Gallery

Welcome to our cemetery image gallery! Below is a collection of some of our favorite photos and slide shows relating to the cemeteries in which our ancestors are buries.. You may download and use them- we only ask that you post a credit to this site in your own web site. Enjoy!!

The state of the resting grounds of our ancestors at the French Cemetery (Paraiso), Corozal and Mount Hope Cemeteries.

The French Cemetery:

Corozal Cemetery:

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The Jewish Section of Mt. Hope Cemetery in City of Colon, Republic of Panama.

Another Slide Show. A closer look at our ancestor’s tombs and monuments in Mount Hope Cemetery, Colon.

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57 responses to “Gallery

  1. I love reading about the West Indian people and their history here at the Silver People Heritage Foundation and the Silver People Chronicle. It is so warm and loving and comfortable and joyous despite your many hardships just because of your being black. And the memories! I think that everyone who grew up in the Canal Zone/Panama must have some similar memories of that beautiful environment. Reading Anita Cumberbatch’s account of “playing in the dirt while little insects (‘doodlebugs,’ as I called them) would just crawl out” took me way back to when I did exactly that under the house my family lived in right across from the Ancon gas station. It was for me a belated moment of kindred fellowship with Anita and probably countless other kids before and after me. Kids of all kinds have one great thing in common: they are kids, and they will all undoubtedly wind up doing similar things. And doesn’t everybody remember their old neighbors and the neighborhood stories and personalities! And as for the contrabando from the “commy,” don’t kid yourselves, there was plenty of it going to relatives in Panama from the white Canal Zone residents!

    I remember a large, friendly black woman at the Ancon Laundry. She seemed always to be there when I was a child. That’s all I knew of her, but she is probably known to the readers of the Foundation and the Chronicle. Likewise, Banana, as he was known to me and my neighborhood friends of an even earlier age (1940s) when we lived on Chagres Street, which hasn’t existed for many years. He was a West Indian fruit peddler and walked the neighborhood with a big tin washtub on his head calling out “banana, banana.” The housewives would rush out to buy his fruit, but for us kids he was almost magical, and like the Pied Piper, had a “cola” of kids following him on his route to the end of our world, a few houses beyond ours. He is for me a treasured memory, with his big, warm, and friendly somewhat toothless grin and his sailor’s walk. I wonder if anyone here knows who he was.

    The stories of mangoes and coconuts rang a chord with me. I remember the coconuts from El Mercado Central, where as a child I often accompanied my grandfather on his Sunday shopping, which was always an experience that I loved. But there was always a mango tree within reach of wherever I lived, and I sure missed them here in the US and am so glad they are now common in grocery stores, and even mamones! Those signs saying it was illegal to pick the fruit were intended to keep Panamanians out of the Zone, as a mango tree was not to be found in the concrete of Panama City! Those signs vanished, as I recall, somewhere along the line, I agree that it was fruitless, if you will, to stop people from gathering or picking mangoes once they’d tasted the fruit of Paradise and a gift from Nature to all mankind. The authorities would have had a real mess if all those mangoes had gone to rot under the trees! In my last visit to Panama, almost 15 years ago, I went to the Corozal cemetery with a group. Just inside the gate is a lovely mango tree and I just couldn’t resist! Pretty soon we were all gathering and picking mangoes like we were kids again! It was such good fun–and good eating, too! We all left carrying as many as we could!

    I never did get to know Colon or the Atlantic Side Zone communities well at all, but I do remember when Colon bustled, then seemed to decay. I can well imagine, though, that it once had “the best dressed, most sophisticated, very classy and extremely refined Panamanians.” That sort of thing seems passe these days among young people these days, reminding me of Aristotle and Plato’s writings about the bad manners and reckless passtimes of the youth in their days (https://www.google.com/search?q=aristotle+on+the+youth&rlz=1I7GGLL_en&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=ie7). Nothing, it seems has changed. Many of today’s youth of any race or country seem vulgar to me. Maybe I’m just “getting” old!

    I will end my ramblings as I began, with Anita Cumberbatch’s beautiful entry of May 12, 2008. With words she painted the scene perfectly as I remember it. I thank her so much for sharing her love of Panama!

    Reading the entries of the Heritage Foundation and the Chronicle, I feel engulfed with memories of Paradise and pine for those days. I have no one with whom to remember them except here. Carnaval, mango trees, a more elegant time… Thank you.

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  3. Thank you very much for taking the time to write this for us! I have been following your site for a while now and it has been tremendously entertaining. Great read.

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  4. Maritzel Diaz

    I am looking for information on my paternal grandmother’s family,they came during the construction of the French canal and wondered if with the names I could find anything or where his resting place is,her name is Juliette Blaitry(1893)and her parents were Armand Blaitry and Marie Beloscar.My father ‘s name is Tobias Diaz Blaitry and he lived in Panama all his life.Would appreciate any suggestions you could give me,Love the site and comments found!

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  5. Hey there, my name is Luis and I’m a fellow blogger out of Biolettes, Switzerland. I’m glad to see the
    work you’re doing on this site. Coming upon Gallery | The Silver People Heritage Foundation was refreshing and helpful in terms of writing and work. Continue the great work guys: I’ve incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I believe it will improve the worth of my web site.

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  6. What’s up to all, for the reason that I am in fact eager of reading this web site’s
    post to be updated daily. It includes pleasant data.

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  7. Appreciation to my father who told me about this blog. This webpage is
    genuinely amazing.

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  8. I love your blog, you should add an RSS feed feature so I can get automatic notifications of new blogs. If you set one up please email me! i will bookmark you for now. Again Excellent Blog!

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  9. Please give me an update on any progress, advancements or stumbling blocks. I’ve read the stories and appreciate them so very much.Let me know how i may help further this cause. My prayers will always be with you. GOD, promises to never leave us nor forsake us.GOD BLESS US ALL. Sincerely, Maria. Though your beginings be small, yet your latter end will greatly increase. That is a promise from the word of GOD!!!

