May is El Mes de La Etnia Negra – or Black History Month – in Panama. This month serves to highlight the contributions people of African descent have made to Panama.
Many people don’t realize that there have been several waves of Afrodescendants to Panama. Afro-Panamanians are roughly 15% of the population, and an estimated 50% of Panamanians have African ancestry (it could easily be more considering the melting pot that Panama is).
The Afro-Panamanian population can be broken into the Afro-Colonial, those descended from slaves brought to Panama during the colonial period, and the Afro-Antillean who migrated to Panama to work on the first inter-oceanic Railroad and in the Panama Canal.
Hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated
There has never been a census reflective of Afrakan ancestry in Panamá. It’s only recently that racial self-identification been a part of the census. While many may speak of some Afrakan influence in their family, mostly they do not identify as Afrakan descendant. The lack of unity between captured Afrankans (not slaves) brought in the early 1500s (btw Panamá has one of the earliest recorded rebellion against European capture) and captured Afrakans who came first in the 1850s with the French then with the northamericans from the Caribbean has been our achilles heel. The increasing embrace of our cultural heritage not only in Panamá but throughout Central and South American signals a major turn for us. There is so much to learn as we define OurStory rather than it being defined by others. In addition there exists a chapter of those who came before Columbus (Ivan Van Sertima.) To define and reclaim oneself is not hateful.
“We are not fighting for integration, nor are we fighting for separation. We are fighting for recognition as human beings…In fact, we are actually fighting for rights that are even greater than civil rights and that is human rights.” -Malcolm X (Black Revolution)