Tag Archives: French-Construction-Era

Gatun Cemetery

This is the stairway to the entrance of Gatun Cemetery.

This is the stairway to the entrance of Gatun Cemetery.

Home to about 90 tombs, the Gatun Cemetery is the resting place of primarily Westindian workers and family members.

Home to about 90 tombs, the Gatun Cemetery is the resting place of primarily Westindian workers and family members.

By Lydia M. Reid

The small town of Gatun in Colon has seen the evolution of the Panama Canal for more than a century, and its cemetery, the sacred burial ground of scores of Westindian (Antillean) workers of the French and American construction periods, has been witness to many significant historical phenomena. It saw the arrival and departure of the frenzied crowds of California Gold Rush hopefuls, the French period settlers, the American period workers and the American military come and go. Once it had outlived its usefulness, however, it was abandoned by the (American) Panama Canal Commission and left to its own destiny and the tropical elements, as was the fate of many Canal Zone towns. Continue reading

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How I Discovered the Old French Cemetery

The old French Cemetery in Paraiso, Panama

The old French Cemetery in Paraiso, Panama

I must have been about eleven years old when I first starting going to my French grandparents’ place for summer vacation over in the bush of Paraiso. Pa’riso bush, as we always knew it, was behind the railroad tracks going east from the town of Pa’riso. Grandfather and grandmother Julienne were not really my grandparents; they were my uncle’s in-laws, but they were very loving old people and were glad to host us for summer vacation with their own grandchildren. We became just like one of their own brood of grand kids and even called each other cousins. Continue reading