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  10. Thanks for sharing your photo gallery. I definitely think that some of us should come together and contribute to the upkeeps of the “Silver” location of the cemetry.

    My great-grandfather James Phillips was an immigrant from Barbados, I trying to locate any information about him. He arrived in Panama in 1907 at the age of thirty-six.

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    • Dear Ms. Phillips,

      Our labor would not be in vain if we could just get ” some of us to come together,” and to support your idea. It has been so discouraging to us at times, but since I am sure that it has been the LORD, who has spoken to me and gotten me to stop crying over the graves of our people both in Colon and Panama, I would have given up a long time ago.

      But praise to his HOLY NAME we have remained positive and bathed in HIS strength. You keep your light burning at your end and do keep good thoughts for us in your prayers and we will find a way of getting more information about that James Phillips you so love and want to honour for his bravery and service to all mankind.

      Just dont forget us for the New Year!

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  11. My great grandfather Stephen McLeod and his son Freddy McLeod died while helping to build the Panama Canal. They were from Jamaica. I am searching for their burial record. Do records exist? Thank you for the pictures of the burial grounds.

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  12. My great grandfather Edward Isley Yearwood arrived in the Ithmus in 1907 and never returned to Barbados. We often wonder what became of him. His name does not appear in the 1930 US census, nor in the mortuary records held online. In `1919 he was a Ancon.

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    • Ms. Eaddy,

      Thank you for contacting us with your question about your great grandfather. As we are in the midst of a great deal of work concerning the records of our ancestors, we are very happy to receive queries like yours. Give us an opportunity and we will respond to you by e mail.

      Lydia

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  13. Marcia Nash-Coleman

    Thanks so much for such beautiful stories, I myself grew up in San Miguel (Church Hill).but, relocated to America at a young age. My great-grandparents was also Jamaican and St.Lucia., what beautiful memories. My cousing is Walter Tito Chandler , and my dad is Roberto Nash the baseball player for chesterfield my dad is still living in Panama. Thanks again. Keep us educated on our roots.

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  14. It is so remarkable how we discover that there was so much prejudice and injustices that was permeated during our growing-up experiences ( not only from the white gold roll section in the C.Z) but it was also prevalent in the Panamanian side of the Republic. As a former Rainbow City high school student, I later attended the Abel Bravo high school where I obtined my bachiller en ciencias diploma. There was a brilliant student in my group who is of Westindian heritage who had maintained a record of straight “A”s in the Spanish class. As a custom, outstanding students of this caliber were always invited to join the prestigious club de Espanol of the school. When the student had been denied this honor and after approaching the professor, her reply was “es un asunto de tu grupo de ascendencia”. In other words it has to do with the race to which you belong. Can you imagine that because of our naivite’ and innocence of the time we were unable to decipher what the devil she was talking about. So you see ,way into the early sixties the silver people and their off-springs were still at the receiving end of crass injustices inspite of the sacrifices that our ancestors paid in bringing this country into the twentieth century.
    Saludos gran patriota Roberto

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    • More remarkable to me is the fact that we the Silver People have amongst us so many university and college graduates, with so much to offer in homage and to show gratitude, in appreciation for the legacy we have inherited from our ancestry. Then here at the “Heritage Foundation” we do not recieve the overflow of comments we had expected from the Diaspora scattered all over the U.S. of A. and Panama. Not even in the Spanish language will they of the educated class, in both Spanish and English decendants or of our Silver People, show the courtesy of leaving comments. These few lines of comments are very important to the work we are doing on our own behalf.
      However ours is a task inspired by our God, a God that few of them really knows. I thank you and commend you for your very valuable comment and I invite you to help us by not being afraid to write letters to your elected officials in Panama or in the U.S. informing them and educating them to the issues we are currently placing before the public eye, in hopes or rescuing our historic and cultural heritage.
      Keep reading because you will find that I relate my experiences at the Collegio Abel Bravo also.

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  15. Aurora E. Hunter

    Thank you for sharing your stories. Growing up in the white Canal Zone, it never occurred to me that we were segregated–it simply was the way things were–until I came to the States to live in l964 and my eyes were opened because of the racial troubles of that time.

    Now, in my comfortable middle-class American neighborhood, I have dear black neighbors who fit right in. I realize how much culture we white Zonians missed by being separated from the black community. My sister of choice is Liberian born, so she really does not relate to the Caribbean experience that I try to share with her, but some of the food she cooks reminds me of home. Some is quite different and exotic, but it’s all delicious and VERY GOOD!!!!!! And HOT!!!!

    I am so thankful for the black presence in Panama, for I think it’s what has made it the liveliest of the Americas, with it’s culinary contribution as well as the African drumbeat that permeates the music. At a Liberian Independence Day party recently, I surprised everyone by dancing as spiritedly as anyone else. The beat and music were the same, and I hadn’t had such fun since I left home!

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  16. Pingback: How I Discovered the Old French Cemetery « The Silver People Heritage Foundation

  17. Anita,

    I would say that your reminiscence was a sad story but it’s more important than that. It points to how much we needed each other (and still do) and that we did live in a community with its accompanying benefits as a network.

    I can remember how my grandmother, Fanny, took it upon herself to provide a roof and safe haven for several immigrant people from Jamaica until they could find work in the Zone and get settled.

    Some women only worked several months until they had saved a little nest egg and then returned home to Jamaica. They could do this only because my grandmother held out a helping hand.

    I also remember how one man from Jamaica was able to stay in Panama by using my deceased Uncle Eric’s identity papers which my grandmother let him have. He lived in Panama all his life until he died. Again, this was the helping hand that made it possible for us to be a people today.

    It’s sad that we left Panama and dissolved this wonderful network of friends and family.

