Tag Archives: West Indian women

The Joys of Solitude

This is a young monk at Labrang Monastery in Tibet.

During my increasingly frequent moments of deep reflection I began thinking that my culture- the Westindian Panamanian people- would be better off admitting that it as I was in need of institutions which offered secrets like monasteries of Asia.  Yes, monasteries for small boys. Continue reading

Hateful Rumors

La Flor Panameña Bakery, an icon
in Calidonia, is still there, as ever, a
cultural fixture a few steps down from
my old primary school.

As I walked out of school I was already formulating what I was going to tell my grandmother and my aunts at home as to why I had been suspended from school on the very first day of classes. Feeling really bad at how easy it was becoming for me to get pegged at school as a troublemaker for God knows what childhood prank I felt sure that I wouldn’t escape a whipping from youngest Aunt who was ever ready to mistreat me at the slightest provocation. Continue reading

“Small Island, Go Back Where You Come From!”

The image is a post card rendition of a
West Indian woman cake vendor
selling her wares in San Felipe. Notice the small price list
under the screen mesh that protects her offerings.
Thanks to
www.czimages.com


As time went by the privileged white American citizens of the Canal Zone would become dependent on Black West Indians and, in general, Black American workers and others who came to their rescue as coolie labor much before the area had reached such advanced stages of colonization in the country of Panama. Employment would become so abundant that a youngster of 15 years had only to decide not to attend school any more and just seek out gangs of men at work. That minor would, then, only need to approach whomever was the foreman saying, “Need any workers, boss?” And he would be instantly hired on the spot. Continue reading

Women and the Rise and Fall of the Boom Days in Bocas

As I mentioned in the previous post, there were three recognizable groups of women who lived side by side with their men in the frontier areas of early Bocas.

The first large group of women to follow men into this remote outpost, as we have said before, was West Indian women. Black women would become a regular sight in the pueblos and towns near the area of the mines and of the railroad construction. They had become a common sight, one may safely say, during the years before the construction of the first railway from 1850 and would continue to be so until my times in 1956. Continue reading

Women in Areas Built by Westindian Work Men

Image is from the Library of Congress.

So far, we have opened windows to the past, a past witch links us all as Panamanians to the experiences of workingmen who lived over a century ago. We have relived the times when Westindian laborers were introduced into those parts to be the sole work force, to be with them as they entered into hard, dangerous times and terrible working conditions. Those men would battle for labor reform, as we will see later on, and be trampled, battered, arrested and even assassinated in the darkness of the night. Continue reading

Sometimes I feel like a Motherless Child

It was the next morning that I appeared at Bea’s, as promised.As I arrived I went to work right away, feeling that I had better before the sun found out that I was around. Determined to finish the job I had started the day before, I lifted my machete and started to work even before announcing to old Bea that I had arrived. Continue reading