The Westindian Dispersions – 1889-1925

The disappointments caused by the bankrupt projected French Canal caused a frenzied retreat of the Westindian working populace from the area of the country of Panama where these activities had originally been planned and executed.

For a large number of the workers all was not totally lost since news of new projects and opportunities would travel quickly among the most intrepid of the group. And so it was that the new buzz became what they called “up the line” for this group who viewed the dispersion as yet another opportunity for adventure into the veritable unknown.

At the same time there was stability among the Westindian working folk who continued to be associated with the Panama Railroad Company, a corporation that almost immediately took control of their leased out railroad and continued operating it since the very day they became aware that the French corporation would declare bankruptcy.

The railroad had clearly placed the Americans at an advantage not only for the control of the area of Panama described before in our story, but in seeing how far the Canal project had advanced. One of the main and most visible digs in the infamous Culebra Cut had shown them the kind of progress that had experienced engineers marveling at what the French had accomplished in so short a time.

The Americans of the Panama Railroad Company, in fact, would not be the only entrepreneurs to see the possibilities of becoming wealthy quickly out of the raw materials contained in the whole area of Central and South America. The discovery of the centuries in the Americas for these European leaning Americans would not be in Columbus’ discovery but the discovery, after exhaustive scientific study and trial and error since the end of the seventeenth century and the beginning of the eighteenth century, that the Westindian workman was the most suited for the hard labor needed to dominate the humid tropical climate of Central and South America.

During that same year of 1899 a white man from the area of Boston in the state of Massachusetts, had been quietly recruiting Westindians amongst his native Panamanian workers. He soon would show a preference for the black man as he incorporated his United Fruit Company in Boston. The company’s first objective was to plant and harvest the fruit in the whole area of Central America, since he was convinced that he was the only one interested in that crop at the time. The diligent Westindian workers he acquired at very low wages gave him an excellent start since they needed very little supervision and they would follow orders, even going a step further where other men either feared or simply cared not to tread.

The Bostonian, by the name of Minor Cooper Keith became insatiably rich and soon would easily find partners with more cash than they could spend for his newly found golden venture, which was the Westindian workforce. Soon the company began expanding and purchasing cargo ships and clearing more land in more than one country in Central America. Later as the banana fruit would become more famous than the name Minor Keith, the plantation type operations would expand into South America.Later in the XX century the “Chiquita Banana” brand would soon be known world wide.

As with other projects in which the Westindian working man labored for the white man from the United States, in those early years of our history they would receive very little recognition for their efforts. Historical research has pointed to a definite pattern of disdain and a perverse undercurrent of malicious treachery that would haunt relationships between both groups of people.

Our story will continue to reveal how those black workmen would be enamored by their white bosses and worked worst than domestic animals. The whole story of cruelty reminded me of the childhood story I once read of a stallion, a horse by the name of Black Beauty, a noble creature turned into a broken down nag through the appalling brutality and meanness of human nature.

This story continues.

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