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By Roberto A. Reid Green
This Paper is meant to formalize Historic Issues in our demands for the rescue, protection, restoration and safeguarding of cultural properties, and the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Panamanian Community known as the Westindian, Silver People of the Black Panama Canal Zone and Urban Barrios. Author: Roberto A. Reid Green, B.A., M.A. Personal Identifier: Number: 8-82-623 E-mail: email@example.com Web site: http://thesilverpeopleheritage.wordpress.com Date: December 17, 2009 Panama City, Republic of Panamá © 2009 All rights Reserved - Roberto A. Reid Green The following is a Declaration in Facts on the restoration of Human Rights, since 1948, Economic Social and Cultural Rights and Civil and Political Rights since 1966. These are Historic Demands for the safeguarding and protection of cultural properties, and the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Westindian Panamanian Community or the descendants of the Silver People of Panama and the Canal Zone.
The community has experienced long-term historic patterns of racial segregation and has been submitted to practices of exclusionary policies in governance which has left a legacy fraught with abuses. The resulting psychological traumas have left an entire ethnic group of people suffering from a weakened cultural perspective. Under such an oppressive atmosphere in which State as parties involved in formulating such international declaration and being party to international agreements which expected action on safeguarding such cultural heritages considered simply were remiss in carrying out such duties in respect to the Silver Community of Panama. Theirs were as Parties involved in the United Nation Education Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) since its foundations after WWII, who had been cognizant even after the 1948 Declaration on Human Rights, and the 1966 Covenants of that international body, maintained such blind and muted governmental policies and attitudes towards Panamanian historic Silver People that their educational system virtually promoted racism and historically has caused grave and harmful effects to the black population of citizens, who historically has been identified as the Westindians, and who lived in the middle class and poorer Urban Barrios and worked under the authorities and administrations that controlled the historic Panama Canal Zone. Such act of commissions and omissions committed while handling vital public administration maters of those times indicated above had caused the aggrieved communities to become a culturally weakened populace, still classified as “Silver Employees, Local Rates and Black Westindian people,” to remain a social and cultural class of people to act as stateless people, migrating or living without identifiable cultural value that has caused them grave social and cultural harm that had lasted for more than a century. So deep has been the long-term damages inflicted, that inherent erroneous beliefs have surfaced, taken as facts or truths regarding their ancestry and in addition such negativity has been ascribed to the aggrieved and victimized community as an inherent part of their make-up. So that in matters where absolute truths have affected self-acceptance in human relations, it has had additional tarnishing effects on the victims, and sanctioned and accepted by such powerful victimizers to further ascribe negative policies to them. So then it has been that history has reveled that so demeaning has been such treatments over time, that those described as “loyal and honest employees,” still has not received compensatory treatments nor has fully accepted their forefathers accomplishments as being part of their inherited character and human make-up. In this paper we hope to demonstrate that ours is a population, which has suffered irreparable damages, and that our history is still without vital records and archives most held hostage by the described States Parties to such UNESCO mandated directorates and considerations. It has been that such that interested scholars, students and researchers of our ethnic race are hard pressed to find any funding or schools colleges
4 and universities that will sponsor them in these specialized and valued fields of study. However a study of these International Conventions held all over western world would reveal how historic had been the aggrieved maladies inherited by our Silver People first in the field of employee employer relationships, general health and welfare etc, due to mistreatment and outright historical refusal to make health care available, for instance in this special and most needed fields of community mental health. That further such maladies had been caused by administrative mismanagement and dayto-day mistreatment of our people still treated as suspected enemies, amongst the ranks of descendants of the Silver employee of the Panama Canal Zone. In fact that such health matters as deprivation of psychological assistance had turned generations of Westindians descendants male and female to become chronic self-medicated persons, leading to alcoholism and drug abuse. Then that such chronic depression in such a mass populace so poorly treated, would results in child abuse and neglect, were that it did affect interactions in community and human relations matters, resulting in direct historic targeting the segregated population constantly abused by authoritative powers, such as employers, police authority and in general the basic violations of human and civil rights. It is our contention that such overall treatments have had deleterious effects in the black Panamanian Westindian population that can be traced directly to historic use of administrative powers to first dominate the employee’s employer relations on the Panama Canal Zone. That furthers such commission and omissions led to commitment of serious administrative misconducts not only in the handling of the Silver Westindian employees but it had repercussions in the subject population as a whole regardless of where they were on the isthmus. That further public administrative powers transcended employer employee relations and that it further soured family relations and even human relations in economically and socially. Then further that the use and abuse of public administration practices were historic and that it lasted long periods of time so that it had permanence in the direct continued violation of human rights, aided by a court and social system, that had lasted longer than any other modern political and jurisprudence practice under such a “system of democracy.” The results have been that even today our is an ethnic population that was defined as the Silver People that without the basic knowledge of their civil and human rights, under any of the State Party of the UNESCO agreed Conventions or even international human rights instruments, that are still valuable to the demanding or claiming of its inherent historical, intangible or cultural heritage so long delayed. In this paper we have summarized and identified some of the glaring laxities and abuses of powers in governmental handling of the public administration matters against our inherent rights. They are rights which historians have documented instances in which the handling and transference of governmental responsibilities, agreements between governmental State Parties had completely omitted the Silver Community of Panama. So that without any protection from the United States Government who had been instrumental in first contracting such large population of citizens, did not prepare the community to even defend themselves in the country of their birth or in the countries they had migrated to. That without such protections even as low echelon employees on the Canal Zone, such history of association with such powerful entities as governments even with birth rights, left all members of the Silver Community without any mechanism for claiming any of its birthright, historic inherited rights of possession of
5 any of their cultural properties thus remaining pauperized. For us Silver People then our history, which had been born out of chattel Slavery, would continue being a history that denied us even the citizenship rights of nativity. Today born out that humanity which had been treated so long as property would become those to remain silent and even be glad to forget. Silent we become partners in such overt transfer of our cultural properties, and further to have acted like fish taking the proverbial bait and just as migrate, thus became like wild African wildebeests migrating within the areas of the predators as friendly pray, or becoming enemies who had over staid their usefulness to even be worthy to receive “U.S. Aid in the Alliance for Progress” programs. Then as such it had been that such population stripped of every sense of their human rights would remain without “advocates,” or even “ Friends of the Court” to plead their cause. Then between the States, which were known for their tragic historic handling of public administration matters concerning our community of Silver People, it had become times in the native country to then slowly strip them of even their rights to ownership of the grave land blanket that shields their soul from the vultures sent from hell. Under such a scenario history would decree us as Panamanian Westindian a community to be ignored once again, as it had been historically done, that even as nationals of those States actors in the drama of constructing and then administering the waterway, the stage would be bereft of the black man as extras. So then again the Silver extras would be just actors treated as extras with no union rights or recompense. where they would be left without consideration for the government as parties to take eminent domain of their cultural property even their graves. Then they would become those who would reap the disdain of the rest of the new working class, that with the omissions of them even as Westindians in the history of the “new labor movements,” be treated as ones who had no part in matters concerning such “Labor War Negotiations.“ Even leaving us being as our forefathers were, who had been British subjects laboring for the wealthy French government, today we as descendants of their former British subject employees, noting that we have no rights to sue them for compensation would not be aware of the Conventions they all had agreed to even as European Nations involved with our long history in the region. Further, as intellectuals we awaited for some approach from those member States that hosted the UNESCO Convention of 2003 and 2005 regarding Intangible Cultural Heritage and Diversity of Cultural Expressions all held in Paris France, but no one came to inform us or to aide anyone of the Silver People communities of a region where all countries involved had been declaring to be “free and democratic.” The newspapers of the day revealed that not one country came to express concern for our besieged ethnic population of Silver People ever. Then again the business as usual atmosphere had swallowed up the spirit of the Silver People of the former Panama Canal Zone and to forget the information and awareness campaigns they al swore to implement. It had been because where it concerned our historic rights to form a community the Silver People would be left again without information regarding those opportunities to do so, or even take advantage of citizen participation rights to handle such matters of requesting compensation, reparations, restitution or even bailment as appropriate consideration to be shared between both member signatory States. As researcher and
6 investigator of such historic events, were it concerned the ethnic group in question we have found that the process halted, when it came to topics involving public administration matters involving the besieged ethnic group, so that the community, which carried the label of Silver People historically suddenly, had their name changed to Afro-Antillean. The results usually involved such Machiavellian arrangements that left out the ethnic race again at a gross disadvantage to the native “Etnia Negra.” Even after such an event as the “so-called declaration of War or Invasion,” in which the historical Silver Community of the Black Canal Zone was found left out of every public administration and diplomatic arrangements. Remaining thus in limbo as to their natural heritage on the Panama Canal Zone which is of outstanding universal value. Treated the community as they had been historically treated as being of no advantage to any of the State Parties to all the human rights international conventions they had agreed to conform to. The while discussions continued by the two States involved such special interest involving land and the famous waterway completely overshadowed the human rights and cultural integrity of the Silver population at home or abroad. Natural Heritage-Weakening of our Culture Time passed turning into a new century that found both States guilty of using their public administrative processes to continue damaging and weakening a defenseless and still racially segregated black Westindian Panamanian populace, leading to the commitment of further omissions of the mandated considered “Natural Heritage.” Article 3 of the UNESCO of the Convention Concerning the World Cultural and Natural Heritage of 16 of November of 1972 reads, “It is for each State party to this Convention to identify and delineate the different properties situated in its territory mentioned in Art 1 and 2 etc. It is therefore on such matters concerning rights as historic citizens of the Black Canal Zone and the human rights involved consequently both States have been guilty of gross and overt dereliction leading to the weakening of our culture and natural heritage. Subsequent historical investigations into the matter of Black Canal Zone born Westindians and other community citizenship issues such as educational opportunities has born out and confirmed our allegations of cultural genocide. Then taking a telescopic look at what had occurred during the times in which much diplomatic processes had taken place, we can only conclude that blatant human rights violations to our Westindian Panamanian ethnicity were blatantly allowed. So that no spaces were allowed in which to comply with international agreements regarding cultural, natural heritage or anything regarding our human rights as prescribed by Article 4 were attempted to so forge along culminating arrangements or reach points of agreements for the basic protection of Silver People Panamanian Citizenship or cultural rights to follow the “Reversions process” since the winter of 1974. As glaring as those omissions in fact became the prime method of exclusion and would ensue for the Silver community another process of control and exclusion from every part of the historic Black Canal Zone. Left out we were from exercising the required leadership in public administration maters involving cultural and historic areas of residence and citizenship. Thus we today are viewing the illicit transferring of ownership of our historic cultural properties on that former Black Canal Zone leaving us as citizens without opportunities to our rightful protection of the ownership of our
