JIS News

Story Highlights

  • A lecture, exploring the West Indian participation in the building of the Panama Canal, will be held on Sunday (September 21) at the Institute of Jamaica Lecture Hall, 10-16 East Street, Kingston,
  • The lecture entitled: ‘Colon Man and the Panama Experience,’ will be delivered by Jamaican author and poet Olive Senior and will begin at 2:00 p.m. It will focus on the experience of Jamaicans and other West Indians, who worked on the construction of the canal.
  • Ms. Senior told JIS News that Panama is a key feature in Jamaica’s history dating back to the middle of the 19th century, when many persons left the country to find work abroad.

A lecture, exploring the West Indian participation in the building of the Panama Canal, will be held on Sunday (September 21) at the Institute of Jamaica Lecture Hall, 10-16 East Street, Kingston,

The lecture entitled: ‘Colon Man and the Panama Experience,’ will be delivered by Jamaican author and poet Olive Senior and will begin at 2:00 p.m. It will focus on the experience of Jamaicans and other West Indians, who worked on the construction of the canal.

Ms. Senior told JIS News that Panama is a key feature in Jamaica’s history dating back to the middle of the 19th century, when many persons left the country to find work abroad.

“I think every West Indian would have some relative or other who had gone to Panama, starting with the building of the Panama railroad in the 1850s, then the French Canal in the 90s, then the successful building of the (Panama) Canal from 1904 to 1914,” she said.

“I don’t think Jamaicans today are aware of the impact that these waves of migration had on the society, both in terms of their going and what they brought back,” she added.

The Jamaican writer and poet said the lecture, which is based on her research visit to Panama, will also look at the image of the ‘Colon man’ a West Indian labourer named after one of Panama’s largest cities.

“From that time to this, there is this image of the Colon man…who is dressed up draped with gold, in his fancy suit …. and it’s an image which persists up to now of the traveler, who goes away and returns and is showing off,” she said.

 

“I want to deconstruct that image to show that our forefathers, who went to Panama and these other places in search of work , there was much more substance to them than just the image that we have and in fact, they were the people who moved these countries forward in the 20th century,” Senior added.

This year marks the 100th anniversary since the completion of the Canal. It was opened in 1914.