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The History of the Corozal and Mount Hope Cemeteries Scribd

The History of the Corozal and Mount Hope Cemeteries Scribd

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Published by ohsogreen
The History of the Corozal and Mount Hope Cemeteries in the Republic of Panama date back as far as the years of the French Construction period of the Panama Canal (1880-1890).
The History of the Corozal and Mount Hope Cemeteries in the Republic of Panama date back as far as the years of the French Construction period of the Panama Canal (1880-1890).

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Published by: ohsogreen on Mar 08, 2010
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The History of the Corozal andMount Hope CemeteriesBy Roberto A. Reid, B.A., M.A.
In this image we see an actual view of Corozal “Silver”Cemetery (foreground) separated fromThe Corozal American Cemetery ( American Battle Monuments) by an eight foot chainlink fence. The Corozal “Silver Cemetery is now administered by the Panama City Municipal Government while the American Battlements Cemetery is carefully guarded, preservedand administered by the U.S. Embassy.Through our lobbying efforts we seek to make the present “Silver”Cemeteries of Corozal and Mount Hope into Heritage Cemeteries that will be restored, preserved in perpetuity and included on the Scenic PanamaCanal Tourist route.
The History of the Corozal andMount Hope CemeteriesBy Roberto A. Reid
The United States Government Isthmian Canal Commission’s segregated
Cemetery at Corozal
was the only active cemetery for its “
Silver Roll
Employees even before 1914 when the construction of the Panama Canal wascompleted. The site had been a jungle and was then established as a farm toprovide work for disabled Silver laborers, who also lived on parcels of land withtheir families.Before February 5, 1914 when the cemetery was assigned to the superintendentof Ancon Hospital’s operational control, the cemetery remained with theCorozal Farm Supervisor and the disabled labour force which performed burialsand maintenance. As the cemetery continued to expand it reached more than
, the only weekly newspaper read by Black people of  West Indian origin in Panama at the time was published primarily for its “SilverRoll” labour readership.
Mr. Sydney Young
was founder and editor in chief of the newspaper and it was not only read in the country of Panama but hadreadership all over Central America where West Indian laborers had settled. Itis from archival copies of this historical weekly newspaper that we garnered thefascinating history of this unique burial ground and we owe it to the Tribune forone particular headline that brought the date of September 21, 1947 intosignificance for our research since it marked a very strong sentiment within the West Indian Panamanian community.The startling byline “
Jim Crow Cemetery Opposed
” headed the story of how during the Canal Construction Period (1904-1914) the Black “Silver Roll”employees and their family members were normally buried at sites on the Atlantic coast in the area of Colon in what was known at the time as “
Monkey Hill
.”The writer of the article described how the “Silver Roll” labourers appealed tothe City Council of the Atlantic coast municipality of Colon, requesting they open lands for new burial grounds to accommodate Canal Zone “Silver Roll”employees and their families in that coastal region. Shortly after the petition was accepted and granted by that municipality allowing for burial at a site the Westindian people would refer to as “
Mount Hope Cemetery 
” or
Cementerio de Monte Esperanza
.” This is just a sketch of the origins of the Atlantic side cemetery.On
January 19, 1979
, due to historic changes in policy, the
U.S. FederalGovernment
, regarding the Panama Canal, reorganized the Panama CanalCommission focus renaming it the Panama Canal Company. Those changes, in
turn, made the Canal Company’s Ground Maintenance Division theadministrative agency overseeing and controlling all cemetery grounds at theCemetery at Corozal. Shortly after 1979, as negotiations progressed between thetwo countries of Panama and the United States, Executive Order 12115 wassigned by 
President James Carter
securing a permanent place totalingapproximately 17 acres in size for the
 American portion
of Corozal Cemetery.The designation of the American Cemetery was noted in Section 1-101 of the writ of Executive Order 12115 to be a specific portion of the American BattleMonuments Cemetery officially named 
.In October of 1979 the new Panama Canal Treaty became effective and thePanama Canal Company transferred Corozal Cemetery to the U.S. Army fortemporary administrative control and maintenance during that period of redesign and construction of the “American portion” of the cemetery groundssupervised by the American Battle Monuments Commission. A ceremony, infact, for the transfer to the U.S. Army control of the 17 acres of the most beautiful monumental resting grounds was conducted on June 5 of 1982. After 1982 The U.S. American Battle Monuments Commission became theguardian of the American overseas commemorative cemetery at Corozal andmemorials established by the U.S. Congress since 1923. The Commission hasand continues to maintain the 17 acres of monuments and markers which arefenced off and segregated from the remaining 46 acres of cemetery groundsknown always to the descendants of the “Silver Roll” Panama Canal Employeesas the final resting place for them and their descendants.It is, however, the
46 acre
portion of the former Corozal Cemetery  which concerns us here and which have been, throughout its history, known asthe sacred burial grounds for the Black “Silver Roll” employees and theirfamilies.Since before 1914, when the
Silver Disabled Employees
had been assignedas the chief keepers of all the cemetery grounds, until October of 1979 when it was turned over to the
US Army 
for temporary administration, the Silveremployees had always been the principal labor force in the maintenance andadministration of those grounds and it would remain so until 1982 when thePanama Canal Treaty was being culminated for the total reversion of allinstallations in 1999.To date, more than
46 acres
of burial grounds, which contain the remains of our “Silver” men and women and their family members, are experiencing thesame grave deterioration and gross abandonment as in the past. Most of theheadstones are badly worn by pollution, erosion, the passage of time, and by gross neglect. The images presented in our home page and our 
 of portions of the grounds as they are today, evidence the weathering andatmospheric damage that the grave stones have undergone. The many administrative transfers and the periods of uncertainty that have gripped theimpoverished grounds crew can only uphold our descriptions of the virtualabandonment the site has come to reflect.

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