7 natural and historic cultural properties. The State parties involved even forgot such Principles of International Cultural Cooperation for discussing issues involving even the interchange of cultural property among nations for cultural educational purposes to increase knowledge and mutual respect and appreciation amongst other things. Protection Against Theft of Cultural Property “Considering that it is incumbent on States to protect cultural property existing in its territory against theft.” So reads in part one of the declarations of the UNESCO General Conference held in Paris, France 12-14 Oct 1970 which was held to protect such humanity and cultural legacy such as ours. However such historical exclusionary pattern of governance apparently had been so strong that a weakened patrimonial rights would not be taken into account or included in any arrangements for the Westindian Panamanian community, here at home in Panama or abroad in the United States. Remaining then would be the graves of our ancestors as one of the only Westindian Panamanian links to a past on the Black Canal Zone. We as a people would become as such, an historic and cultural people that although they had roots that ran deep in the land of Panama, on the other hand had today but their ancestor’s gave to claim as indisputable proof of natural heritage today needing vital assistance. A people who has produced historic wealth for all the States as Party to this criminal act against human rights and further has been directly responsible in the making of better economies for the citizens of both States, if not for most countries States signatory to these named international conventions to be still today remaining at this writings a people completely omitted from the history books of most countries of the world. Those who once were the chief economic entity and the engine that propelled the whole western world, the main laborers that made all shipping routes and their industry a resounding success. A people who in reality made possible that the system we know as Capitalism, to hinge in historic times as the prime labor force, would become completely forgotten and their children and ancestry to be without any protection of the world body of nations? To become that entity that for the novo rich not to remember, is one of the grosses cultural and human rights crimes of the 20th Century. Labor Considered as Property Could such a human activity as Labor be considered “property?” Article 1 of the Convention calling for Means of Prohibiting, Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property of 1970 reads, “For the purpose of this Convention “cultural property “ means property which on religious or secular grounds, specifically designated by each State as being important for literature, arts, …rare collections and specimens…property relating to history and social history, to the life of national leaders, thinkers, events of national importance.” If then all of the above are truly property then we here at the Silver People Heritage Foundation are demanding that such property that has been sold to others from the Black Canal Zone be recuperated, restored in its original form and made available to organization of descendants of the Silver People of the historic Black Canal Zone. Then should that negative history be the same for those descendants who had for such a long time felt that it all was so important to follow their ancestors? So that that part of
8 our history in which it would become for us youth with opportunities declared off limits, and should we remain a people left without due compensation or even a modicum of a fair retirement in our old age? The Silver people Chronicle has continued to find even today that our ethnicity remains having whole families left to fend for themselves in our history as a community, at the mercy of a Panamanian health and social welfare system at home and abroad, a virtual burden to the strapped Panamanian governmental system. Much more so dispersed they know not one another so that like ravenous canines they are ready to snarl and rip each other apart. However, we are calling for proper compensation for a history still going through the process of a systematic “cultural genocide” carried out in stages. Black Canal Zone Excluded from Reversion Process For all the historic period of garnering the riches that the labor of our forefathers had produced we have reaped virtual disdain and exclusion. Even today such evident economical and social advancements that our people have facilitated historically has produced for the system politicians whose careers in the “democratic system” as preferred governments employees that would continue, almost without adverse incidences, until much later into the history 20th Century. But for the historic Westindian laboring community as it came times for the so called "Reverted areas of the Panama Canal Zone" the evidence would prove that they would own no spaces and would even be evicted from the ones they had lived in since the black Canal Zone became a part of Panamanian history. It has become, it seems, that such a false belief has come to be believed as truth when those nefarious beliefs caused by racial exclusions and unworthy omissions seemed to have quieted debate thus ridding them of the problem of what to do with the Silver People of the former Black Canal Zone. However the historic cry to heaven has left what can be counted historic intangible cultural inheritances to be the Historic Silver Cemeteries. The Westindians in the “Barrio Circuits” of Panama Then too would remain a Diaspora of Westindian people, which had been longstanding Panamanian citizens and residents of the historic poorer economically marginalized parts of the country’s urban classes, known as the “Barrios.” The “Barrio Circuits” that is what The Panama Tribune Newspaper described in the history of a country such as Panama, who had witnessed our people amongst them, suffering with them historically and even reported to be under the fire of the War of an Invasion, which we submit herein as direct witnesses. Then again history of the Silver People would again bear witness to the fact that not all of the Panamanian Westindian people had followed such trend to relocate to any “so called greener pastures” or to be again on the perpetual move. The mass exodus to follow for Westindians Panamanians during the decade of 1960’s had followed another of the psychological and economic blows of the decade 1940-1950. Westindian youth of the period 1914-1920 had been caught by what they described as the notorious “Jim Crow System,” which had declared a ban on opportunities as a reward for an historic job well done. It had been since then that such matters in the public administrative system of the Panama Canal Zone had been “Southernized.”
The United States of America Southern pattern of employment and education placed such crucial matters as the culture of reading and writing so important to the building of a culture completely out of reach to black Canal Zone youth. For those youth coming of work ages amongst the Panamanian citizenry to them and their ancestors, who had been still alive and involved laboring still under employment in the construction of the main urban centers as experienced craftsmen that would show case a modernized Republic of Panama the call had been for expulsion. To further distance hope for education and employment the buzzwords came forth to migrate to achieve permanence in the United States, which would ease historic penury. An exodus would ensue that would last until the decades after the 1960’s seen as easing the pressures on the Panamanian government. That presence in Panama of Westindian Panamanian would seam to suffer but in reality such presence is still felt and remains so in the old Barrio neighborhoods and thus presently can be found in the new communities suburban areas of the district of Panama. Without communal guidance the Westindian community would be on the move even if as a community it remained, since the decade of the 1940’s found first in the outskirts of the main urban centers and then into the bush country of the Province of Panama and into the outskirts of the provinces of Colon. It had been just as some of their ancestors had done which eased the economic pains of exclusions on the American Canal Zone. Again there they were making communities, still at the same time, reticent to see permanence, remembering such constitutional laws as that of 1941, which prohibited them from owning any properties. Was it reticence or endemic economic pressures? But for masses of people who had been virtually legally illiterates in human relations maters, since the 1914 inauguration of the Panama Canal, such things as having a “history or knowing what their own Culture should have entailed” would become secondary to just having survival skills. Our Westindian Panamanian citizenry would migrate in mass by air, into the mouth of the fire belching dragon that had been persecuting the African American races with them always remembering the battering and abuse they received at the hands of the old Panama Canal Zone governmental. There in the U.S.A. under the cloak of an imaginary job security, suffering under historic economic recessions and mini-depressions, not considering life style as one of the main processes of changes brought on by migration. To this writer it had seamed as though the Westindian populace were joining the segregated Harlem’s of Northeast after taking the historic “Under Ground Railroad.” To live in Black America and amongst that other historically segregated and civilly abused group of Black American citizens that for them the United States would be all but the lost of their unique Panamanian cultural communal powers. The Attempt to Reconnect They again found themselves abroad laboring as a foreign community, mostly starting out as Blacks from the South in the minimum and slightly above minimum wage scales, for long periods as such that when it come time for retirement they would be left devoid of further affordable medical care in their senior years. Then would time be for attempting that yearly pilgrimages back home to the “Motherland of Panama.” Time it would be to move to the Latino-American South or try to secure their Panamanian birth
10 rights through their old Panamanian citizenship. Getting acquainted with and revisiting old Westindian haunts showing changes of modernization designed to kill historic cultural ties. Through out the old Center City of Colon, then the old Silver City, the Panama’s old Calidonia, then Chorrillo, as far flung as Rio Abajo and Juan Diaz, would bring home the reality of having a culture and a country. Then that reality would be The Silver People Heritage Foundation, which had set up a tent in the dessert to meet pilgrims, hoping that it would become like that place called Mecca, where more tents would be set up by those seeking some kind of revelation or that new life back home. Finding to seek places of respite in such an inhospitable place where respite and recuperation would lead to genetic recognition and agglutination away from the frustration, of meeting the traditional walls of psychological, racial exclusion and economic and historic Canal Zone or Panamanian racial battering. Still they came not just to travel on the frequent flights in and out of Black America to the old appropriated Black or Silver Canal Zone. Venturing home forced by the shadow of deaths the remnants of families left behind and too old to fend for them. Recording the Voices and History of our Forefathers Deaths and funerary rites have been a customary and traditional part of the Westindian culture since the beginnings of the history of the Silver Culture. By then they would have been shocked to find that even they did not known enough of their own history or if they had a culture at all. They then would have to become aware that respected historians from universities in the United States had had access to Canal Zone records and have recorded important data such as death rates amongst their ancestors and compared them amongst the cast of actors in the historic drama. The real story had to be told of that of being Black Laborers on the Panama Canal from ones who had been part of the script. However, Westindian Panamanian academicians who are true and trained historians have not persisted in taking on the task of recording the voices of their forefathers. To this researcher who remembers being a fanatic of his maternal grandfather, an original Silverman, and who followed his guiding star when the issue of Black Studies emerged on the scene in college, became acquainted with repositories of such historic records, devoting long hours of study in Public Libraries. With scarcely any available written works about Panama, much less of the American Canal Zone, the beginning of such studies about our Panamanian Westindian ethnic race was difficult and almost impossible. In fact, it was back home in Panama that some of the first extensive reports on the whole Canal Zone became available, so that such works became a part of my private library collection. That is how the Panama Fever would find a cure because such reports of the funeral trains that unceremoniously dumped bodies of young black Jamaicans, who had been amongst the army of black men really digging by hand, even after making path for heavy machinery and would become part of the landfill which they had been helping to dump. These landfills contain the remains of the bones of our ancestors, such hilly mounds of refuse or discarded dirt from the bottom of the “Great Pit,” would without the usual religious ceremonials serve to comfort them in death. However, the end of hand digging
11 would turn into the flowing of sea water, then inauguration of that Canal would come as the period of being ignored and persecuted would become the “thank you but no official thank you would be forthcoming.” Much later on the numbers in the death tolls would be unbelievably low. But still funerals would mount up and death would reach the homes of those same Diggers who had survived, and who had become sole breadwinners for years after of families on that Black Canal Zone and in the Barrios nearby. Then history did not report the visitor to many homes from the much-hated “Reductions in force,” which meant forced unemployment and a new life in the Barrio neighborhoods. Death and the “Nigh’ Nights” By then for black families it meant another tragic mourning period even as death visited newborn babies or growing Westindian Children at home. The “Nigh’ Nights” became as frequent as birthday parties as death visited the Black Canal Zone wherever they landed in Panama. It is the view of this writer that historic negative social, political and public administrative fall out had not been something invented by the Westindian people of Panama, but well documented historic and social facts of employer employee relations would reach the vulnerable Black Silver Canal Zone Community. As such it had been such events that had been used in reverse to deprive the Westindian Panamanian community of its historic natural heritage rights. Such a valuable and fragile vulnerable part of the human rights component that brought on such weakening of social and cultural values and mores caused great harm of magnitudes yet to be measured. Thus deprived of rights or opportunities to later seek adequate protection under international human rights laws agreed by conventions to be included as legislation, to be promulgated amongst member States of the United Nations, would rob our community who remained further misinformed. More directly those periods of historic events of times mentioned above, demonstrates that our allegations of deprivation of rights as a community to partake in matters of citizenship ensuring cultural development of our own participatory citizen rights and privileges, denied of everything that could have insured fairness and total inclusion in our own communal life. Though we are alleging that unfair advantage has been taken of our people, the Silver Community has been deprived of such uniform life style and the right to develop a cultural base and to have our inherent ethnicity recognized. Therefore, try as we might to become an informed ethnic community, we could never see the whole picture, which could have led to uniting to better protect our inherent human rights to our historical Intangible cultural heritage. That which is an intrinsic part of all cultured people, with which to reinforce our arguments, that our ancestors participated in, proven that it had been whose hands and skills has remained much longer building security. Descendants are Psychologically Coerced We who are descendants and Panamanian citizens have been psychologically coerced into abandoning our birthrights by migrating. It had been for us an inherited right as pioneer colonials, in a country that needed our health and our strength and even our lives, at all time in history of both State party to any agreements. But that then we as a