    Keep me in your prayers.
    RR

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  18. Most of the houses in the Canal Zone had a front and back door and many Zonians kept nice gardens. The land was fertile because I remember as a child we planted peanuts right in front of our house. I also recall singing songs and playing in the dirt while little insects would just crawl out.Really, I thought I had power to command the insects to leave their living space.

    The back of the house had a large porch area where folks could sit and relax and even converse with their next door neighbor. Then there was the large open field with swings in the middle and enough space for us to play softball.

    I don’t remember the last name of this elderly couple, because I believe they were there from the time I started to creep, walk and talk. This couple was one of the most unfriendliest people in Rainbow City. They rarely came outside, and their backyard was covered with tall plants and parted off with a tall white fence.

    This married couple used to sit outside sometimes, and we never knew, because it was difficult to see them through their huge garden.As little children, we called their backyard-“Golden Garden”.

    There was a good reason for that. Whenever we played softball, or any game with a ball, and our balls rolled or flew into their backyard, we never saw them again.
    We constatly would scream at one another, “Don’t hit the ball into Golden Garden”. This at times was difficult because the field we played in was circular and surrounded by so many backyards.

    I will never forget the day my dad bought me a shiny red ball. I was a little girl. I don’t remember exactly what age I was.I loved this shiny red ball so much that I ran around my backyard playing with it.
    And with panic, I watched my ball roll into an open part of “Golden Garden”.
    Screaming, I ran to my mom to get her to retrieve it from the neighbor. My mom did not know what to do, because she also was aware of our neighbors’ ways.
    My mom and I approached the house and a woman slightly opened the door and spoke without showing her face. She told us she did not see any ball and then she closed the door.
    I looked at my mom, and her face told me my shiny red ball was lost . I will never forget how difficult it was to accept that, but I did.

    It was years later, I don’t know how many years had passed. I was in my early teens and had forgotten about red shiny balls. In Camp Bierd Section, a very tight-knit community, we found out that the husband of the neighbor’s house had died.Many of us children who used to play ball in the field screaming,”Don’t let the ball go into Golden Garden” were now in our early teens.

    We went over at our neighbor to console and help her.This was the first time that I saw the face of our neighbor.One girl combed the elderly frail woman’s hair, and the boys cleaned and moved things away. Our neighbor cried inconsolable. Her husband had died and she appeared so weak. She was so vulnerable and different from the person I had imagined in my head as a little girl.
    Then something happened,our bereaved neighbor took out a set of balls and gave them all to us. Our many softballs that had flown into her yard were right in front of us, like magic. And there also was my bright shiny red ball. I had forgotten all about it. We all had forgotten about our balls, and how when we lost them we had been so upset.

    My parents and the other neighbors attended the old man’s funeral, and shortly after our neighbor moved away from Camp Bierd Section.I still don’t remember their last name.

    Saludos,
    Anita Cumberbatch

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  19. Muy Estimada Anita,

    Again you have joined us in revealing a part of the Black Panama Canal Zone most people, even us who lived and grew up in the Panamanian Barrios, next to the famous high chain link fences, are not aware of. That life on the Black Canal Zone had a triple side, life that even kids that grew up were not aware of and that was occurring to their neighbours, is an understatement on my part.

    The suffering that Mrs. Segovia underwent after her beloved husband died and she had to leave the Zone housing, leaving friends, neighbors, in short, all her support network, was a devastating feature of Black Canal Zone life. I knew of many people who suffered this kind of uprooting.

    Please keep us in your prayers because we appreciate your remembrance’s.

    Cobert Roberto

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  20. Mr. and Mrs Segovia were both from the island of St. Lucia. An elderly couple, they had one of the few childless homes in Rainbow City. The Segovias had a profound and sweet love for the young children in Camp Bierd Section.

    Mr. and Mrs. Segovia were such a united and loving couple that they often finished each other’s sentence. They were seldom seen separated.

    The Segovias usually sat in front of their house on a chair in the evenings enjoying the time with each other. As children we loved them not only because they doted on us, but also because they sold candies and sweets.

    The Segovias sold galletas Maria and sandwhich Pascual right from their house. Also they sold bolón, mericoche and pepermint . Each one of these goodies only cost five cents. We were constantly knocking their door buying candy whenever we had a nickel or a dime. Sometimes if we only had four cents, Ms. Segovia would give us bolón or mericoche anyway.

    It used to be four bolóns for a nickel, two mericoches, and also two peppermints for a nickel. I don’t think they make bolón, mericoche and peppermint anymore in Panama. But they still make the famous Pascual buiscuits.

    Of course it was illegal to sell these things in the Canal Zone.The Canal Zone was ran in such a way, that residents living there could not have any type of enterprise, large or small.

    But as Black Zonians who could really stop us, we were not White Americans, we had our own ways and a rich culture so we found ways to bend the rules.

    Right there in Rainbow City, a family sold chance (clandestine lottery).And Ms Auntie Bell sold yams, bananas, green and ripe plantains, tomatoes,thyme and all sorts of ground food.

    We had our own tight-knit community and the beauty of Black panamanians in those days was that we were a very secretive people who minded and kept our business safe and secret.

    It was very sad when Mr. Segovia died,and we all felt it for Mrs. Segovia.The Segovias had become one person.
    As we consoled Mrs. Segovia in her grief, it was sad to see her move away.(In the Canal Zone, whenever the husband died, the wife had to move) From the look on Mrs. Segovia face, we knew that a great part of her went with Mr. Segovia.

    This beautiful St Lucian couple will always be remembered as one of the many exemplary residents who resided in Rainbow City Canal Zone.

    Saludos,
    Anita

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  21. Roberto:
    Colon’s population used to be the most urbane one in the entire Republic of Panama. Colon’s wealth was always its people.

