An Afro-Caribbean Church


Snapshot of a replica of a picturesque wooden Afro-Caribbean church at Mi Pueblito in Panama City. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.

The original building of this church is in the neighborhood of Calidonia in Panama City.  It is now a museum depicting the Afro-Caribbean culture.

Afro-Caribbean people played a critical role in the construction of the Panama Canal at turn of the 20th century.  Without their contribution the international waterway would not have been accomplished.  They were strong, hard-working people who challenged the harsh condition of the steaming rainforest of Panama.

They came mainly from  Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Barbados, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Lucia, Dominica, Montserrat, Anguilla, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Guyana (which although on the South American mainland is culturally similar to the Caribbean and was historically considered to be part of the British West Indies), and Belize.

Their knowledge of the English language was highly beneficial for the American authorities who wanted a workforce that understood the English language.  They were having communicating problems with people from other nationalities like Portuguese, Italian, Chinese, Spanish, Polish and other European countries.

Afro-Panamanians played a significant role in the creation of the Panama. Some historians have estimated that up to 50 percent of the population of Panama has some African ancestry. The descendants of the Africans who arrived during the colonial era are intermixed in the general population or live in small Afro-Panamanian communities along the Atlantic Coast and in villages within the Darién jungle.

Most of the Panamanian population of West Indian descent owe their presence in the country to the monumental efforts to build the Panama Canal in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Three-quarters of the 50,000 workers who built the canal were Afro-Caribbean migrants from the British West Indies. Thousands of Afro-Caribbean workers were recruited from Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad.

It is estimated that about ten percent of the Panamanian population are Black (West Indian).  Their music, art, traditions, and lifestyle, constitute a significant part of the culture of the Panamanian melting pot.  Good Day.

2 thoughts on “An Afro-Caribbean Church”

  1. So interesting – and what a beautiful building. It reminds me of much of the architecture I’ve seen in the Caribbean, especially the Bahamas.

    I didn’t know about the migrants’ role in building the Canal. In the same way, many people don’t realize how many Italians helped with railroad building in Texas. Their names are enshrined in towns up and down rail lines that no longer exist. (Foolish people, who tore up the tracks!)

  2. Hello Linda:
    The role of Afro-Caribbean people were critical to the construction of the waterway. Without them, we would have no canal. We can’t thank them enough. Many people in Panama are not aware of this historical fact.

    Same situation as the Italian migrants and the railroads in Texas.

    Best Regards,

    Omar.-

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