12 people had been repaid with abuse and abandonment and held up to ridicule as we sought to formulate what culture we had. It had been in this region of the Continent of the Americas in which we as a people had been invited and remained for over a century. Just because of the race and color of our skin we have been mistreated up to the fourth generation. Defining Ourselves as Westindians It is time now for us to stand and be counted in decennial censuses as Silver People, Westindians not Afro-Antilleans. As afro-antillanos we are not unique, but as Silver People of the Black Canal Zone we surely are. The region known as the Antilles always have been overflowing with people from all the regions and nations of the Western world having natives of the African races of people, it has always been historically so. However history has not recorded such masses of the people of all the islands making their home under the boot of the oppressive racist system of governments. Today we are expecting an avalanche of new immigrants from the island of Haiti and the Dominican Republican all Afro-Antilleans. Then for us who have ancestry in this land and who had been mistakenly accepting being labeled Afro-Antillanos, would not be able to use such mechanisms to demonstrate to the State of Panama, a State rife with the syndrome of amnesia ready to forget all the gross violations of our human rights. Also, we will not be able to substantiate that we are a community, a special ethnic group, which has a long history of being deprived of our inherent rights of ownership of natural heritage and intangible cultural heritage and having input into the social fabric of our nation. We are hoping that once and for all times, we would as an established community with a history and a culture etched in hardened judicial processes, further that we have earned such pride in our historic participatory and cooperativeism, as an ethnic community of Panama established on the Black Canal Zone. That we as genuine citizens have set out to see a stage, not set for reactionary maneuverings but for proactive salvos to gain such rightful defense as recovery of our spaces and cultural integrity of our inherent cultural heritage. (*12) It would be an historic event if we could turn back the clock and experience what Sydney Young, Pedro Rhodes and George Westerman did and felt. These brave Westindians single-handedly took on the whole prejudicial Panamanian governmental machinery in times on both political fronts, Panama and the Canal Zone of the United State of America. They were present and coherent during these times of historic proportions as part of the Silver People to have raised our voices against such barbarisms which left us without any basic defenses. Still Time for International Appeal- Being Proactive There is, however, still time to appeal to international entities such as the U.N. in New York and the world community for redress; to feel as though we have gotten a new start, a reprieve to live today as Silver People in a new era in our history. For me it would be as when we had been first denomination as “Silver Peoples” and were able to survive and overcome all adversities. However, once again in our history we have come to a point in time in which our people are looking on, like people who have felt that they have no recourse but to accept; and yet we insist on being proactive. We will continue to be proactive even if today we still have people in our community that still don’t
13 understand the importance of being supportive. Then points in judgment that we are making here are the result of years of reading and experiences in employment of matters in public administration. At any rate, we are hoping, praying and taking into account such facts that we today as a people have more educated people of Westindian descent than at any other time in our history. Although one senses at times that there is still that cry of “we don’t have any recourse but to abandon such notions as historic patrimonial rights,” in review ours is a culture born and matured in the Panama Canal Zone “Silver Towns,” and such feelings run deeply intellectual, as I am, in that we have arrived at an important moment in which we are still hurting from the battering rams of racial injustice. Times they are for me to remember that my Oral History lessons began at the feet of my paternal grandmother, where our history began for me, and I have realized that in fact I too had been left holding “just a bag of onions,” very much like my widowed grandmother. That to even imagine how far is too far, even without the “Silver” label as a denomination, we would have had no salient evidence to put forth to aid a case for our existence on historic grounds for me in a land like Panama where we have been conceived and born. For me then those laborers played and lived to travel and even to meet people from the same countries whose forefathers were right in the same pit with our forefathers. Yes, but they weren’t Americanos from the north, but Spaniards, Italians and French blacks and English speaking blacks who were Americans, speaking in our English native language. “Yanking” like the whites they too would experience Jim Crow’s prejudicial treatment, and never the less, even as there had been times in our history that marked us all as one community of Silver People they would come to abandon us leaving without the Silver Label of designation. In the mean time we Westindians Panamanians would be left identified as a bonafide ethnically cohesive Panamanian community. This writer has been a witness and participating member to those times gone by, and sees our times in comparison to those historic times, as a time when most of our Silver community has composed of mostly descendants. Individuals nearing adulthood but never the less still an important part of our community, but lost regarding to who to identify with. We must be successful in our endeavors as we will be leaving a whole community of Panamanian people who will carry a burden that they never knew or choose to know anything about. All the erroneous misconceptions regarding our history would be stolen and used to thwart self-knowledge and unique citizenship. Neither can we revert back to those times past in which we, as a people, hadn’t the number of Jurist Doctors or Doctors in Philosophy amongst us as we have today in our Panamanian Westindian community. And yet, we seem to find ourselves, as in the past, still haunted by how our cultural heritage has been weakened into acceptance of such citizenship proscribed for us. We are Unlike any Other Ethnic Group How sad it is to be by another "black ethnic group" both in the country of our birth in Panama or in the United States to have the audacity of renaming us to suit their causes. It is not that we are against their agenda; however it is our view at the Silver People Heritage Foundation that we need not be subjected to such a diet of being culturally
14 starved. Our history is unlike their history, “thanks be to God,” for we are not advocating such legacy to any group of human beings on the face of the earth. Due to our peculiar historic facts, however, our existence as a people dates back to not over two centuries. The historic facts of our origins in Panama bear out that we were not a people who arrived here as parts of a starving horde, not even at such times after the Abolition of Slavery before the mid 19th century. Nor did we arrive so at the turn of the 20th century onwards; nor were we a starving horde arriving as special political immigrants during the mid 20th century. In fact we as Silver descendants belong to communities with cultural and historical Panamanian roots just as culturally imbedded in the Panamanian culture as any other urban or agrarian group of people. Although at home in Panama our Mother Land, we have been historically misinformed as a Westindian community, we have readily accepted inclusion into the Panamanian and United States life style even though our forefathers had assured winning our keep for us. The Will to Regain Our Full Panamanian Citizenship Although at this juncture in history we have something to gain as a people that we had so long awaited, it is fair to say that those long decades of political and extended exclusionary tactics, involving prejudicial attitudes have taken the will to fight out of our race, the time has come for claiming our inherent heritage rights. These are times in our history that we have patiently prayed for to see disappearing and we again see a resurfacing of the will to gain our full Panamanian citizenship. In fact even if we are still remaining that poorly represented Silver People, we are no longer laboring under two governmental administrative systems, in Panama or an American Canal Zone, but are free Panamanian citizens, looking to join the international community. Though we still live at a disadvantage under the Panamanian governmental administrative system, we have more faith that we will see redress and empowerment for our claims, even when new regimes revert to the same historic laws in a Constitution that leaves most of our citizenry feeling left adrift. Today we are still realizing how much we are reeling from such historic political and administrative blows to our humanity and citizenship. It continues to have many dire effects on us and our children coming from laws passed from the times of our ancestors. In fact, even during the very beginning of Panama’s republican period that the first Constitution of the year 1903 would have racial overtones explicitly aimed against us of Westindian decent. As a community we were inhumanly damaged even before the country of Panama was institutionally established as a republic, and we, as a race, were singled out for prejudicial laws against us. The country of Panama has historically denied us authentic inclusion being a country where participation in its educational system even today is still under debate. It is here that the masses of poor people, who have been historically denied participatory citizens’ rights, have seen some relief only in recent times. We as black citizens have suffered more than any other Panamanian community where inclusive and participative citizen rights are concerned. There still remain voids to fill that we as the injured party are again witnessing in overt prejudicial treatment to our inherent cultural property. In our view we are still living historic times, especially those times carried over from the
15 decades between 1960 and 2009. Those were the times of the crucial evolution of our country as the Silver community. In fact, for us whose citizenship appear again visibly battered, these are times to see our untiring efforts to bear fruit that would right those endemic wrongs to our humanity. Still a Demoralized People As crucial or historic as these moments in our Panamanian History are, we have found ourselves still in heartfelt wailing, crying silently as we view disrespect to our cultural heritage and ancestry amongst the common citizens. So demoralized is our Panamanian citizenship that at our ancient Corozal Cemetery site we constantly wail today out loud for redress seeing blatant racism show its ugly face. We, as the community of Silver citizens, continue to lament as Panamanian citizens, or as citizens of any country in the world who become informed as to how victimized our cemetery site is and how, in times of declared “War” (as in 1989) how they are profaned. We are horrified to discover that such a Sacred ground came to be used as a common burial site for victims of an unjust assault waged against our country twenty years ago. Even today when that yearly event is memorialized people retell their bitter tales reliving and tasting the “might” of the invaders. Unreal as this experience of going through a ”War,” has been, losing loved ones and knowing who were the attackers of our unarmed people at home, completely blocked out from receiving any news from home, it has been a reminder to all of us Silver Westindian people that even we merit some respect from our former employers. In fact, for this writer it brought back the horrors of a defeated population in the newsreels that I remembered watching at the movies in Panama at the end of World War II. As timely as it had been to see such devastation in the local media, we can safely say that ours is not a civil society here in Panama acting more like a defeated enemy, but a free people recovering. Citizen Participation- Fighting Passivity On the other hand, we as Silver citizens find ourselves in a country still toying politically with the issue of citizen participation. The Silver People Heritage Foundation has, with the foregoing declarations, shown concern on moral issues regarding the value of our citizenship, though we have continued to urge and have encouraged citizen participation as it is commonly discussed in our Panamanian local media. To even consider that such a powerful war machine would have been launched against our country and people is still a matter that hurts deeply. Then such members of our black community who had lived or were residents on the old Black Canal Zone towns are so few today that they only have memories of what such old town as Silver Red Tank had been like. Thus we here aim to serve as a beacon to aid in the understanding of our citizen rights to defer with official accounts of what really occurred. To have survived among the afflicted populace remains a Westindian Panamanian Citizenry in a quandary, as we all suffered at home and abroad the reporting of those historic events. Those who were in the U.S. suffered seeing complete media blackouts and no information for long stretches of times regarding our loved ones.
