Category Archives: Culture in Panama

Abelistas and Other Acquaintances

The Nicholas Brothers from the United States,  are pictured here doing some fantastic stunts. Image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_brothers

The Nicholas Brothers from the United States, are pictured here doing some fantastic stunts. Image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_brothers

The fact that I had been doing well with bringing in more work for the car wash business allowed me to keep some money for my meals and the evening “Bun” and Royal Crown soda that allowed me to participate at school. I was in the top fourth year class A as we promoted to the next year and I met others who joined our class and some who did not attend Abel Bravo College at all.

I had always prided myself on being amongst the crème de la crème of the student body both in Panama and in Colon. Now I had started making new friends as a member of the school choir which was composed of these students who had passed on into the regular life of Colon and would just show up to hang out or to sing with us in Professor Carlos Grant’s Coro. Continue reading

The Mysteries of La Playita

This great image of a set of cayucas I borrowed from wikipedia.org. These happen to be from Senegal but they could have been made in Panama.

This great image of a set of cayucas I borrowed from wikipedia.org. These happen to be from Senegal but they could have been made in Panama.

It seemed to me that that beach neighborhood had its own bohemian look. I had become sympathetic to the whole atmosphere of freedom that existed there. I had never heard too much bustle or noise such as disagreements or dissatisfaction. The only fighting among the residents was the impromptu boxing gym where any brave soul could spar with anyone his size and weight, and even participated in the fray taking on some of the bigger boys than myself. Continue reading

Rapsodia Antillana: West Indian Panamanian Poetic Voices

Rapsodia Antillana: Selección Bilingüe de Poesía Afroantillana de Panamá. published May 2013 by the University of Panamá Press.

Rapsodia Antillana: Selección Bilingüe de Poesía Afroantillana de Panamá. published May 2013 by the University of Panamá Press.

“Rhapsody: epic poem or singer of epic poems. A literary work written in an exalted or impassioned style.” ……Webster’s dictionary

The heroic figure from Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus, and his painful but triumphant return to Ithaca, his home, was my inspiration for the title of our blog, Rapsodia Antillana.  Since we started the blog back in January of 2007, I have been somewhat consumed with attempting to convey my passion and my joy in expressing the spirit of my people, the Panamanian West Indians and their story. Continue reading

Baggage Handlers

Image thanks to Wikipedia.

Image thanks to Wikipedia.

Those events of my youth and our history, as West Indian Panamanians, up to and following my experience in Abel Bravo College, had always managed to shock me. It had always been difficult for me to understand that what unfolded before my eyes were the first steps toward madness and family dysfunction in the making. So that all those years in our upbringing had us hauling around all that emotional baggage and, in fact, tripping over it. Continue reading

Calidonia and Christmas Bun

This little stand selling the precious Westindian style Bun was close to the entrance of "P" Street.

This little stand selling the precious Westindian style Bun was close to the entrance of “P” Street.

Raspadura or "dulce."  Nothing adds the distinctive flavor like Panamanian raspadura.

Raspadura or “dulce.” Nothing adds the distinctive flavor like Panamanian raspadura.

As we take a stroll down the busy streets of Calidonia here in downtown Panama City, I cannot help but remember how it was at one time in our country’s history when the Westindian presence more strongly flavored our National Character. Especially during Christmas, you can sense and appreciate the contribution our English and French speaking Antillean ancestors have left for us all to enjoy. Continue reading

Requiem for the Carnaval in Colon

Archival photo of Carnaval circa 1920. Image thanks to our friends at LatinOL.com

Another vintage photo shared by our friends at LatinOL.com. This was Carnaval back in the 1920’s with the West Indian flavor.

This precious Carnaval photo is from the 1960’s and it was taken in Colon. Image thanks to our friend Quintín Aguilar, Artist Colonense at ColondeAyer.

I had known that the City of Colon, from its early history since the 1820’s, had been populated mainly by Westindian families. How many, however, and how closely they were associated with the Panama Railroad or the Panama Canal Zone or how early had they been coming to these shores was one of my questions back then. The Silver Roll, the ranks of the real working people of the nearby Canal Zone, reflected some important figures in my imaginary census of the students I would find at any of the public elementary and secondary schools of that time. Continue reading