The hulk of one of the Chiriqui Land Company railroad cars. Image thanks to our friends at ferrolatino
Although the rest of that first day was uneventful, the two of us, as partners, started enjoying working as a team all morning and during the afternoon. Once the concrete slabs were in place we had time to enjoy each other’s company. The foreman would briefly appear and then leave after he saw us shoveling and digging as expert workmen.
By then part of the evening was spent digging our first hole which was approximately six feet deep, six feet long and three feet across. As we dug, we wondered about what was to be buried in that hole. Soon, as the day reached its end, our friendly coworkers whom we hadn’t seen eye to eye yet suddenly shouted, “You two better get ready to get going because the truck will be here soon!” Continue reading
One of Chiquita Brand’s promotional posters. I was headed for Baseline, today known as Changuinola, in search of work. Image.
Although I wouldn’t respond, the voice remained insistent until the guy ran up to me and said, “Juni, don’t you remember me?” “No!” I answered. “Where the hell do I know you from?” I said rather annoyed. He started talking fast noticing that I was irritated by all of his pestering. “Look guy, or whatever your name is, you don’t know me and I don’t know you!” I said. At that he quickly said, “Pug’s cousin! Don’t you remember? ” So, I said “Look Buddy, I am really busy and need to do some business….” Continue reading
After the big strike of 1918-1919 and the general work stoppages that followed, the Chiriqui Land Company would be forced by political pressure to increase the pay of workers on their plantations. The agreements called for better housing and working conditions which improved the lot of the men somewhat. Continue reading
Clipart provided by Classroom Clipart
The call to “Stop the Work!” went out up-the-line from Bocas del Toro and spread like wild fire through Chiriqui and the plantation areas of Costa Rica, even reaching remote points in Central America.The action was so far reaching that it surprised even the bosses.The actions brought to remembrance the days of slave uprisings in Jamaica, as black men united and laid down their tools heading home to the shacks or barracks they called home. Later, they would quietly await further instructions of what they should do next. Much to their horror, the stories of plantations being burnt and the precious fruit destroyed by angry exploited workers reached the labor leaders. Continue reading
An early photo of West Indian workers chatting.
In that year of early 1956 when I met Bea, I wasn’t much more than a teenager, an older adolescent. Bea was as an older woman whose age I calculated as being in her early sixties. But she still had that glow of a young woman as her beautiful brown skin did not reveal the wrinkles of old age. Nevertheless she might have been cruising in her early eighties. But it was my first encounter with a woman who had seen the beginnings of the web of railroad tracks laid to be the only transport available in the area and all of it was run by the Chiriqui Land Company. Continue reading