16 These horrors and many such abuses have been added to the backs of our Black Panamanian Silver identity; some things still gives us bad feelings and have remained with the still horror stricken Panamanian people. Added to our horrors has been the total disrespect shown to us as we are viewed as foreigners, North American, trying to do archival researches regarding our ancestral participation as citizen workers on the former American Canal Zone. As Black Panamanian Westindian Silver people, we are still caught between disrespect to our heritage on both sides and dividing lines in our countries involved either in Panamanian or in the US. To these very experiences we direct our complaint regarding the value of our citizenship although we continue to experience such old mistrust as a people in both the countries involved. No matter what citizenship we are carrying, the historic abuses include but are not limited to contribute to our having feelings of not being protected under any of the governments involved in dealing with our humanity. As in the past, we have come to this period in our history when we are hoping that we have come to a benchmark in historic times where we would find an end to the passing on in our culture, of that old attitude of passivity, an attitude regarding politics that in the past we ourselves abhorred in our besieged ancestors. Then as such a perceived prevailing feeling of a still remaining over all reactionary attitude, our community should become proactive when overt racist actions affects us directly. Hoping then that such an attitude for us will give way to a proactive notion, we are petitioning for our rightful place and total citizenship. Citizen as Sovereign Such rights are evident today and will give us that notion that as citizens we possess such sovereignty of petition, expecting prompt answers from our government functionaries within a reasonable time. Then we will remain an acknowledged community, in all matters concerning our rights and obligations, thus that as professionals and members of our Silver community we would be able to complete our researches and investigations that would arms us with such facts to put in place for our defense. So doing, then we are not reacting with such frustration bordering on actions of illiterate peoples, who are still ill with fears like common mentally illness people but rather healthy citizens acting with basic feelings of aiding our community. Therefore, we remain as informed citizens acting without passivity, still remembering those days of old, when erroneous perceptions would thwart what “ inherent privileges” we had, and were able to move others of our fellow citizens to make vehement defenses for what we thought were our inherent and natural rights. Today, we at The Silver People Heritage Foundation are remembering and honoring our Silver sons and daughters of the Republic of Panama, thinkers such as Mr. George W. Westerman and Mr. Sydney Young, hoping that we have handled and dealt correctly with the Panamanian population and governmental perceptions of “misunderstood practices against our people.” Whether perceived actions regarding “privileges granted” on the former Canal Zone, or innate objection to our ethnicity it all mattered in the way we are treated. Then it is so that it would cause us to have open spaces for dialogue and concrete redress, we never the less remain hopeful of being able to see redress. Today for us it is not an issue for which we must even try again to explain, about the how and why of our people, we are sure at this juncture in history, that the granting of
17 the Panamanian Silver Dollar as a minimum wage, had become an eternal label for the classification, that meant us ill will. However we are using it as a good omen and not going ashamed of our Silver People forefathers, or remain ashamed of being equated with “Westindians Panamanians of the American Canal Zone.” It is our hope that today our actions will become inherent with our Panamanianism, to be looked upon as a people who have overcome as have black people from all over the globe. Though in Panama for us just being labeled as “Chombos” or the proverbial Nigger we are sure of our inherent rights to own and protect our historic patrimonies. It has become for this writer a Panamanian citizen’s mission to see the honoring of all our ancestors become a customary event amongst us Silver Panamanians and all people the world over. We here at the Silver People Heritage Foundation hope that such events will, in fact, become a yearly and common venue and something that most of our fellow Panamanian citizens and descendants in all the states of the United States of America would adopt. We further wish to see that in all of the shipping ports of the countries of the world, the people would become informed and also join us in celebrating such recognition and respect for the deeds of our forefathers the Westindian Laborers of the Panama Canal Zone. Furthermore, as Silver People we wish to promote an attitude of honor in the dissemination of this knowledge about our forefathers who were largest body of men and women, the first people who came in massive amounts as foreign employees or North American federal government employees abroad. The Black Canal Zone Redefined This in so way implies that we are taking sides against our Panamanian people and our heritage, but that we as Silver People of Panama also hope that on both sides of the continent of the Americas, God fearing people, as with people everywhere in the world, will continue to use the Panama Canal and also come to Panama and get to know our people, visit the cemeteries taking the “cemeteries tour” and learn more about our sites and the deeds of our forefathers. Then stay for visits with our Silver People of Panama as we rebuild our old native Black Canal Zone into a tourist attraction and even a place to enjoy bread and breakfast. In that we too also have suffered overt Wars and have lost loves ones and are too not willing to let world political technicalities make us guilty parties of such cultural genocide and horrendous crimes against our people. However the same measure of “justice “is what we are expecting, regarding the ownership and management of our ancestral cemeteries and to again live and work on the old Black Canal Zone. By definition, these are the sites that remain on the banks of the Panama Canal like hard to remove beacons to the Black Westindian Silver people beckoning us to return to battle for reclaiming our natural and historic heritage. So that whether or not we as descendants of the Silver People are perceived by our fellow Panamanian as having no rightful place on those sites our people are living proofs of that cultural larceny. Again, even if in principle our citizenship has been thwarted by the goings and coming from the United States, our culture remains as an intact natural heritage. Even when we are found mimicking other black cultures in the United States or in Panama, we cannot deny that we are or always have been descendants of the heroic Silver People.
We hope to spearhead the recovery of our patrimonial inherited properties then use them as instructional and learning centers for the benefit of memorializing our forefathers. We here at the Silver People Foundation foresee small conference centers in which our visiting group of friends such as Lodges, families, school and universities can come and reunite with us on the banks of the were the former Canal Workers labored. As descendants we seek to be alive and willing to welcome all tourists and people from all parts of the world to make them also part of the experiences of our Silver People hoping that such a learning experience can only be positive in light of the support and cooperation given to honor our great thinkers who long ago passed on or have more recently deceased but, nevertheless, support these efforts. Clearing up Errors of Belief There, nonetheless, remain other issues needing strong information and awakening measures here and abroad needing clearing up such as the erroneous notion that we as Silver People of Panama have always been wealthy. There is also the tacit misconception of our people as being an intrusion, and that our presence in this country has been historically suspected. We have also been subject to Panamanian society’s rigidity and the suggestion that our input was and is not respected or, for that matter, ever wanted or asked for. We are here toady, as Silver People, to expose those and other fallacies and errors of belief and to reveal that this is only some of the psychological baggage that has damaged and weakened our natural heritage. We must remember that we have had much to bear in the tragic historic human relations dilemma that we have lived now knowing that it has eroded our sense of culture and worth. We aver that we must have these opportunities in compensation and retribution, space enough and time enough, since we have bee the victims, to prove the harm that has definitely been done over a century of time in our history. That, in fact, we never drifted aimlessly as a people all these decades that made up almost two centuries of time. We wish to be afforded the time and space to work at rediscovering our art, literature and culture and do research and even clear up errors done in writings even by Panamanian intellectuals and professionals. However, ours is a harm done by attitudes and perceptions that render some of us unwilling to see ourselves in the image of our ancestors; rather like strange objects floating on the currents of the seas, just as driftwood, we also are carried with erroneous perceptions to land anywhere. Panama today is a vibrant economically and modernizing country and is not a place where people like pieces of insignificant wood, are viewed as objects of art that can just land then be picked up feeling justified in disrespecting us as human beings of a black Panamanian ancestry or as Silver people. Our Culture is of Outstanding Cultural Value With these concerns in mind we are going forward, seeking vital changes that not only will secure ownership of our Intangible Cultural heritage, but will provide proof that ours is a culture with “outstanding universal value from the aesthetic or scientific points
19 of view.” We further claim that such rights of citizen participants will gives us the opportunity of input into such issues concerning inherent ownership, to then gain such opportunities to reinvent and reshape our own culture. At the same time we are advocating the notion as such that we have come of age to become actor, and not just reactors, regarding the keeping and maintaining of our cultural inheritance. We must, however, continually remind others and ourselves that culture is as spiritual as it is material. That one cannot work with culture as one work with material things, for culture is more a spiritual entity than we care sometimes to admit. Our culture, in fact, involves natural heritage and cultural patrimonies of outstanding universal value and it is now in the hands of the State of Panama. Though they are inheritances of vital importance and value we have never had the rightful power as a community to dictate such remaking and rediscovery but that we have been overtly denied such a rightful ability as descendants. Today these same properties are and have been giving undue powers to the State functionaries in charge of handling such public administrative matters concerning our natural and intangible cultural heritage. We are advocating that as a people we do have in fact ownership as members of the community and descendants over the graves of our forefathers. The above points and more are issues included in our fears and concerns that today remain misleading perceptions about our cultural and spiritual needs and aspirations. We find in our country today that such matters as conservation of our cultural matters are handled by State functionaries that have not proven to be good stewards of cultural properties, so that left totally in charge of such fragile cultural properties of outstanding universal value will continue to subject us to future damages and loss of them all. (14) At this juncture in history there are some other more salient points to consider in conservation for which it is left for us descendants of the Silver Men and Women to be done. We are still alive and alleging that the ones buried in cemetery sites at issue are still today part of us. Thus we are alleging ownership over all cemetery sites and other properties on the former Black Canal Zone on the banks of the Panama Canal. Such has been the dreaded notions that we as a community have been carrying for decades regarding our future generations of descendants. Left with such distorted views and feelings regarding our ancestors and ancestry for a future younger generation, and an older generation that is dreading being buried unsure that there bones would be desecrated at any minute. So that without the proper guidance such fears in our people would turn to something as abhorrent of being cremated that is contrary to all our spiritual guidance and training as Christian people. Will there be any thought that such notions would not be passed on as negative principles attached to our rights in Panamanian citizenship and culture? We are greatly concerned that our Silver People community has been harboring a disdain for cooperation and community participation in citizen’s advocacy, so much so that there is almost an absence of such reassurance from descendants or those who have been some of the main actors in our history, on these and other issues relevant to our future as persons or as a community. It has been so dangerously so that activities in many organizations remains devoid of the passion of conviction needed to secure our cultural heritage. The old passive sense of meeting these salient and valuable issues, so vital to the importance of culture, remains to haunt us. Therefore, for this writer, we’re again awaiting to react like migratory animals in flight, instead of stalwartly remaining
20 to deal with the issues that touch us. For us, participatory citizenship boils down to weekly social gatherings in which very few can partake as individuals with decision making powers. Presently, We are not What We Seem Although we are viewed by people outside our circles as living in marvelous communities, and that, despite having been denied genuine basic rights to our historic inherent cultural heritage for so long, we are doing “all right.” We have unwittingly sent out the wrong message. To our friends, neighbors and descendants alike we concede that such a lack of planning experience in our communities has diminished our effectiveness and thus our communal eagerness to serve. At the top of the list of the mending of fences and in getting the required response from our hidden adversaries is that of our need of immediate input to achieve reforms. These and other issues are the reasons why the Silver People Foundation has taken on such a mission regarding our roles in ownership and natural heritage. At any rate it is after recovery and restoration of our ancestral burial heritage cemeteries that we are going to need people willing to not just visit but join one of our committees to keep the sites secured. Since these sites are not the “usual” artifacts, nor are they, in fact, building structures, to be repaired in short periods of time, they are still viable historic sites in need of constant care. It is the same with the four historic Black Canal Zone Communities towards which we are also working for historic recognition and for ownership as natural heritage of the Silver People’s to be included in the history of The Panama Canal. These are all actions needed in taking definite steps at gaining our legal ancestral rights to these basic cultural properties. That we hope to set this transformation in motion with judicial mechanisms is correct, for the management and ownership of our cultural heritage should be in our hands. It is indeed something that has been too long denied in that we have now discovered how the powers that be have been committing covert cultural larceny that borders on cultural genocide. The Internet has opened these avenues for gaining opportunities for us to frequently have the space and time to offer rightful remembrance and honors to our beloved Silver ancestors. Their exemplary achievements and attitudes are what we will be attaching to their memorials. Our honorable ancestors have always been the people that, throughout the history of the Canal, have been of “outstanding universal value” just as the construction and operation itself has been perceived all this time. At issue is not the mere vain glorying of the Silver People, but the regaining of the overdue appreciation and respect for all the people of our ethnicity and of our communities on the Black Canal Zone. With these beginning steps we are at the same time laboring and praying that our descendants and the remnant of the Silver People of Panama would come alive infected with our expectations. We are, in fact, planning a massive program of information and awareness that would be on a continual basis while we campaign to gain world attention and at the same time strive for sustainability of all our historic programs and not be circumscribed to the cemetery sites alone. With these writings we are making everyone concerned aware that we are only exercising our right to conserve what is left, so that in gaining control of
