The Silver Townships- Paraiso, CZ Part I

Images: Top: an early colorized postcard image of an ambulance
similar to the type my grandfather,
Joshua Reid, might have supervised.

Bottom: Paraiso Dredging Division about 1920.
Images thanks to www.czimages.com

I consider my grandfather, Joshua Reid, as my first link to the Silver town of Paraiso. One of the legendary “White West Indians” (he was a fair skinned Mulatto from Easington, Jamaica on the south-eastern coast) he arrived in Panama in 1906 and immediately found work. His first job was in the “Cuts” as one of the Jamaican Bosses and he supervised the distribution of supplies all the way to the Atlantic coast.

Around 1908 he was given the job of Dispensary Director in Paraiso where he worked dispensing medicine, receiving and referring Silver Roll patients for hospitalization or outpatient care as the case warranted at the Ancon Hospital in Balboa. He supervised several assistants and ambulance drivers who transported patients and deceased individuals to the hospital.

He worked there in just about every medical capacity imaginable until 1913 when my grandmother arrived in Panama from Jamaica and contacted him and they were married. Both he and my grandmother, Fanny, had been promised in marriage in Jamaica previous to his departure. At the Dispensary, however, he could no longer afford to work since the pay, according to my grandmother, was “too meager” to sustain a growing family. They moved off the Zone and into a two room apartment in “War Zone” building in Panama City in the San Miguel district.

The following is a brief historical account of the Silver Township of Paraiso, Canal Zone, a fascinating and bustling hub of activity in its day.

Paraíso is the Spanish word for “paradise” and it became a convenient stop for travelers during the dry season along the trail between the Atlantic and Pacific in those early Spanish colonial days of the Panama Route. According to legend Sir Henry Morgan first saw Old Panama from a hilltop (Cerro de Buccaneros “Hill of the Buccaneers”) near Paraiso and was captivated by its beauty.

During the “Railroad Days,” when lines and plans were being laid out for the Railroad between the two coasts, surveyors and engineers discovered a path which led into “the most beautiful undulating valley of Paraíso, or Paradise, surrounded by high conical hills where Nature in weird profusion seems to have expended her choicest wealth.” (F.N. Otis) Even today, if you are fortunate enough to climb one of Paraíso’s many hills on a clear day, you can see as far as the towers of Panama Viejo (Old Panama).

Aside from its strategic value and utility to the French and, later, the Americans as their machine shop headquarters and construction dump, Paraíso was known for its wonderfully pure and sweet tasting spring water. It was the only town along the line where the water, which came from a nearby natural spring, could be used right out of the faucet without first boiling.

In fact, in 1905, a Coca Cola bottling plant was founded in the town to tap this source of pure water from the neighboring natural spring. So abundant was the supply of water that the spring also supplied drinking water to Corozal and many construction era towns. The Coca Cola plant was eventually sold to the Panama Coca Cola Company and moved out of Paraiso at the end of the Construction era (1914).

This story will continue.

8 responses to “The Silver Townships- Paraiso, CZ Part I

  1. Kyle & Svet Keeton

    Strange how Coke is all over the world even in the old days. Pepsi beat coke to the Soviet Union. Pepsi had a deal that traded a bottle of vodka for a bottle of Pepsi!

    Svet says that they had Pepsi vending machines that vended the Pepsi into a glass(made of glass) that stayed near the machine! Everyone used the same glass for vended Pepsi.

    Water can make or break a town,

    good article

    Kyle

  2. Wow I found this site really interesting. Our family went living at Paraiso in 1960 when I was just a baby and my brother and I went to Paraiso Elementary and High School (Though I graduated at Balboa HS in ’78)

    It was a great experience growing up in such a beautiful town. I would really like to know more about the church in front of the Paraiso Civic Center (building 203)I saw a picture here: http://www.czimages.com/CZMemories/Photos/photoof392.htm

    Keep up the good work!

  3. Oscar,

    Thank you for stopping by and leaving your comment. I also think Paraiso was, and continues to be, one of the most beautiful towns in the Old Zone. The picture of that old Catholic Church was probably taken between 1918 and 1925 and, sadly, it doesn’t exist any more.

    We invite you to keep visiting and please contribute any memories and/or photos you may have of relevance to our blog.

    C. Roberto A. Reid

  4. Adella Gillespie

    Mr. Roberto.
    Thank you for this invaluable information!

    • Miss Adella,

      It is always good to know that you are reading and appreciating our articles. They are written with much LOVE!

      Thank you for your comment.

      Roberto Reid

  5. Mr. Reid I found you on Facebook through my wife, and I must say that I’m extremely happy to have found you. Because of you I am learning and understanding more about who I am and where I came from. Great article. Keep teaching!

    • Mr. Brathwaite,

      I am so glad that the facebook group delivered you to our article. That is why we have set up these web sites and the facebook group, for education. We have heard from our Silver People descendants- countless times- that although they were born and grew up in one of the Silver townships, they knew next to nothing about the history of their birthplace. It IS a great feeling to know who you are and where you come from. Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment.

      RR

  6. I was born in colon panama and I enjoy this website keep up the work

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