Panamanians of West Indian Descent

On August 15, 1914, the Panama Canal opened. It was the result of the death-defying labor of hundreds of thousands of Black British West Indian men, recruited by the U.S. from their home islands. The Canal, the Panama Railroad, the United Fruit Company, in particular, and the promise of economic opportunity, more generally, attracted British West Indians to Panama throughout the first half of the twentieth century. This segment of VFOA works to capture the beautiful and ugly experiences of modern-day Panamanian West Indians in their own words, and guides interested individuals and groups in using that material to expand awareness of these histories and stories within and beyond Panama.

VFOA has conducted over 115 interviews with Panamanian West Indian in Panama City, Bocas del Toro, and Colón in the Republic of Panama. Interviewees range in age from 18 to 101. Listen to some of their Voices. If you are a researcher, teacher, or community organization leader and wish to use these interviews for your project, class, or program, feel free to Contact Us. We have also organized or participated in over 30 events in the Republic. See our Activities and Events page for a sampling. Learn more about our Partners, including the Society of Friends of the West Indian Museum of Panama (SAMAAP), Esteban Lan author of the Almanaque Lan (the Lan Almanac), and Asociación Amigos del Museo Etnocarbeño de Bocas del Toro. This segment of the project has been made possible, in part, by support from the Center for Latin American Studies, the Department of English, the College of Arts and Science Dean's Office and the Center for the Americas.