21 our cultural heritage we are sending out a message to all our Silver People to get in touch and join us in the reverence we have for our people living or deceased. We are aware that we alone will have responsibility for the success or failure and the results will show in the way we use leadership in managing our cultural legacy. A New and Better Concept of Management In our management schemes we will aim to be inclusive and will accept criticism, as we go about daring to reinvent ways in which to serve and appreciate our community and nation. In fact, we will maintain our stance of procuring to maintain our dignity and respect for all people, hoping to serve not only the Silver Community but all citizens of the world alike, as always with sustainability in our plan of action. Today we take up the lighted torch of dedication, honor and respect for our ancestors the Silver Men and Women of the former Canal Zone. A legacy left to us as we perform our mission with faithfulness, honesty and always pledging to serve our God above all else. Praying always to see the day that we recuperate and memorialize all of our ancestors, making mention of their deeds in the sacred mission of seeing the Panama Canal completed. Today their bones are our bones so that those memorials to be performed at all four sacred cemetery sites will fill the spiritual void we have been enduring for so long. The banks of the Panama Canal will witness the bringing down of heaven’s Glory at last and to us as Silver People on earth innumerable blessings. We will then rest assured in the knowledge that we have not been simply daring, but acting as the Children of God as we continue our campaign of importuning those who hold our historical archival records. In the meantime we will be praying and shouting, pleading to reach the ears of those who would see that we are in need of economic and moral assistance, not only from all the known governments of the world but to private citizens and groups for such aid in these efforts for the recovery of our cultural legacy. Then the periods of following up on our promises will come with some daring ideas at reinventing ways to uplift our historic Silver family names and to gain access to such historic place that would earn for us the dignity that is due to our ancestors as part of our Spiritual and moral duty. Hoping to always assist descendants and families to remain proud as they join in honoring our actions, hoping to add to the deep emotions brought on by being part of such dignified ownership of our ancestral home and final resting places of our fragile Intangible Cultural heritage. Hoping that our actions will prove worthy of such reverence long awaited to memorialize these events as historical cultural venues that will touch the heaths and minds of even the most hardened racist. A suffering planet, however, cannot anymore support the warring minds of intransigent men, and so our work will also include the tending of peace offerings in mourning for the many abuses perpetrated on our humanity, a humanity still struggling to see relief from the piracy of all earth’s resources regardless of whose cultural legacy were trample upon. We the descendants of the Silver People are looking forward to seeing the results of our direct campaign in education and awareness because our plans for targeted sustainability in the management of these projects would have justified our appreciation for the historic and cultural contributions of our Silver People of the Panama Canal
22 Zone. As our ancestors and the ancestors of all the Panamanian people just as Guerrero, Herrera, Porras and even Simon Bolivar are ancestors of us the Silver People of Panama. Vehemence in Our Attitude We are aware of and justified in our attitude of vehemence in regards to our natural heritage claims in this petition. Our only aim is to see just compensation and restitution for such long-term violations to our human and civil rights. However, we are not willing to accept or to use methods that other ethnic groups suggest. Ours is not just a political battle but the battle for recognition that, as human beings, we did and always had a right to such natural cultural heritage and so a right to petition for restoration and compensation for the century of violation of our cultural heritage rights, which is invaluable and is thus not for sale at any price. Ours actions lead to no other conclusions than the ones we have stated in this document. We are hoping that it is understood that we will not accept any other action or implications leading to sale of those “properties” to any one person or associations. We have declared here in this paper that we in fact have rights to fulfill and ours are sacred citizenship right, geared to elicit aide from all countries, and international courts. However, we will willingly accept aide based on the historic international actions of our forefathers the Silver Men and Women of the Panama Canal Zone, who were the seedlings that have made up the honorable Silver People community of Panama. The fact that ours is a heritage inherited from our forefathers the “Real Diggers of the Panama Canal,” is clear to us whether they arrived by contract or without a penny to their names. In fact, our communities in general are now found in many of the regions and provinces of the United States and of Panama, whether they are aware or not of their long term cultural sufferings. We hope that they too would see the causes behind the reasons we have outlined above. The reality, indeed, has not only been the economic grip caused for us almost exclusively by the racist and exclusionary administrative public policies. Today in the country of Panama the handling of public administrative matters regarding our inherent birthright has seemed to remain unchanged for more than a century for we are still feeling the sting in the present of those past historic times that today are treated as policies and still glossed over as mere oversight in judgment. Such omissions, however, have become our marching banner and have become a means of having a closer look of all of the people of the planet earth. The fact that we are still battling for such inherent rights involves the very root of such basic principles as citizen participation. It has been denied to us for so long that the acceptance of our petition would make this cherished achievement a historic gem for all citizens. We hope that our experience and professionalism concerning such areas as community input will become viewed as models and that our organization’s input would be of much value as a resource to be applied in the urban planning process. Today as in yesteryears we are joining the masses of people in the international community who have been historically kept excluded from any knowledge about their cause or of ours, and that their plight would become our plight, thus hoping to share our historic experiences with them.
23 In the event that where discussions of these issues is concerned, perceptions and knowledge of our community is viewed as recognized areas characterized and fitting the definitions given for the Cultural and Natural Heritage described in UNESCO Convention of 1972 , concerning sites that arguably could be termed “cultural heritage of outstanding universal value” as far as that Silver People are concerned and are termed viable to our ethnic community as to history, architecture and homogeneity, we are hoping that our allegations are taken into account here after to be parts of our citizen’s rights and obligations, to have placed citizens participation where it really counts for righting decades of injustice. We also hope to see a turn around in our country of birth and that other such historically battered communities would take notice and not as is prone to happen in many intellectual circles, here in Panama has well as in the United States where it has also been that historically that such issues have been avoided or consciously “omitted,” in the arts and the humanities as well. But then for us here as there in the US as a people it had been historic, that as such the national educational curriculum has also kept our history and humanity out of the curriculum. In such areas as Black history and culture we are hoping to be able to participate if not for inclusion but to have space and time to educate and to make aware of our type of Panamanian history. However we are expectants as members of the Silver People community of Panama that colleges and universities will again discover our professionalism. At the University Level In fact, our having gained a university education and experience has not been granted solely on such misinformation as governmental “Affirmative Action Programs.” Then that the Panamanian Ministry of Education would also try to make amends for historic racist and backward stance promoted by docent leaderships that our foreign education is more a threat than the seeking to unite for the good and welfare of the country. We further hope that docent unions and syndicates would once and for all discover us as allies concerned not solely with the quality of education but also with docents issue as class size, retirement age, far flung areas, construction and upkeep of schools, teachers’ rest area and times for rest and recuperation. Issues such as additional benefits like paid travel for Panamanian Teacher that on summer vacations are paid vacations if the docent is traveling to another country in another continent which is not on the usual tourist route and is for not solely for enjoyment and education. Our experiences so far has been one of almost total rejection as identifiable Silver People who have ventured to attend conferences and seminars with docents, especially at the university level. That it has been as such a complicated affair even to get to dialogue with any of those professionals in such areas as the humanities, constitutional law, or even to get to see any of them at the national university campus. This has been our experience even in our daily walks through the main campus of the “Mother Ship” of all universities, the University of Panama, which is that historic Alma Mater, home and museum and ceremonial grounds from which the names are mentioned of the listed Who’s Who in the Republic. We are also constantly conducting quick visual polls while dressed in our Etnia Negra garb hoping to receive reactions. We’ve discovered that there is such an aversion to
24 cultural diversity that it has made us take notice that in this respect also the Panamanian historic “ethnic cleansing” towards the Silver Panamanian community is alive and well entrenched. That there is hardly any visible presence on campus and that the representatives of our ethnic race feel a sense of being “anointed” with some special essence that make them unavailable for simple consultation. Therefore, to this seasoned observer, it seems that the visible impact of black Panamanians and especially of the ethnic Silver Westindian group is so negligible amongst the young people present that it is really lamentable. Surely it is not that there have not been enough descendants of the Silver Race of people left or present in the country that are in need of a university education at the Panama campus. These promise to be important future concerns to be taken into account when we have occasion to meet with dignitaries of the University of the West Indies and other universities in the world. In whatever examples of polls taken at that campus the results will be the same for us as valid to declare and to lament such absence amongst the general population of university minded people in our District of Panama. So much so it has become for us a matter of viewing the University of Panama as an historical culprit in the racism we have been subjected to. Then to have resulted in that today that important body of higher learning to have such a low profiled student body, administrative staff, and faculty needing such cultural diversity amongst them is for us residents of the District of Panama really lamentable. Then for us of the Silver People Heritage Foundation who are sorely in need of that input from those highly prepared professionals of the caliber to be found amongst the ranks of our Westindian Panamanians Silver Community is a lamentable loss. We of the Silver People Heritage organization are eager and able to add valuable input into the whole educational experience of our country of birth. For from our perspective as a writer and participant observer who frequently receive valuable input and themes of discussion such as comments on forums regarding memories and reminiscences from descendants of the Silver Diaspora, we feel that in the District of Panama the need for such diversity training is urgent. Our Silver People are still reeling from the atrocious treatment they have experienced throughout their primary and secondary childhood education, not to mention such treatment for descendants of the Panamanian Westindian Silver race at the Panama University campus. For most of the Diaspora outside of Panama, mainly in the United States, reminiscences of home and school times are still rife with tales of how terrible it was to have felt as a youngster so disrespected as a person of color just because of one’s heritage. Still we recognize such inner yearning for cultural inclusion, as did some of our Spanish Speaking youthful friends in our historic travels. However our battle for inclusion is not only dependent on the emotive will of others to show acceptance, but the State will be living up to agreed responsibilities of having to grant regular spaces and time for participatory and open dialogue. The movement towards racial equality is a step in the right direction and will assist the move towards the full inclusion of our race in the educational system as a whole. We hope that this specific bill would produce a law that leads to other laws and regulations to serve as methods of initiating information and awareness programs towards real diversity. Perhaps then such programs will surface that would lead to open inclusion of
25 all citizens in such many other matters that relate to these already approved cultural issues in the international arena. That it will be not only for the pages of our judicial Official Gazette, but that open debates and dialogue will not closed again, to again be reopened as so much useless legislation as was passed on matter related in other times. The time has come for us Silver People to really be looking closer at such issues as the mental and spiritual damages suffered so far in our community and in the general population towards us as a Panamanian people. Some pundits still profess that, “You can’t legislate morality.” However, the results are evident in a world society that signs and agrees to international legislations and then proceeds as if nothing really had occurred all these long decades to a whole community of persons and families. In fact our is a vivid example of when legislations is not aimed at such deep moral and spiritual issues that meet with the fiber of every cell of the human makeup. Then if venues are not open for the provision for of follow-up dialogue, to provide the agreed to complete assistance for the making of such basic human needs and rights a salient issue. We are hoping that we as a people will not again end up entangled in more ignored legislations that will further become discouraging factors to the populace. That further such official gazettes pages does not later on be just ignored by government functionaries in the public administrative and legal circles. We, at the Silver People Heritage organization, recognize in ourselves as a tool to hereinafter be used as the watch institution, looking to inform the world of future violations and exclusionary behavior of other communities in the country of Panama. We further hope that our historic claim will become precedent for the making of spaces for all other people who are feeling the same historic disregard and violation of their humanity and would assist them in suing for redress. As a vital part of the historic Panamanian Africanized races of people and part of ethnic Black Races in the country Republic of Panama, we are not abandoning other ethnic groups in their battle for recognition of claims of Historic and cultural proportions. We are in our petition claiming that the townships citadels and the cemetery sites we have named and which are on the banks of the famous waterway known as the Panama Canal do have for us deep spiritual, cultural and an historic part in our patriotic Panamanian history. To take our place in the arena of Panamanian culture and history as Silver People would further launch our culture and history into the realm of intellectual life to be more than folklore but seen as a culture born out of where we as descendants of the Silver Westindian race of people, see as fitting to be a race of historic eminences in times of importance to our country. That at first light of the turn of the 20th Century we had been pioneers of more than 50 years that has become recorded history, at home and abroad. That further proof would reveal that our ancestors were buried in and on the banks of the Panama Canal, at the places where they had labored and fallen. Then ours are inheritances even memories, then as we are claiming the bones of those deceased, that today lie in cemetery sites and places made for us segregated and now serving as evidence to our cause.