    When I was growing up in Rainbow City, I noticed even the way the Colonense walked was different from some of the other Panamanians. Colon people and Black Panamanians walked upright and proudly. Many Panamanians, especially from the interior had a distinctive “country” walk , an indication that they were rural people. We used to refer to it as the” bush walk”.Even today, I can tell a lot about a person by observing how they walk.

    Yes, if many of us had stayed in Panama, things would be totally different today in Colon.Too many of us were groomed to look for a future outside of Panama, especially in the United States.

    There is good news ; many Panamanians are returning home. I am making my contacts from now so that we would be able to harness our collective power and world class expertise for the good of our community.I plan to write an article about Colon soon.

    Keep up the good work.

    Saludos,
    Anita

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  22. Anita,

    I remember also the Colon of my adolescence and how different it was. It was a safe, clean, more prosperous looking city than the pitiful, dark and dangerous place it is today. There were many hard working, responsible people living there raising promising children. I always felt that if many of us had stayed in Panama we would have been able to keep the good in Colon and not allow it to fall apart.

    I am ever the optimist and believe in the power of prayer!

    CRR

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  23. My childhood friend Melba and I were about thirteen/fourteen, and we still enjoyed every corner of our surroundings. We also thought we owned Rainbow City. We loved roaming and discovering new things.The back road was the Pan American Highway behind Rainbow City.

    Beause Colon is a coastal town,the back road had a slice of the beautiful Atlantic Ocean. Sometimes Melba and I would dash across the back road, dodging the cars passing by, and then go over to the small inlet of the Atlantic Ocean. We would then just sit on the rocks and gaze at the beautiful small body of water for hours. Many Rainbow children would go over there and fish or to just throw stones into the water.The place just attracted us. It had a haunting spell on us.I don’t know if we were fascinated with this beautiful place or we were just plain adventurous.

    One day Melba’s grandmother decided that we were young ladies and we should learn crochet. My parents consented and Melba’s grandmother registered us both with Ms. Ivy for crochet classes .

    Every Monday evening, Melba and I boarded a Colon-Rainbow City bus and got off at Fifth Street in Colon.The city of Colon was always alive, its people forever joyful. We would pass by people sitting in front of their doors, then walk up some very old rickety stairs that appeared so frail I always imagined them breaking and coming apart.

    Ms. Ivy was a middle aged woman who taught crochet to young girls in Colon. She always greeted us with a warm smile and immediately assigned us our seats and patterns to work . Her house was usually packed with many young girls crocheting. Everyone sat down quietly moving their hands with the thread and long skinny needle, simply staring at at one another. The scenario always reminded me of a silent orquestra.

    I remember making a crochet skirt and a few doilies. Melba and I always wanted to leave immediately because we were not fascinated with crocheting.Each session lasted about an hour and Ms Ivy always gave us candy when we parted, and tried to put us on a bus back to Raibnbow City.

    During the school vacation, Colon was very lively, with the numerous members of the comparsas practicing for carnaval.One evening, Melba and I told Ms. Ivy a story and we decided to stay back and watch the” Campesinos” practice right there in Fifth street.

    That year the Campesinos came out with their memorable song: “Ese nombre Campesino, nunca nunca morira…”

    During the practice we became so enthralled, with the drumming sound and watching the folks with their fancy dance steps that we got trapped in a time warp. I t was much later when we were snapped right out of the show, and Melba and I flagged down a Rainbow City-Colon bus and went home hoping our parents had not started looking for us.

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  24. Mrs. Palmer was an interesting neighbor that we had in Rainbow City. She was much older than most of the mothers at that time, and her children were also much older than many of the children in our section.

    Mrs. Palmer would usually knock at her neighbor’s door at any time of the day to converse, advise, pray, sing spirituals and sometimes to even reprimand and scold the younger mothers in Camp Bierd section for all sort of things she did not approve of.

    I will be honest, as a little child, totally devoid of “true ” wisdom, I used to be afraid of Mrs. Palmer. I think what scared me the most about her was that I associated her with bad news.
    I will never consider Mrs. Palmer to be a
    gossiper or carrier of malicious news to create animosity or hostilty among neighbors. She never gossiped. Like a walking newspaper, she just simply brought bad news.

    Whenever anyone had died, Mrs. Palmer was the one who walked from door to door with the information. I remember vividly the news about drownings, deaths from sickness and accidents that unfortunately many of our people suffered.

    What I found interesting was that although Mrs. Palmer was often annoying and intrusive, the younger parents tolerated her and had great respect for her. She was never shunned , or ran by any of the many homes she constantly visited. Mrs. Palmer was a good person with good intentions and I think the younger mothers in Rainbow City always saw and knew that.

    Another peculiarity of Mrs. Palmer were her horrible dreams. I think everynight she had a dream of one of her neighbors. I remember Mrs. Palmer knocking our door many times to tell us what she had dreamed about us.At times it could be unnerving because they were never beautiful and lovely dreams. As time went by, years took a heavy toll on Mrs. Palmer’s mind and she seemed to have had suffered from a mental breakdown.

    The last time I saw Mrs. Palmer she was walking talking to herself picking up things off the street. I greeted her but she did not recognize me. I sadly found out later that she had died. Mrs. Palmer holds an important place in my childhood memories.

    Saludos.

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  25. One early, sad morning in Rainbow’s City’s Camp Bierd and Main sections, we all heard the wailing and painful screams of Mrs. Tinker.

    I think we all shrugged it off as a collective nightmare because nothing was said of the painful cryout we heard at our family table. But as my family and I sat down to have breakfast, Mrs. Palmer, an elderly neighbor knocked our door.

    Mrs. Palmer was a very religious and peculiar person. As a child I was a great listener and a keen observer of people’s actions and behavior . I always thought that Mrs. Palmer was like a walking newspaper, and also a messenger of bad news.

