see how they got the American Section in Corozal and was given a copy of the executive decree where the US President signed their occupation into the neutrality treaty before the turnover [smart move]. I went personally to the Mayors Office since the cemeteries are under his authority and he sent me to the Superintendent of cemeteries [Lic. Nilza caballero] who gave me a personal letter whereby: “This government promises not to unearth any of the 14,00 greaves inherited with the turnover [and this is where the catch comes in] until the year 2009”.

For anyone with a clear understanding, the unearthing of our forefathers is conditioned to whatever the new government wants to do unless someone can produce a written document whereby this can’t be done.

With everyone hollering: They can’t do it and having no written fundamental, I am sometimes afraid of what will occur.

I am more willing to go along fighting for this than fighting because they won’t let us into the local bars and discotheques.

nelson “cabeza” ’08

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From Mr. Oswald Baptiste18 July 2008

We at AfroPanaVisions can hardly wait to see these two cemeteries rendered more pleasant (as memorials) with beautiful buildings, neatly arranged gravestones, manicured lawns, chapel, map rooms, and country club-like surroundings similar to the cemeteries of the “Zonians” on the former CZ. We wish for a peaceful resting place whereby our children, and those of us in the US, would be able make pilgrimage-tours of these cemeteries-memorials of our ancestral heroes who made the supreme sacrifice for mankind and their children’s country, the ‘Silvermen,’ in particular. Our best wishes to Mr. Reid for a most successful conclusion of his efforts. Keep pushing Roberto, we wholeheartedly support you!

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5 responses to “From Our Readers

  1. Mr. Hummer,

    Thank you for stopping by and leaving us a note about your concerns.

    We share your feelings about the current practices of charging for upkeep of the old historical graves of our revered Silvermen. In general, however, we are finding that we have to do an enormous re-education campaign in Panama and in the U.S. about the concept of valuing one’s ancestry since, in Panama in particular, people have a very “impermanent” view on life. Ancestry and honoring your family history and forefathers is a new concept with very little relevance in the lives of many people. You only have to look at the public cemeteries in the Republic to agree with this observation. We also think that it is barbaric how many historic graves have been dug up lately without the knowledge of the Westindian community.

    Ancestry and heritage, in fact, have sparked a great deal of worldwide interest today and we have received overwhelming support from many people and groups both here and abroad. Knowing their origins and the people of their family line have become, for many, as important as their other basic necessities.

    Again, thank you for stopping by, and we applaud your great effort in creating the Canal Museum in Florida. Thank you also for your support.

    RR

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  2. I am the descendent of a Gold Man and was happy to be a part of the end of the historical division of cultures. This website is a proud and effective way to preserve the legacy of the Silvermen who played such a crucial role in what has become the major resource of Panama.

    I am appalled with the practice of charging rent on these historical graves and the unearthing of remains for failure to pay such rents. It is hard to believe such barbarism exists and I applaud all who are fighting to correct this practice.

    Our museum prepared an exhibit honoring the West Indian workers during the construction of the Panama Canal.

    Keep up the fine work you are doing.

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  3. This is an outstanding job that you and Lydia have here. I haven’t gone through it all, but looking at the contents, it is a tremendous compilations of all the legacy given to us by our West Indian forefathers. I look forward to “exploring” the site and will recommend to others to view it also.

    Maurice(Brada)Henry

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    • Coming from you, Brada, that is an honor. Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. We appreciate all our readers and especially those who take some time to give us their impressions. Please do come back and check our pages as the coming weeks will bring much more about the legacy our Silvermen and Women ancestors have left us.

      RR

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  4. Roberto, thanks for this wonderful site. It is with pleasure to congratulate you on your endeavor. I feel obligated to piggy back on Rev. Nelson’s comments (via Afropanavision’s Osvaldo Baptiste).

    We grew up in the same townsite that you have mentioned – “Pa’riso”(sic). Back in the day it was the short cut between “Downdiroad and Lollypop” and also a secured hiding place…wattating.

    I am sending this comment due to the concern we have for our forefathers, other relatives, neighbors, friends, et. all, that are buried in Corozal and Mt. Hope Cemeteries. I have written and spoken to both Rev. Edwards and my former high school classmate Lic. Carmela Gobern regarding our family’s personal experience with the unearthing of our loveone’s grave. So who knows how many more have, will be, or are being unearthed at this moment…

    I made a committment to assist in anyway that I can, so feel free to contact me anytime.

    Keep on keeping on my Brother ’cause a “Change is going to come” .

    Regards,

    Ed

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