26 Further that such evidence is an historic patrimony left to us by our Silver People ancestors. Indisputable it had become for us, that our ancestors were those who had engaged historically in labor that made life acceptable for not only the Gold Roll favored above them, but that it had further proven to be labor for us as a part of a participatory citizenship in the eradication of pestilence in Panama. We remain constantly alleging that historically our Silver People were the laboring arm, and that with their labor aimed at insuring the solving of many community problems, they were eager to assist knowing that as such it would have brought a better life style to all people, not only for blacks on the canal zone but to the whole isthmus of Panama. Thus, by promoting this proposed Law for the conservation of our cultural and natural heritage we hope to get legislation that will insure our intangible inheritance rights and ownership thereof. Aware that our management skills over the named cemetery and citadels sites that today are in the hands of any foreign moneyed class, are in as much danger of disappearing as the grave digger shovels disappearing and any traces of our forefathers’ remains. We as Panamanian citizens are hoping to change that tide of cultural genocide and make history for the rightful place of an historic community such as ours. We are in Spiritual Distress Our spiritual distress over these matters in which those cemeteries are the only remaining evidence and visual spiritual links to what’s left of our cultural heritage today on what had been the Black Canal Zone is profoundly justified. Today both of those cultural inheritance sites are suffering the threat of disappearance from lack of proper care and as ancient repositories, not only gravesites, should become our sole responsibility for recovery and restoration. Furthermore, we must confess that we carry as much of the blame as a community, however the faults for not raising an adamant voice of concern is a mandate from our God whose responsibility is to see to our urgent needs. However, we are not seeking any municipality or entity that are now administering the sites but the States Parties involved should in keeping with their agreed international mandates place such legal and economic aide in our hands and let us see to the restoration and protection of our heritage. Such is our fear of the danger to these heritages of outstanding universal value to the world left in the hands of such Public Administration pattern of governances. There is, on the one hand, the views only mass disinterment as a solution, while on the other hand this is seen as a means of displaying racial superiority. At any rate, to us the overflowing death rates by whatever cause in a bulging urban population, is not good public administration or good stewardship of our heritage of outstanding universal cultural value by any means. The future will speaks for itself in regards to all other Panamanian citizens whose family beliefs go counter to cremation. The lack of urban planning for such basic services as cemeteries, if kept up this way, would allow those families no choice in the matter of where or how to dispose of remains of there loved ones.
27 Just because the districts in which their loved ones lay, which happens to be a principal part of a growing urban sprawl of rapid industrialization, is not a good reason for mass cremations “regardless of spiritual beliefs.” It is an abominable violation of human rights of the living and of the deceased. The rate of economic growth then is also substantiates our claims for historic memorial to be set aside for such valuable real estate as that of our Silver Ancestors. We are still reminded that they are still sitting on the banks of a popular Panama Canal Tourist Route. Thus the tide has reached us in which we will experience continued further placing of strains on all sites we have identified now under constant threats of disappearing. Our research into the history of the sites has born out our inherent rights to such cultural ownership and that those historical cultural properties are to be made provision for effective system of a collective protection. It is so that we have been aware that we as a community in possession of such natural and cultural inherent human rights have as such rights recognized under international laws and agreements accepted by our country Panama and the United States of America. To make matters worse there are none of those international agreements turned into laws reflected in our Panamanian Constitution made for the protection of our alleged natural, intangible cultural heritage ownership as communal inheritances. We have arrived at this juncture with a set program- a Plan of Actions- for which a plan for rescue and sustainable management will keep all sites cared for in perpetuity. These sites are presently shamelessly abandoned cemetery sites, and the citadels of the Black Canal Zone will be released to us and protected as we restore them and get them ready for visitors. As it is today there are no visitor centers to greet guest or the bereaved at any of the Sites in which our forefather are entered. The claim to historic patrimony is clear for us as a community for it is therein that our ancestors have historically been buried. Then ours are claims that include our ancestors as integral parts of our natural and intangible cultural heritage. Even in death they are living testimonials to that fact, that they are part of a previously rejected Panamanian history and national identity and citizens’ patrimony. We are then presenting the following draft for a Law proposing, with clear statements, that our Westindian Community of Silver People is acting presently and making our presence felt because we cannot await a National Constituent Referendum, to come from a political class of our population that previously has shown no interest in who we are, hoping for favorable votes of inclusion in such national debate on these issues. It is now then that we are hoping that such a measure in law would have us see in our lifetime such reparations that will heal historically deep racial prejudicial wounds still left latent. Our proposed Bill represents our historical demand for redress of deep harms inflicted to the social framework of our citizenship. The project proposed would strengthen our request for spaces and time for consultation and dialogues of the issues of ownership of cultural heritage. As such, our petition is demanding that decisive contributions by the State be made for rescuing our historical and intangible cultural heritage, and that our rights to community and humanity, deserves concrete answer. At the same time we hope to set the stage for total inclusion on these themes regarding cultural patrimonies, so that the legal map of our country will have precedents to guide future administrators, if not the total citizenry in these matters. We are also hoping that a system of democracy and
28 laws will formulate such foundation in democracy, that will assist our children from a century of racial suffering because of their ethnic race, thus vindicate and assist us in the having inherent rights to preserving our cultural property. With these actions taken we are bringing to discussion some basic issues in points to our humanity and human rights, which is to own and manage thus directing our cultural inherited property, and in so doing we are hoping that we would make spaces for dialog on issues relating to our place in Panamanian history. Once more we are here attempting to draw attention to international laws that has made effective such rights to be places under our countries constitution of administrative laws. Thus we hope to aid our own citizenship rights. Then again we are hoping that with this hands-on approach we would not have to declare our selves as citizens who are continually isolated, or that our country is an isolated entities regarding participatory governance where the whole of humanity is concerned. Then again, it is not only for our Silver Westindian community that we are protesting; as we are attempting to provide our entire country’s citizens with access to those universal rights. In our present view ours is a country that claims total inclusion, however the historic facts in the matter are here spelled out in this petition. To us it seems to point to a rejecting public administrative faction reaching the governmental class that has historically supported "governmental exclusive rights" over all matters concerning especially our human rights as Silver People. Moreover we wish to vehemently reject that old classic favoritism mold, resulting in the trampling on us as one of the most targeted populations under Panamanian law in regards to human rights and our dignity as a community. Our actions today, however, are of a united community demonstrating willingness to dialogue and develop attitudes for the care and rescue of cultural and historic patrimony. As it has always been with us we see our aim as a people who continue to contribute positively to the betterment of our "Motherland the Republic of Panama.” Furthermore we are here declaring that our citizens right by birth being violated as we view the above-mentioned Corozal Silver Cemetery site. (16) We are, in fact, claiming that the Corozal site and others of our Black Silver People cemetery sites, now under control of municipalities of the Panamanian State, are today our claim to direct historic patrimony. With this citizen participation proposal we are taking our place at the forefront of the issues of citizen sovereignty rights, in tasking modern governance in all areas of public administration in Panama hoping to have freed up space and time for dialogue and to see transparency in these matters of our concern. Better Cemetery Planning We would further urge districts with regional public administration oversight over these matters, which are tied to Panamanian State laws, to direct functionaries in all Corregimientos concerned, to open time and space for courtesy visits to governmentally administered city councils. They would then, after studying our proposals, accept our demands for citizen’s inclusion. We also hope and pray that they would assist us, not only with sites mentioned in the reverted areas of the Panama Canal, but see to it that our models of cooperation are used for further new cemetery planning. Such
29 cooperation would be example an example of areas of citizen participation that can achieve example for benefiting any area of administration in the country. (16) It is well to explore the need of citizen groups such as ours, as experts in the area of cemeteries and as part of urban planning, to become well versed in this issue, especially for the care of cemeteries. We hope to become such experts in the restoration and beautification of other historic cemetery sites. We must report here that our interest and further research has been born out of information on the subject of local and regional cemeteries and their continued maintenance, and that planning and preservation will include security which has become an issue of worldwide interest. It is our fervent hope that public functionaries involved in the administration and overseeing of the topics such as the one we are presenting will receive and include our suggested Care and Action Plans in their future agreements. We hope to be in private and public audiences seeking to further outline our aims as an organization with experienced community organizers to make it part of our civil duty to inform on the issue. Our mission will be to make the public aware on a continual basis of our efforts at bringing peace of mind to the people. We also hope that many citizen groups, who remain concerned over the issues involving such ease of visiting cemeteries in Panama, and that care for the preservation of such sites as cultural heritage and patrimonies, will make themselves heard as we battle for the control of our community cemeteries. We are hoping with this communiqué to have raised serious questions for discussions that will make us have opportunities to demonstrate in the end, that the cemetery sites in question an integral part of our spiritual and historic cultural patrimonies. These are basic rights of cultural inheritances of our ethnic Westindian Panamanian community, a community that has been an integral part of the Panamanian Black races of people. Further more we are praying that our respectful presenting of these cemetery sites has always been considered Silver Cemeteries. Then that such inclusion will become the living memorials that with honor and dedication meet the memorializing of our ancestors. As such national historic patrimony placed directly under our tutelage for development, conservation and sustainability will propel us as an entity to be the first organizers of the honoring of our community. We will be ushering in a new era in which the harnessing of cultural pride and respect much needed to counteract such long period without the emotive support of such overflowing pride and respect for our Silver People and our ancestry. Further more that maintaining the cemeteries, as focal point will make the sites, in which they historically have been located, recognized as those former racially segregated areas for the Silver Canal Zone. In fact we do not want to promote the drifting too far from our natural historic cultural recognizable area where our ancestors had been when they were practicing such knowledge, skills and making community. We will continually consider the invaluable role of our intangible cultural heritages and make then that factor that will keep us also will draw many other people to us ensuring us the diversity for exchanging new ideas and dialogue for understanding what we have achieved. Considering that we’ll at all time will need to secure and safeguard our
30 culture and heritage ensuring such respect for our culture will make such separated real estate specifically developed and used by our ethnic black community a showcase for people with such visions around the world. It is then so that we will see such a background in our history bring weight to our petitions and make it enough for the sites in question to remain as they have been- historical markers and a showcase for our country and our people. As Panamanians citizens and descendants the recovery of these sites will prove that we have never been ashamed of our ethnicity, our race as the black Westindian culture. We hope that some of the old sections of the Silver Roll Canal Zone will also become part of the living museums that after such rescue and restoration will remain in our hands and be the same Black Westindian Canal Zone community it was since the time after the start of construction works on the “Big ditch.” Furthermore, we are alleging that presently there are none of the old black zone historic places remaining of the former Canal Zone, which can today represent the Westindian historic presence. However the land they occupy is a valuable historic entity and the patrimony of our communities. Presently, there is not one such place remaining that we can identify as representative of Black Silver Roll community they once represented. We are alleging that historic citizen participation has been absent as evidenced in all areas where our ethnic race as Silver People once occupied. Moreover there is no evidence to prove that any public administrative entity has made or endeavored to make any plans for the conservation of such areas defined in UNESCO’s Conventions or as we at the Silver People Heritage Foundation have outlined in our included Action Plan for the conversion of the Corozal Cemetery site into a recognizable Heritage historic site with sustainability that would assist us in developing the cemetery tourism program on the banks of the Panama Canal. The sustainable tourist Corozal Cemetery site will have, as we have proposed, the security and accessibility to tourist and local visitors and with the assistance of the internationally known and respected World Monuments Fund (WMF) our Spiritual landmark will be a reality for all the people of Panama and visitors the world over.