    Mrs. Palmer was not a gossiper, but if anything dreadful happened to anyone in the community , she was always the one who transmitted the news. She even appeared to relish in her role as the carrier of bad news. Mrs. Palmer was also a dreamer. She would walk around telling everyone what she had dreamed about them. Of course these were always horrible dreams.

    Mrs. Palmer apologized for interrupting our breakfast and took my mother aside. She always talked to my mother, and not to my father.
    My parents generation are the most respectful people on God’s earth. If they were ever annoyed or upset with someone, that person would never know it. The bad news that Mrs Palmer brought was to tell us that the loud crying from the Tinker’s house we all heard that early morning was because they had just received the bad news that Juan Tinker had been killed in a car accident.

    Juan Tinker was a young man in his early twenties. He was called “Cojo” because he walked with a limp. Juan loved to walked from Rainbow City to Colon from the back road. The back road was the highway behind Rainbow city that led to the city of Colon.

    We also found out that a white American female teenager who was drunk was the cause of the accident . We found out later that the young woman was never arrested. This accident left a profound sadness in the neighborhood especially in the Tinker’s home. It is one of the many injustices that white Americans were able to get away with in Panama. I remember Mrs. Tinker always mourning. Black clothes became her uniform. She promised Juan her beloved son that she would mourn him until her death. I will never forget Juan Tinker and his family.

    Saludos.

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    • F.Anthony Edwards

      Caramba! Ms. Cumberbatch, you triggered a childhood memory! I remember Mrs. Palmer (we ended up calling her a “Tuli-Vieja” and I remember El Cojo, Juan incident, I was very young but reading this triggered it. Keep writing…

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  26. Dearest Anita,
    You are right and it was those things that made my fervent prayer asking my God to part the Seas for us to come home. For us it had been sort of walking for 40 years through “the desert of human hope,” in our sojourn in the USA.
    At time I was more Black than the blacks, or more Latin than the Latinos who rejected Afros.
    It is a honor to meet a right thinking hermana and we are look forward to seeing you come home to our “Promised Land.”
    No matter what the negative ideas are that try to hinder our right views of our home land, it is the home of our forefathers and we must come home to reclaim even their dry bones. God himself declared that he can put flesh on bones and make children our of stones.
    So make another miracle and come on home.
    Con las Bendiciones de la Patria venceremos!

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  27. Roberto:
    I started my early schooling in Rainbow City, continued my high school at Colegio Abel Bravo in Colon, and then did a few years at the University of Panama. I feel lucky to have been taught and groomed by some of the finest people in Panama.

    I was a little girl during the sixties. My parents talked constantly of Teacher Blake on the Atlatic coast. In Colon, many teachers used to set up after school classes right in their homes.This is why many of our people could handle the changes they had to confront. We were well schooled, and were also some of the most disciplined people in Panama.

    I go home to Colon and see such a void, it makes me want to holler.Some of us also got confused with domestic and foreign”nationalism” and this has hurt our community tremendously. Not enough energy and commitment were centered on our local community.

    I am a history high school teacher here in New York City. It was after working in the financial district that I realized I had a calling to teach. I always had flashbacks of the “good old days ” of being schooled on the Canal Zone and in Panama by some of the most upstanding individulas.

    I plan to return home soon and set up after school programs in Colon in the tradition of those who lit the torch. I believe that it is essential that we carry this torch proudly in their honor.

    Saludos.

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  28. Anita,

    I feel so honoured to have captured a glimpse of your fourth grade teacher Mr. Daniels. As we are living at a time when strict discipline and spanking children is viewed as an evil perpetrated against children, your memories of him and of his love and abiding care towards you children help us to remember how this type of old discipline could keep children on the right track; it was his intention that counted and he did these things out of love. He loved children, and it showed in his tokens of appreciation for you kids by baking all night and treating his fourth graders with some tenderness and concern.

    I remember my English school experience with Jamaican school masters like Teacher Phillips in Calidonia and how they cared for us. Although their demeanour was quite strict and very serious, they were always looking out for us and setting a good example of honesty and order. Teacher Phillips, due to the overwhelming political pressure brought down upon the West Indian community in the aftermath of the 1947 constitution (in which private school owners had to put up a surety bond of $15,000 – unheard of!) had to close down his badly needed school that had, for decades, produced fine minds in our community. We can only imagine the enormous sacrifices they made just to assure a good education for West Indian children, sacrifices that were often not appreciated.

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  29. Mr. Daniels, my fourth grade teacher at Rainbow City Elementary School was from Jamaica. Short and stout, whenever he walked his shoes always left a squeaking sound. We always knew when he was coming from the sound of his shoes.

    He was a strict disciplinarian who demanded the best from us. Our notebooks and paper had to be neat and presentable or else, Mr. Daniels would really make us feel small. I remember he did not like paper that was rolled up at the edges . He called them “dog ears”. He would look at us and say “Dog ears?”

    Mr. Daniels had a tiny bamboo stick that he used to spank us with. Yes, we received spanking. Sometimes if one student misbehaved, the entire class received the stick.Mr. Daniels was full of antics and theatrics. He would stand on his desk to make a point.Then he would pick up and wag his famous bammboo stick and then tell us that it was much older than all of us.Of course all of us had to fight hard to maintain our compusure and not laugh at the thought-a stick older than ten years .

    The peculiarity of Mr. Daniels was that whenever we received the stick, he went home and felt very bad about spanking us. The following day he would bring us yuca puddings, cakes and all type of goodies that we knew he had spent the night baking for us.

    One day my mother made a statement about Mr. Daniels being too old to be teaching little children. I became hysterical and told my mother that Mr. Daniles was not old.

    But it was ten years later ; I was a student at the University of Panama, and I was at the old piquera Panama/ Colon in Panama City that I saw Mr. Daniels for the last time. I was in a rush to get back to the Atlantic coast and I moved ahead of a short stout man to board the bus.

