The Damaged First Generation

A Panamanian Passport.
Image thanks to an excellent
article over at

The harsh separatism prevalent in the racially segregated Panama Canal Zone and the country of Panama inevitably resulted in a generation of Silver People as damaged and alienated as their white Gold Roll counterparts and their Canal Zone descendants. That the Silver People made of their reality a more culturally enriching experience is just one testimony to their adaptability and strength of character.

After all, history has borne that out, a history that has spoken louder than any of the Silver Roll survivors in this respect, leaving a lengthy testimony of how white U.S. Citizens, the former Gold Roll employees, the “entitled,” as they once thought they were, resorted to behavior so objectionable that they have left a rather sour note in our Canal Zone legacy.

They would take their part in what I have always described as the psychologically damaged generation, a Gold Roll generation marked by an attitude that would earn them enemies for their country, the United States of America, without any concern for the consequences of their actions. The accumulation of many historical events that upheld this rather malevolent bequest stemmed from their long held attitude of entitlement which was nourished, of course, by the policies and actions of their forefathers and the Canal Zone Administration.

Predisposed as they were to this racial blindness they were unable to make friends with the segregated Black Westindian Panamanian born, “those people” they had been taught to view as their servant class, and not much else. They were probably as churlish with the Panamanian people of the poorer Barrios that surrounded the Canal Zone when they could have been making friends. Their historic and rather cultivated friendships amongst the Panamanian elite class, on the other hand, inevitably provoked the ire of a public opinion that invariably called for their government in Panama to request the return of the Canal and all lands associated with it to the authority of the Republic of Panama.

That the demise of the class system on the Panama Canal Zone (the official end of the Gold and Silver Roll system) would have followed so closely on the heels of the rise of the Civil Rights movement in the United States, leading to their virtual expulsion from the Republic of Panama, was inevitable. Even later on, with the introduction of the new constitution of Panama of 1972, feeble attempts to blot out any memories of those years, even their own racist actions against Black citizens including the Westindians, would be made, although without much success.

The Panamanians, in general, initiated their own clumsy efforts at cleansing the atmosphere of racial and class discrimination. However one might view those efforts by the Panamanian people who harbor a persistent “idealism,” if we may call it that, that specifies race and class distinction, these attitudes still persist and need to be cleansed from the emerging young Republic of Panama.

That is why, it is my view, that the 1972 Panamanian political Constitution was primarily a workers Constitution. Such has been the historical climate of racism and classicism that the Westindians, even today, remain hidden behind and amongst the ambiguous clauses of the constitutional laws of the Republic of Panama with no definition as to their civil rights.

The document does, however, now welcome all Panamanians born outside of Panama, particularly Westindians who were forced to seek refuge in the U.S. under the United States Constitution, a constitution that had been reforming itself, and labor laws that offered equal employment opportunities and equal rights that were formulated to meet the United Nations Human Rights requirements for all their member States for all their citizens.

It is now becoming a trend, in fact, for an increasing number of Westindian Panamanian parents to acquire for their children born in the U.S.-Panameños nacidos en el extranjero– their long dreamed of citizenship and corresponding identification papers as Panamanian citizens.

This story will continue.

4 responses to “The Damaged First Generation

  1. it is late in the evening but two interesting emails arrived yesterday and today… actually the same email in Spanish and English was received from an organization located in NYC that I believe is linked to the consulate and inviting me to vote in the 2009 elections
    the other was in Dia a Dia

    where I found the last name of one the organizers of the 9 de enero protesta to have a West Indian last name and presumably heritage

    once I relocated to the USA many Zonians criticized me for saying Panama was sovereign over the Canal and still do to this day
    ..yes, I had a wonderful Zonian childhood albeit segregated and second class, and suffered many racist actions in Panama City the moral right of Panama over Canal trumped all that
    today and the day of the invasion are still ugly events for me

  2. Ocho Gritos,

    The invasion was a life changing as well as one of the ugliest events in history for me. All that loss of life was absolutely unnecessary when Panamanians have always had close friendship ties with the U.S.

    I hear you.

  3. Just got back to the Silver PC. I like the new format. Keep up the good work and may GOD always give you knowledge to write the plain truth. GOD BLESS. Rosita