The Silver People Heritage Law
Proposed by Roberto A. Reid Green The following draft is intended to be a Petition to the National Legislative Assembly of Panama, for a Proposed Law aimed at rescuing the Silver People of the Panama Canal Zone Ancestral Historic Patrimonies, of Spiritual and Cultural Value to their communal well being. What follows is a proposed legal measure by which we intend to rescue, safeguard and conserve in perpetual care such historic cultural sites for all times and to make clear that such historic cultural sites are historic by all human rights definitions formulated at international conventions ratified by State Party privy to these international declaration and agreements. It is also proposed to set in motion investigations into the issue of cultural and natural heritage of outstanding interest that need to be returned to their rightful owners and need to be preserved as part of the world heritage of mankind. In fact, we are eager to prove that such inherent cultural property belongs to the people of the former Silver Roll Community of the Black Canal Zone, a Diaspora of the former American Panama Canal Zone. As such the historic Black Canal Zone or people who have been considered descendants of the Silver Roll Westindian Community are surviving heirs and direct line descendants of people who are historically known as a Silver Employees and thus are part of the cultural and natural heritage of outstanding interest and value as permanent as the Panama Canal. The proposed Law is aimed specifically at the cemetery sites in question which are cemetery sites that have been historically set aside by racial lineage segregated to be exclusive burial places for the Black Silver Employees during times when those laborers were the main component of the human labor force, employed on the Silver Roll, so designated by North American public administrative authorities. Since then the men, women and children who were interred there have become the cultural links in fact ancestral patrimonies, belonging to the historic populace described thus marking them as historic patrimonies in historic Pantheons or sacred cemetery sites. These sites are where the main body of the Silver Roll population of black workers have been historically interred, and these sites exist on both the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean ends of the famous waterway. It has been so for those historically designated laborers or employees, the Silver Roll, Westindians, or later designated “Local Rate” employees, who gave more than their lives for the success of the famed Panama Canal and urban construction and sanitation ventures. The cemetery sites mentioned have been historically situated on the banks of the landed-seaway, and are sites that were recently designated as protected cultural patrimony, and natural heritage now listed and recognized as of outstanding interest and in need of preservation, to such agency known internationally as the World Monuments Fund, in their “100 Most Endangered Sites” Watch List for 2010. Thus as cultural and historic entities these sites are recognized historic markers for the
32 descendants, and a clear testimonial to our claims of historic, natural and cultural heritage with deep patrimonial roots, of great value and worthy of safeguarding. In fact, as a people they are still in existence and remain a vibrant community with inherent and constitutional rights to their cultural, natural, and intangible heritage. As such, we seek total integration into the national sphere and recognition of our citizenry as an entity that will endeavor to further enrich the cultural diversity of Panamanian history and culture. We, the Silver People of Panama, do recognize further that ours is a community known in our country and internationally as being part of the Panamanian Black Ethnic population, and that our ancestor’s burial grounds today are not recognized as historic cultural sites that honor the Panamanian ancestry and humanity. Furthermore, those cemetery sites that are today part of the designated areas reverted from the former American Canal Zone to Panamanian municipal governmental corregimientos, and that are on the banks of the said Canal, are those we hope to be declared part of our Panamanian Historic Patrimony. Our hopes remain high, therefore, that these historic cultural and natural heritage areas, with the potential of becoming real historic world patrimonial heritage sites, will, once and for all, manifest that our community of people will be acknowledged and respected as one of the Panamanians races of people with Panamanian ancestry. Our communities once more respectfully propose and fervently pray, imploring to the fathers of our Motherland, that justice be done towards such recognition of our natural, ancestral, inherited cultural and natural heritage, that such properties are of outstanding interest and value to be preserved as part of the world heritage of mankind as a whole. That, considering the gravity of the new dangers facing such properties and to make total our complete integration they should all be preserved. We, the petitioners are all descendants of the former Silver People of the Black Panama Canal Zone, a people who recognize that we have such natural rights to cultural properties of such high historic value, a claim for us too long denied. For us of the Silver Community such sites have overwhelming cultural, spiritual and historic value; as such the culturally and historically known Silver burial grounds, our focus is the Corozal Silver Cemetery, possesses a value to the communities, is more than symbolic. For it is where it is hoped a restorative beginning would start for the health and welfare and respect of all the Silver People of Panama. For us then our roots have always been a natural, integral part of the historically segregated Silver People community. Since we were exclusively segregated such a sacred cemetery site as Corozal and the others have symbolized for us, of the Black Panama Canal Zone, a beacon of hope and natural heritage and patrimonial valued property. That it should be rescued, respected and protected, as an integral part of the Silver People’s Intangible cultural heritage and ancestral national Historic Patrimony, there is no question. To the surviving communities of direct descendants of the historic Silver People of Panama, who are also known as the Westindians, Afro-Antilleans or people of the Black Panama Canal Zone, such cultural and historic patrimonial landmarks belong in perpetuity.
33 Exposition of Motives: (1) Considering that it is worthy to note that the proponents of this measure are an established community of citizens and an historic community established before republican times as already detailed above. Thusly we are a people of an ethnic group known as Westindians, Afro-Antilleans, Afro-Panamanians, Silver People and persons who are part of the Black ethnic community of the country of the Republic of Panama. That further more as a people we have been historically the first residents of all the areas of the American Panama Canal Zone to have populated these areas in question. It is further detailed that such a people are all Panamanian citizens, who are direct descendants of the historically mentioned immigrant group in the areas described, here before the turn of the 20th century. That they are the population or ethnic group described historically as a people of the black race or African derived people, a people who are part of the African Caribbean races and who had become a part of the historic Panama Canal as the principal human work force. (2) Considering further that the proponents are also a people that historically have been designated as the "Silver People” or “Local Rates," of the Panama Canal Zone and so it has remained for more than a century in the history of our modern times. Today this same community proclaims by these means that historically they have participated in instances where the public administration of matters of politic had concerned our national and international well being. Therefore, that having a part and becoming the main actors in historic national and international concerns, thus with public administration spheres of influence, such that historically the recording media of their day, have further described them as upright, hardworking and honest citizens; whose descendants are herein being proponents of these measures and are representatives of national social organizations. (3) Considering then that as proponents we proclaim that we have reached specific decisions aimed at safeguarding our natural, historical and cultural heritage, which has been historically threatened with disappearance from the Panamanian national scene. That however we declare here that we are willing and able to take up the challenges for the management and protection of our sacred inherited tangible and intangible cultural patrimony. So herein described and proposed and formulated as a Bill of Law that will so declared valid our renewed hopes for the well-being and historic times we so longed for as upright citizens. Further more we are foreseeing that spaces and time will be allotted for such dialogues, to continue having avenues opened in search of ways in which to achieve such the full ownership and protection of our so battered and besieged human rights, now threatened again in the manner of historic cemetery sites in which our forefathers have been entered and that are now being threatened with complete disappearance. (4) Considering that among our historic patrimonies left on the known Black Canal Zone we have targeted the specific ones that are culturally inherited burial places, pantheons where our ancestors the original inhabitants and workers of the Panama Canal, are entered. It is further noted that historians have described these burials places to be on the banks of the historical inter-oceanic route and world-renowned Panama Canal waterway. Then it is fair to note that it is on the entire stretch of land had been were death historically has claimed as a constant
34 visitor the people of our economically and socially battered communities in the country of Panama. Hence, for our community, the present brings signs of new and good things to come as we are seeing the sites above described as recognized spiritual cultural heritage and an undisputed part of the only tangible or intangible cultural heritage left to our people. We here declare that more than a century has passed for us descendants to be able to claim our cultural and national heritage, historical patrimonies as legacies of those ancient Black Canal Zone Townships that today do not carry traces of our people and culture while reverted to the Panamanian Government and to us still denied. (5) Considering that we welcome this opportunity to exercise our constitutional rights of petitions, by herein requesting inquiry and under our rights as protected by the Panama Political Constitution of 2004, and also Law 71 of 5 February 1997, and further also Constitutional Law 41 of 5 December 2005, thusly we have made petition to the Office of the National Ombudsman and then to the National Legislative Assembly of all the Panamanian People. In doing so we are requesting that an investigation into our allegations be made and that our claims of overt acts of omissions, and laxity in handling our human and natural heritage rights, under public administration sphere of influence, has made for remaining historic violation of our human rights, that for decades of the 20th century has cause us to repeatedly make discrimination citizens complaints. We here declare that these are historical omissions and violations of our human rights, thus inflicting further spiritual harm to our community of descendants. In addition, we, as proponents of such a Bill of Law are recommending that a Law be formulated that will provide relief to our ethnicity as a recognized Panamanian People, still suffering from outstanding negatives and the besmearing of our community of citizens. Even today they remain pending issues that historically have affected our spiritual, cultural, civil, and human rights. We further petition the Panamanian Ombudsman and all the Plenary of the National Assembly for redress and support, as we seek to collaborate with them all in these matters. We further are hoping that they would for history sake joining us as members of one of Panama deserving ethnic groups, members of recognized social and watch organizations, persons that will would follow up these proceedings and known as "The Silver People Heritage Foundation." Then the Silver People Heritage Foundation as chief petitioners have taken such responsibility of bring these complainant in petition and is further more described in this document by their acronym in the English language as TSPHF. Then the TSPHF organization is a not for profit organization and is in the process of development, and that further we have been joined by other community groups of the black Panamanian people who are interested in these matters concerning the Panamanian Public Administration. (1a) Considering that as sovereign citizens we further seek relief under Article 105 of the Panamanian Constitution of 1972, especially in part which reads, "the Panamanian State, will ensure complete mental and social well being...” of the citizenry.” (5 *) The TSPHF is then acting with rights of a participatory citizens group to inquiry into governmental management have such duties as Public Administrators and are in fact
35 reasons to serve the citizenry, and in our case make aware of that universal desire of man to act in preservation of his culture. That such desire is still alive and well today in us as Silver People of the former Panama Canal Zone, and that as a united community we are bound to remain watchful over our ancestral rights of inheritance. Considering further that such historical intangible inheritances left by black Silver laborers and all the workers of our ethnicity, on and the Panama Canal and American Canal Zone are still ours to own and to cherish, are proven by all the precedents of declarations in all international conventions sited as laws of protocol that are still under their jurisdiction as governmental functionaries. We are here and alive and proven descendants and heirs of historical Panamanian citizenship and ethnic group rights, remaining still Westindian Panamanian with a Culture to own, protect, and care for. Furthermore we are native Panamanians and people who are descendants of all the people buried in these cemetery sites, and that such a place has common concern for our Westindian Panamanian Community as well as for all the citizenry at large. Further, that amongst us are educated individuals as well as Professional citizens of all disciplines, who do recognized our innate duty as heirs and concerned citizen with the right to protect our heritage. That as such they are internationally proven declarations by the impressive list of conventions of the international agreements that in accessions or ratifications were signed and agreed to by our Panamanian government. (9 *) (1b) Considering that herein we have submitted that by inheritance, constitutional law and international conventions, we find our natural rights protected, and under Panamanian citizenship have such rights to participatory space, in all areas of the public administration spheres. With this citizen’s request we are joining those in the international arenas which we have solicited for assistance in the safeguarding of our natural cultural tangible and intangible rights in all areas of our denied cultural heritage like such historic ethnic and cultural cemetery sites. With this petition we recognize such right of our humanity and our Panamanian ethnicity to request the States parties involved provide an integral educational program regarding our history and cultural heritage of outstanding value. That as such it be prescribed protection under article 86 of the Panamanian Political Constitution and which our State has ratified in international conventions. We are here further denouncing such failure in past public administrations for their negligence, oversight and laxity in the protection of our rights to such culturally inherited property. Such century old rights of such possession are spelled out on in conventions dating back to 1972, thus they have permitted our human rights to be again abused in our historic trajectory. Also, we are here rejecting further illegal expulsions carried out by the Canal Authority on such areas surrounding our Black Canal Zone, in which people were taken out of their historic homes in the jungle areas. We are alleging that such an area has been historically one and part of the Black Canal Zone or former Westindian areas of the former American Canal Zone. We also denounce the apathy found in lack of urban planning for additional cemeteries, thus governmental approved the taking advantage of our historic cemeteries, which are a part of our cultural and historic heritage and also are tangible and intangible inheritances of our culture and Panamanian identity. (8 *) (1 c) We seriously consider the plight of the historic Corozal Silver Cemetery, a site