    I felt a very weak hand touched me on my back. I looked around and I saw my fourth grade teacher-Mr. Daniels. It was then that I realized that my mother was right. My fourth grade teacher was a very old man who could hardly walk and only ten years had passed.

    He called me by my last name the way many older folks do in Panama. He even asked me for my brother who was never in his class. I smiled when I greeted him and I held back from the thought of hugging him. As he wobbled, I placed him in front of me and got right behind him and we both boarded the Panama/ Colon bus and headed off to the beautiful Atlantic coast.

    Saludos.

    Like

  30. Anita,
    I love the story and I know that I don’t have to encourage you to keep writing. For me it is always refreshing to read about our forefathers and I have to remind myself to the fact that if we don’t elevate them as we write and remember them, who will?

    Happy fathers day!

    Like

  31. My paternal grandfather Charles Cumberbatch was from the Island of Barbados. I did not get to know my grandmother- Isidora White Cumberbatch. Grandmother also was from the Island of Barbados. She was deceased when I was born.

    I remember my grandfather as a very quiet man who spoke with a whisper ; he never remarried after my grandmother died. Grandfather was a mason.He and my grandmother and their eldest son Primo arrived in Panama right after the Canal was built. In Panama they had Cecil,Cardinal, Enid,my father- Kelvin Leon and Gladys. Grandfather built many of the houses in Silver City and then Rainbow City.

    But I want to talk about his friend Mr. RH.
    Mr. RH, like my grandfather also came from Barbados.

    Every Tuesday Mr. RH took a bus from Cativa and came into Rainbow City to pick up the golf balls that the men had left on the field. I remember my father, in the early days playing golf and cricket with some of the neighbors, and then later on many of the men in Rainbow City just stopped playing golf and cricket.

    My father would also let us have some of his golf balls for me to play jacks with my friends. I love the golf balls for jacks rather than the small rubber balls.Gulf balls bounced higher and elegantly.

    One Tuesday morning Mr. RH knocked our door like a police with fury and anger.It was during the school vacation and my father was home because he was working the late shift at Gatun Locks.
    Mr. RH began arguing with my father and raising his voice.
    My father came back into the house and told me to collect all the golf balls that I had. My father took my golf balls and gave them to Mr. RH.

    I was so upset that Mr. RH would come all the way from Cativa and bossed my father around and then get my golf balls.

    But my father had so much respect for his dad’s friend that he felt obliged to cater to his eccentric way.
    Following that day, again, every Tuesday we watched Mr. RH talking to himself collecting his golf balls from the field.

    Until one day, my Aunt Enid visited us and told us that Mr. RH was hit by a truck on the highway on his way to Rainbow City.
    My mind raced to picture old Mr. RH talking to himself and collecting what by right he felt was his golf balls.
    I felt very sad because I knew that Grandfather had lost his good old eccentric friend from his homeland- Barbados.

    Saludos.

    Like

    • Hello Anita,

      Thanks for sharing your wonderful memories of Panama and our family. My grandfather is Cecil Cumberbatch, your uncle.

      Thanks,

      Deborah

      Like

      • Deborah,Saludos. I tried sending you an e-mail when you wrote the last time to afropanavisions.I did not get a reply from you. I would love to get in touch with you.
        Roberto, Sorry to appear to be an interloper but Deborah is the granddaughter of my deceased uncle and I would live to get in touch with her because I have lost touch with them. Most of my fathers siblings are dead except for one sister who lives in the outskirts of Colon.
        Thanks.
        Saludos,
        Anita

        Like

    • deborah walker, my name is josephina cumberbatch i noticed in many blogs u mention that cecil cumberbatch and neomi woods is your grandparents, the are also my grand parents, i was curious of who your parents are….please contact me would love more info on my grandparents

      Like

  32. One of the most disturbing and humilliating thing that I remembered about life in the Canal Zone was the commissary card that was alloted to black Zonians.

    This commissary card was for monthly “purchasing privileges” in the Canal Zone Commissaries. The amount alloted was usually based on the Panama Canal Co. and Canal Zone employee’s(usually the father of the house) salary.

    Whenever a black Zonian shopped, the dollar amount purchased was scrached off.One was not allowed to go over the monthly amount allotted.The Commissaries had white American Inspectors who monitored the transactions.White Zonians were not given a card.

    Groceries bought and taken from the Canal Zone into Panama’s jurisdiction were considered “contraband” , an offense by Zonian authorities. This did not stop black Zonians from purchasing goods for their relatives who lived outside of the Canal Zone.

    Many of the folks who lived in Colon ran their little business selling American goods, so they would venture into Rainbow City daily to ask anyone to purchase goods for them. They depended on Zone folks to help them out to stock up their mini- enterprise in the city of Colon.

    The Canal Zone authorities, who at best sometimes reminded me of running a police state, kept vigil over these small, foolish matters. During the latter days when it was understood that the days of the Americans were numbered in the Canal Zone, authorities stocked the Clubhouses with goods, and they all turned a blind eye and allowed Colon folks to shop as they wish.

    On paydays (many Colon people also worked for Pan Canal),the lines in Rainbow City Clubhouse used to be very long. Well, the Commissaries and the Clubhouses in the Canal Zone were really a business. The U.S. gained an enormous profit from their days in control of the Panama Canal and the Canal Zone.

    Saludos.

    Like

    • True story. I remember my mom selling contraband to feed us. She used to take us on the bus with all these groceries to Colon. Sometimes the buses were stopped by inspectors at the entrance of Colon to check the buses. I was always scared. I think she was caught two times. Looking back she was paid too little for the risk involved but at least she got money for food for us.

      Like

      • Thank you Mario for your comment. More than a comment, however, it’s a revelation on how difficult life was for many Black Zonians to subsist. All respects due to your Mom, however, for doing her best to feed her children.

