Colón Man and the Panama Experience
“…. 50,000 strong army of labourers….more than 70% were black West Indians from Barbados, Jamaica and Martinique, and it was those workers who were visible everywhere, out in the 38˚c heat, perched high on the huge lock gates or braving landslides as they hacked away at the base of the murderous Culebra Cut through the Panama mountains.”
- Julian Borger, THE PANAMA CANAL’S FORGOTTEN LABOUR, Guardian Weekly, January 6-12, 2000
Map of the Panama Zone, Aug 1, 1920
To say that Jamaicans were responsible for the construction of the Panama Canal would not be an exaggeration. Thousands of Jamaicans sailed off to Panama between 1850 and the 1940s in search of economic mobility.
Colón Man and the Panama Experience, uses 2014, the centenary of the opening of the Panama Canal, to explore the Jamaican experiences and role in the building of the Panama Canal. It explores the driving factors in this large scale emigration, the conditions encountered by migrants and the legacy that has today left a mark on Jamaica’s heritage, “Colón Man.” Colón is the name of a town in Panama and was one of the main areas where migrant Panama Canal workers settled. In Jamaica the name became synonymous with Panama and the migrants who went there and the “farrin” aura they brought back.