PANAMA DAY MESSAGE: A time to remember the workers
The following is the Panama Day message by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Dr Jerome Walcott.
August 15 is the day that Barbados commemorates the inauguration of the Panama Canal. This day, called “Panama Day”, serves as a tribute to the many Barbadians who travelled to Panama to provide the much needed labour required to facilitate the construction of the engineering marvel that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. On this day, we recognise the invaluable contribution of the thousands of Barbadians who toiled to make the Canal a reality.
Over 20 000 Barbadians answered the call to supply labour for the Canal. They left the familiar shores of Barbados for an uncertain future bolstered by the belief that the opportunity to work in a new land, offered a chance of improved livelihoods for themselves and the lives of their loved ones who remained in Barbados. With the completion of the Canal, many opted to stay, further contributing to the social and economic landscape of Panama. This gave rise also to a generation of Panamanians of Barbadian descent.
In August 1975, Barbados and Panama established diplomatic relations, which paved the way for a strengthening and deepening of ties. This 43 year-old partnership is based on cooperation in areas of importance for the two countries’ mutual economic growth and development, including culture, tourism and business opportunities.
On July 17 of this year, Copa Airlines began operations into Bridgetown, providing direct flights between Barbados and the rest of the Central American continent. This twice-weekly flight between Bridgetown and Panama City adds a new dimension to the Barbados-Panama relationship by significantly improving interconnectivity. The establishment of the direct air link will facilitate and encourage travel between the two countries as well as serve as a catalyst for further opportunities in trade and business.
For many years, Panama has held a special appeal for Barbadians, many of whom owe a debt of gratitude to those who travelled to Panama to work under precarious conditions on the construction of the Canal. Their hard-earned money provided capital in Barbados for investment in land, infrastructure and education. It was due to the remunerations received from Panama that many families were lifted out of poverty. For Barbados, the Panama Canal is not only a magnificent structure, but also a symbol of industry and sacrifice.
Today we pay homage to those Barbadians who contributed to the construction of the Panama Canal.