        Please keep your reminiscences coming as all our descendants will be grateful for this part of their heritage.

        RR

        Like

  33. Anita,
    Here is a case of “Panamanians helping Panamanians.” Early in our lives we kids knew that the “Black” Canal Zone was safer for us. When I used to go to wait for my grandmother who worked at the Ancon Laundry, I tried not to leave the area of the laundry and wonder off into the “White” Canal Zone area. This way I avoided confrontations with Zone white people, especially white kids. I would invariably run into some kind of fight or altercation for “trespassing.” So I tried to avoid them. The white nor the black Canal Zone Police, for the most part, I had no problems with.
    I really like comparing notes with you on experiences we had on the two sides of the Canal.

    Like

  34. During the summer time in the evenings, young men would walk from from the city of Colon into Rainbow City to climb the tall and stately coconut trees.

    I don’t think anyone from Rainbow City could climb a coconut tree as good as a Colon buay. Many of the young Colon men got their coconut – tree climbing training from their coastal home towns.

    We would stand as guards under the coconut trees, ready to whistle to notice and protect the climber from the Canal Zone police. You see, it was against the law to pick fruits or collect anything in the Canal Zone. We knew very well that the white American police would be very happy to arrest a Colon buay for climbing a coconut tree.
    The Canal Zone had many stupid laws: “No trespassing “,was one of them. That law was to keep non-Zonians away from the Canal Zone. I remember vividly the posted sign:” It is against the law to pick fruits in the Canal Zone”, something like that. That was another foolish law that nobody obeyed.

    Of course our payment for standing guard under a coconut tree were a few coconuts ; we could drink its tasty water and eat the jelly inside.(We called it meat).
    As soon the police passed by in his car,the climber would drop all the coconuts, we would gather all of them, then he would slide down the tree swiftly.He would pay us our coconuts ,put his in a large brown cocus bag and head off on his way back to the the city of Colon to sell them.

    Cordiales Saludos.

    Like

  35. We encourage you wholeheartedly to write your reminiscences of these and other subjects about your life in the Panama of “those” times. Your writings would be also a record of views and life experiences from the people of the American Panama Canal era, a people and lifestyle and history that will disappear “without a trace,” if we do not record it.

    Please help us and keep in contact. In identifying some tombs in Corozal or Mount Hope, please feel free to ask us to search for particular individuals that you may want traced. We will even take photos of the grave site and put it on our site where you can download it (with your authorization, of course).

    Like

    • I am looking for the whereabouts of the cremated ashes of a friends g grandfather who worked for the Panama Canal Co. during the construction years. He died in June of 1921 and was cremated at the Gorgas Hospital Mortuary, then sent to the Mt. Hope cemetery for burial. He is not reported as being moved for re-interment at the Corozal cemetery on the Pacific side. I have been unable to learn where a list would be for those remaining in Mt. Hope or for those sent back to the U.S. I would very much like to obtain a death certificate for him. He was a naturalized US citizen born in Germany, went to work for the Canal in early 1900’s on the Gold roll. Raised children in Panama, etc. I would appreciate it very much if you could steer me in the right direction to learn anything of where he is now. His name was Herman W. Wurdeman.

      Like

      • Ms. Foster,

        You can request a death certificate for Mr. Wurdeman at:

        Department of State
        Correspondence Branch
        Passport Services
        1111 19th Street NW, Suite 510
        Washington, DC 20522-1705
        (Telephone: 011-202-955-0307)
        see their web site:
        http://www.vitalrec.com/cz.html

        We have added you to our mailing list of people in search of their ancestors. Please, let us know the outcome of your inquiry and i f you were successful.

        C. Roberto Reid

        Like

      • Dear Ms. Foster,

        On a recent trip to Colon Wednesday we spent all day checking burial records at Mt. Hope Cemetery and looking for tombs. We were successful in finding the burial register of Mr. Herman W. Wurdeman and, indeed, his cremated remains are buried in plot #10278 at Mt. Hope, no section was specified.

        Also, we checked Gorgas morgue files and only found the death record for a Rose I. Wurdeman who was buried 17 May 1947 (marker 24660, American section). If Rose was related to Herman then he would also remain buried in the American section.

        The greater part of the cemetery is overgrown with tall grass so we left some men to continue to look for his and other tombs when they could unite the other groundskeepers to do so and notify us if and when they did.

        We hope this is good news for your friend. Please get back with us as soon as you can.

        C. Roberto A. Reid

        Like

  36. Thanks, I really enjoy and commend you for the fabulous job in creating this site. I look forward to reading your essays. The topics remind me of the train ride spectacular sights on the Panama Canal Railway from the City of Colon through the Canal Zone area and into Panama City.

    Saludos.

    Like

  37. It is for persons such as yourself that I have patiently or impatiently awaited. My life would not be complete if all or most of more than forty years of serious research and study, had gone unseen and unappreciated by you.
    It is I, who have not yet revealed all the contents of my reflections and study of our people, that must be thanking you for the opportunity to share, what is for me some of the beginnings of what I am categorizing as Westindian Literature.

    As for ” Colon and Colonenses, ” your comments are no exaggeration and I concur with you entirely on the ” classy, sophisticated and refined” nature of the Colon people I too remember. That said I also remember that some of the Panamanian Westindian historians have brought out that fact in history.

    Like

  38. Panama is an awesome and enchanting place in the middle of two great oceans, divinely programmed with seasonal rains. Our native country is replete with rivers, lakes and a tropical flora and fauna that has made me love , cherish and understand the value of nature and living species .

    I remember waking up with the birds chirping and the bright sun glare covering part of the walls in our house. If the Canal Zone’s sight was formidable , the sound was even more spectacular. We knew the time of the day from the sound of the Panama Canal Railway train passing through Rainbow City. The late evening solitary freight train had a different sound from the regular passenger train.

