Several months ago, I read a fascinating book written by a Methodist globe-trotter missionary. His name is George Amos Miller and the title of his book, written in 1919, is Prowling About Panama. Other books written by Mr. Miller are: China Inside Out (1917), Interesting Manila Historical Narratives Concerning the Pearl of the Orient, Missionary Morale, Problems of the Town Church, Some Outdoor Prayers (1911), and “Paulino”: A tale of the Philippines. These books can be read on the Internet free of charge.
While enjoying this book about Panama, written at the turn of the century, I jotted down some notes which I found intellectually arousing, being a Panamanian myself. Below are tids and bits about Panama written by an insightful and keen observer of everything that surrounded him to the most insignificant detail. His observation, although written in 1919, are still valid to this very day.
“Panama is the great American curiosity shop. The first city founded by explorers in the New World, the oldest town in America inhabited by white men, the most conglomerate mixture of humanity on earth are in Panama. The bloodiest tale of modern history, the most story of American exploration, the greatest engineering achievement of man all center in Panama.
Panama has fifteen hundred miles of coast line to explore with something new to every mile. It was on the Isthmus of Panama, that the American slave trade began and was continued for 300 years. In 1853, the high-water mark was reached, when 66 million dollars were carried across to the Atlantic Side and shipped to New York.
There is no possible human shade or tint that is absent here. The Anglo-Saxons are white, more or less. The Jamaicans are black, mostly. The Panamanian is most often a soft and pleasing brown, done in a number of wholly unmatchable tints. And the natives from these many sunny countries round about are of every known color-tone, from chrome yellow to Paris Green. This is the human kaleidoscope of the earth: shake it up and you will get a different result every time.
In the days of its glory, Panama was a veritable Arabian Nights city with some 200 warehouses for the storage of stolen treasures. The tower was part of the cathedral, and the cathedral was one of three or four great churches.
The entire colonial program of Spain differed radically from that of the English in Canada or the United States in Hawaii or the Philippines. The leading motive of the Conquistadores was the love of gold. Plunder, rapine, and devastation followed in the trail of the adventurers who fought their way across Panama and conquered Peru.
Spanish colonial policies had small regard for the rights or development of the conquered. It was one of the viceroys of Mexico who said, ‘Let the people of these dominions learn, once and for all, that they were born to be silent and obey, and not to discuss nor have opinions in political affairs.’
There can be no radical change in these conditions until some new program of social uplift, educational progress, some spiritual life is introduced to cause a fresh reaction and begin a new life.
The Isthmus of Panama is the narrowest part of the connecting link of the continents, and here is the lowest point in the continental backbone. The Isthmus of Panama is a shoestring trying together two continents. Today Panama is on the direct line of travel between almost any two great cities at opposite ends of the earth. Melbourne and London, New York and Buenos Aires, Port-au-Spain, and Honolulu—draw the lines, and they all pass through Panama.
Panama’s 1,300 miles of coast bound a narrow empire, but an empire of wonderful possibilities. Her inexhaustible soil, her frequent rivers, her rich jungles, her broad savannas, her high mountains and dense forests, her mines and climate and rainfall, and a world market right at her doors—all that nature could do to lay the foundations of material wealth seems to have been done here.
There are more comfortable days in Panama, per year, than in New York. There is rarely a night when one cannot sleeping comfort. If there were nothing but the climate, there would be no reason for shunning Panama. By all the rules of the great game of getting rich, Panama ought to be both prosperous, and progressive. Seemingly every chance has come her way.
The unfortunate fact is that such modern conditions as exist in Panama today have largely been brought to her ready-made, which may be why she does not take more interest in them.
Possibly no place in the world shows more mixed blood than Panama. Shades and colors, and tints and tones there are, and blends indescribable and also impossible to analyze or trace.
Highly favored among the nations of the earth, this little country affords a strategic opportunity for the setting up of a national experiment in development and progress. If this undertaking is to succeed, there must be added to the large economic, social and strategic resources of the country, the element of a free spirit and an enlightened conscience. Out of these will come a sense of the dignity of labor, the worth-whileness of education, and the development of the now dormant resources of this beautiful land.”
These visionary words were written in 1919. You might think they were written by a journalist in yesterday’s paper. Okay, this is it for today. Seeya sometime. Good Day.