It has always been my belief that the lack of that ingrained sense of a cultural heritage in us Panamanian Westindians has been due to the missing factor of home and schooling. Home schooling had always been an integral part of our make-up in the early years of our history, however as that marvel of the world the Panama Canal evolved, the issue of our home becoming part of our cultural and spiritual lesson plan became less important or non existent. Continue reading
This is a typical store-front Botánica in New York,
this one in Brooklyn. Botánicas are icons of the
African derived religious expression amongst
Latino Caribbean people. However, many people
now seek to understand this misunderstood
Even before that year of 1974 when I returned to Panama, the land “where my navel-string is buried,” the idea of seeking out one of those Queen Mothers or real Westindian matriarchs of the Beji-Nite churches, had been on my mind. By the time we were ready to leave New York City a phrase that had become an integral part of my search would haunt me on the long road especially at night since we were traveling to Panama by road. Continue reading
Recalling Mother Campbell I’ll just back up a little bit. Shortly after arriving in Panama from what at the time had been my honeymoon trip, I found myself showing up at the door of Mother Campbell in Rio Abajo. She, even at that time after many years had passed without hearing from me in the United States, remembered me, whom she had known since I was a child. I had always admired her for always carrying an authoritative demeanor as the “Madame” I had known since I was about eight years of age and whose church was a frequent stop for my grandmother and me. Continue reading
The African-derived religions of our childhood in Panama, the religion we Westindians referred to as Beji-Nite, in particular, I would later encounter in my research of extracts of religions practised in ancient times in certain regions of Central Africa. It would then be safe for me to conclude that it is an ancient African tradition for women to take on the role of intermediary with the Spirits for the protection of their family, the clan, and, in fact, the general environment. Continue reading
An old etching of a group of slaves being branded.
I would say this and similar situations of bondage
are the essence of “purgatory.”
From most of the accounts of what life was like coming from the Black Canal Zone to live in the urban cities of the regions around the Panama Canal, some of the people who experienced it would probably have described it as “living in Puckatery” which is purgatory in our Westindian language. Yet, even today, a great many Westindian people shy away from even participating in the surviving African derived religious practices that many frown on as one of the regrettable deceptions in their existence. Continue reading
This is a good example of a bush church.
My increasing personal interest would make me a willing partner with my paternal grandmother, Fanny E. Reid, particularly in our excursions into the “bush.” We traveled to different religious ceremonies by public transportation to as far as Chivo-Chivo and Chilibre which today are as far by automobile as they were in those days of the late 1940’s. Continue reading