    I will never forget those long and beautiful evenings, when it appeared that the sun refused to go to sleep. Darkness would creep up with impatience ; and what a lovely sight in the sky- an orange-reddish-dark- bluish color. An entire work of art that would make any artist beam with pure glee or green with envy. Immediately, the stars would come out to play with a great rush of exitement, and the sky would then be completely, beautifully black, dotted with tiny lights. Who can forget all of that?

    It is funny, I have a small recollection in my memory of the Gold roll people. I saw them as ” the other” , not in a racist way, but in a very insignificant way. I don’t remember ever having run- ins with any of them.They practically have been erased from my memory. I have lurked on some of their blogs and have been pretty surprised regarding their comments. Sometimes their memories and stories are similar to mine.With no intentions of offending anyone, but I believe our people were one of the main protagonists in the Panama Canal story.

    Colon “La Tazita de Oro” (the Exquisite Golden Cup),may be small, but each Colonense when I was child and in my opinion was King and Queen. I know this may sound like an exaggeration, because the city of Colon appears to be down and out. But Colon had the best dressed, most sophisticated, very classy and extremely refined Panamanians when I was growing up.

    Cobert Roberto, thanks for giving me an opprtunity to remember. I am sure there are many of us with snippets, stories and anecdotes of our remarkable life in Panama and the Canal Zone.

    Cordiales Saludos.

    Like

  39. For a Mango lover and connoisseur as I was, my everlasting trek into the Canal Zone around the great Ancon Laundry area, where I awaited my Grandmother, Mrs. Fanny Reid, in my favourite mango area. It was always a delight to meet her and walk home with her after I had gorged on the sweet juicy Canal Zone Mangoes . So one day I decided to go to the Curundu Silver Commissary which was about to close its doors. But my love for mangoes got me into a fight with two gringo brothers who double teamed me. But I put up a good fight for my right as a Panamanian to pick mangoes in my beloved Panama whether they were on gringo property or not. Although Boys will be boys the one thing I remember and resented was the father of the boys encouraging them to take advantage of their numbers.

    Your story is a good story of Zone Mango hunting because Colon is so small you-all had very few run-ins with Gold Roll kids although mine weren’t always bad ones.

    I will always appreciate your comment!

    Like

  40. I grew up in Camp Bierd Section,Rainbow City. During the warm summer days off from school, we used to roam all over like crazy pirates-girls and boys . We played so many games, that I remember and regard my chidhood days as Paradise itself. In the morning we played softball- girls and boys. Although I could only pitch, bunt and run, my brother who was a star always picked me first on his his team. I realized later that he did not want anyone screaming at me for all the foul balls and outs I made.

    Later in the evening we went to collect mangos. It was against the Canal Zone laws to pick fruits. How silly were the Americans to believe anyone in their right mind would obey such a law?

    One evening the boys decided that they did not want girls tagging along with them. They claimed we were” mantequilla “(butter). I think and translate that roughly as they believed we were going to jinx them. I looked at my brother and I asked him”You dont’t want me to come along too?” He could not answer.

    All the boys went their way and left us girls in a state of shock. We walked away upset, but we decided to show them. As we walked away mumbling, we came across one of the finest mango patch behind a barb wire fence in Mount Hope.The Americans loved to use barb wire fences in Panama.

    After discussing and convincing ourselves that there weren’t any real ghosts in Mount Hope,we knocked down a few mangos. And since I was small, I squeezed my tiny hand into the fence, and retrieved many mangos. My friends and I returned to Camp Bierd Section with our mangos ; and of course the boys had none.

    They asked us”Where did you get those nice, juicy mangos from?”.We refused to tell them,and kept it as a War Secret(Secreto de Guerra ).

    And since that time we would return to the cemetery to knock down a few mangos, always dodging and hiding from the boys so they could never find our secret mango patch.

    Cordiales Saludos.

    Like

    • Ms. Cumberbatch,

      Thank you for posting so much about Rainbow City. I love reading the posts. I can picture a lot of what you write about as if I was transplanted back in time. I grew I up in what I thought was Camp Bierd near the ports in Cristobal then moved to Camp Coiner, Rainbow City around 1970 because those buildings were torn down. One of my regrets was not graduating from Rainbow City schools as they were shutting down.

      I remember going to the RCHS library on the ground level across from the music building and just getting lost in reading, going to the swimming pool and waiting til 3:30 pm for Ms. Alma to hit the buzzer to let us in and night pool on Wednesday nights. I remember the little barber shop, the post office and the clinic. The movie theater that cost 50 cents to get in. I miss my little slice of heaven so badly.

      I hope you one day consider writing a book about RC. I would certainly purchase it. Thanks for sharing your precious memories.

      Regards

      Like

      • sanjuanletran

        Yolanda,
        The name change to Rainbow City from Silver City, to me, who is trying to rescue our Silver Heritage, is another form of dismantling our cultural spaces in Panama.
        We hope and pray that the next generation of Silver descendants wakes up from the dream that somewhere else is better than being in Panama, forever.

        Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. It is greatly appreciated.

        Like

  41. Danny Webster

    as a boy growing up in Camp Coiner, Mount Hope was my playground where I heard stories of tuliviejas and duppies that roamed the grounds after dark; despite morbid nature of its setting for a young boy and his friends the beautifully manicured grounds served us well with slingshots in hand seeking exotic birds to sell in Colon– we took crabs right out their holes at the swamps surrounding outskirts/my family lived right outside the back gate and the pasture was where I went to seek serenity… it looks nothing like it did
    as weird as it seems today my friends and I crawled in the pre-dug plots to play war games

    Like

  42. Pictures are worth a thousand words. What a difference. I thank you both for the preservation of our ancestor’s resting place. I pray you all the best and will link you on my blog.

    Peace,
    KA

    Like

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