36 which today is managed by the Municipality of the District of Panama. Presently the historic site is an eyesore and a disgrace, a shame to our Panamanian Westindian citizenship and an insult to our ethnicity. For once more in our history we face indignities as Panamanian citizens, without participatory rights that are to stand by as people without recourse as an afflicted community, in its Panamanian ethnicity powerless. Thus we live today as yesteryear in spiritual quandary, mentally afflicted, forced to observe as people bereft of human rights instrument to remedy such social and economic offenses upon that cemetery site. It has been a graveyard that has historically represented our cultural heritage and thus it has become a Sacred-resting place for our venerated ancestors. Considering that our voices are the voices of the remnant of those voices that in earlier times in our social history remained quieted, today we are herby loudly raising our voices to denounce such visible outrage to our humanity. Then it must be reported here that functionaries who are in charge of the Corozal Silver cemetery site have in the past as recently threatened our community representatives with mass exhumations of our beloved ancestors. In violation of all international declarations of human rights instruments our recent past as Panamanian people has come up again to have us witness another violation and insult regarding our sacred Cultural heritage. Considering that such desecrations were perpetrated at the side in which mass burials in common graves had been perpetrated by invading forces at that site during the socalled “Invasion of our country,” that these dangerous threats and other abuses have placed the site in grave jeopardy and that it remains one of the last cultural vestiges of our communities on the banks of the Panama Canal. We, as descendants are reminding these member States, signatories of the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, that their direct responsibility in these threats to such intangible cultural heritage is in direct violation of recommended safeguarding of such traditional culture and folklore. In the mean time we of the Silver People Heritage organization are herein requesting such cease and desist legislation be mandated to safeguard the site before it completely disappear without us descendants having to putting on public vehement protests. Considering that while we as direct descendants are witnessing such total disappearance of those sacred tombs, of a people who although they had worked and lived all of their lives on the Black Panama Canal Zone, even their right to peaceful resting place are violated at will. We ask, is this the way faith has dictated it that political consequences adverse to our historical existence should be even in the end? For aren’t those places where the remains of our heroic grandparents, family and other well known members of our community interred, if not all of our ancestors, and are they not the same people who have served this Panamanian nation and the government of the United State of America faithfully laboring on that American Canal Zone? The obvious answer to these salient questions is a resounding affirmation since they are more than just tombs to us but, in fact, are our historic, cultural heritage and repositories of our ethnicity and folklore. (2d) Considering that those four cemeteries are in fact sites remaining as evidential proofs that ours is the race of people that in great numbers participated in all the historic world renown and invaluable Panama Canal works. We then remain an important and unequivocal aspect and part of that historic movement that has become a part of our
37 Panamanian nationality, so much so that today the air around us remains charged with the age old feelings of racial oppression. Although we have here enumerated some of the principal historic projects in which our forefathers have participated, such works included also social and economic development all intangibles cultural heritage that today seamed to have disappeared. Then it is here that we want to remind the fathers of our nation and set the records straight by indicating for examples that the first signs of urbanization in the country of Panama had our Westindian Silver people at the helm. So that the tombs in which they are entered today are for us ancestral and still remain with us as participants in those historic constructions projects. We can then claim such major projects as the Panama Railroad, the City of Aspinwall or Colon, the Panama Canal and even those same pantheons or cemeteries that today we are claiming as sites of historical and cultural patrimonies. The above are claims that we indicate as being an integral part of our historic and cultural Antillean ethnicity, that they were built by the labor of men of our ethnicity and who are our ancestors all of them today resting on the banks of the Panama Canal. (1*) 3e. Recognizing such salient a fact that we remain as descendants and that we exist as a community and that further more we are direct descendants of those persons whose tombs we recognize in 1c. above. That, as they lay here in this land, where they had been direct actors in all the economic and social drama, which marked the development of our country and Motherland. Then ours are allegations submitted as proof of historic permanence and of our communal union as direct link to all tasks in mayor projects claimed above. It is our fervent hope that our efforts will produce and give fruit to conservations, leading to perpetual recovery of the sites we hold as Holy Grounds. Then that the sites we have been describing above become safeguarded under our direct tutelage. More specific they are the old Silver Corozal Cemetery, the Silver Paraiso Cemetery, the Gatùn Cemetery and the historic Mount Hope Cemetery also known as Monte Esperanza on the Atlantic coast of the Interoceanic Waterway. Furthermore, we are making such claims that address the plight of most middle class and poorer citizens of our country who today are still mourning the memories of loved ones and would approve of our ideas for sustainable cemetery sites. Our country is in need of such seriously thought out gestures and we are praying that all citizens will join in our claims. The safeguarding to include conservation management and preservation of these historic cultural gems will opens spaces for massive programs of information and awareness, open employment usually not available in specialized field to our Panamanian youth. Considering our regards for our black Panamanian ethnicity and history we will be able to further reach out and link up some key facets to these programs in cemetery tourism, with such goals that will be the opening to easing the unemployment problem amongst our Panamanian youth. By then international community that is today devoid of information on the subject of the laborers which were our ancestors, then we are hoping to make these corrections of the oversights mentioned, we will use positively as devises to include in a more diverse showcase which will make for sustainable tourism. The added factors of a true cultural diversity and Panamanian style presentation will be used
38 to heal the decades of disrespect which is still hurting our integration in regards to the field of human rights. (1 *) (6) Considering that in addition patriotic history is to proclaim the at last we as children of the motherland, have totally recovered and taken on such a monumental task of memorializing such sites or Holy Pantheons, and that the sites where today lie as pròceres historic personage, who were key players in the historical dramas of our country. These were known to have started as hand "Diggers" or “Escavadores” in the Spanish language that had been historically been mostly of our Panamanian Jamaican ethnicity; men who by hand began the works even in times at mid nineteenth century, and were those who acted in like manner as they arrived on the Panamanian scene at the turn of the century. By their labor they made way for the entering of heavy machinery that began digging down of the mountains. In fact, by historical accounts they had been acting on arrival in Panama, as if they had been sent to aid mankind by God’s mandate. (2*) Considering that today those historic exploits have become public knowledge and are considered patriotic events, even though they are shown to locals and foreigners, strangers to our history and culture as heroic acts, still no mentioning are made or shown of our black Westindian heroic ancestors. Such blatant misinformation is still noticed by us the proponents of this initiative, as yet another case in point of painting our history white washed. Though for us such history as told in this perpetual drama will be corrected for a closing of this period of history. The box offices will be opened or shut down and the light will never again come on in the national theatre until such wrongs are righted and for us to see the ending of this dramatization. We will hereafter no longer be looking in the face of injustice under the present ruling fathers of our country. We are hoping to turn on the divine light to shine with truth and love on the subject which will illuminate the path of progress for all our children. Then we are hoping again to have perceive such divine guiding lights for progress in our land but not while we as direct descendants are still crying and mourning as times is passing by into newer generations, in which potential workers who are descendants of our ancestors, look on such demeaned cultural and historical heritage sites in which their ancestors lie being neglected. (1*) (6a) More specifically, we today refer to those our ancestors who had been actors in past dramas outlined above, to be those buried in the pantheons such as Corozal and the ancient and historic “Monkey Hill” or Mount Hope, and in the ancient Paraiso and Gatùn Cemeteries. Today these sites lay in a disgraceful state, ignored and forgotten, many without some kind of memorial markers to identify the individuals interred there. Today still appearing as paupers they are only in funerary record books, also found battered and neglected, badly handled as vital and important records at cemeteries or in civil registers that are closed off to descendants, unknown to the international community. We have also found that vital records referring to our ethnic group have become captured and still remain prohibitive information to us descendants held by the warring invaders as inaccessible, too costly and inaccessible to descendants who mostly are unable to fray the cost of access to them. Furthermore, today as Panamanian citizens we are petitioning our country of birth to
39 use all diplomatic means citing conventions in which as member States are to free-up those historical and cultural records regarding our Silver Black Community. To importune the holders of those files and records is wrong, that further more we are no longer at war and that those vital records are part of the great cultural and historic loses to our civil community. The continual trampling on our humanity has remained so as we remain a people here voiceless. It remains for us, then, to decree that past oversight of Panama as a State party signatory to the cited convention on the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage. Considering that as the country of birth of Panamanian Westindians abroad and noticing that a great amount of persons of this ethnic group of people are at best trapped economically so that they are unable to return and settle in their motherland. That further more are persons who find themselves economically prohibited from even considering being able to afford claiming their historic and natural cultural rights and identity, which is vital to the safeguarding of their natural and cultural make up. That those are persons who were never able to enjoy the vital rights of outstanding value as set forth in declarations on human rights of 1948, and international covenant on economic social and cultural rights of 1966 the same as their fellow Panamanian Westindian citizens. Aware also of the universal will and common concern to safeguard the intangible heritage and that the vital historical records held by the States as parties’ signatory to such identifying inherited family records, that such records should be released to our country of birth and made free of all charges and accessible to the Westindian Panamanian citizens. The country of birth will then assist in the removing of such dehumanizing effects still perpetrated against its natural citizens’ humanity. Thus such historical, cultural and natural heritage of outstanding interest to be accessible safeguarded and preserved. Thus, the international community needs to be aware of these historical violations of the intangible cultural heritage rights of these citizens, whose immediate relatives had performed heroically as laborers and employees of the American Canal Zone since the times of massive mayor constructions and service to an allied State government who today is still obviating humanity. (1 *) (6b) Considering then such innate handling of such issues as the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage, and other such type of violations of international covenants which had allowed historic pressures on those historic sites, and on the Westindian Panamanian community, thus assisting in feeding a voracious modernization, globalization and rampant urbanization without proper informational programs, allowed gross violation of human right to a whole community of Silver People, are further proof that the Panama Canal is also a threat to intangible cultural heritage as it stands presently today. In fact the above conditions have been posed for over a century now and still are showing signs of the negative exclusionary policies in force at the beginnings of such times of Panamanian Republican life. Instead of experiencing betterment we of the Silver community are once more experiencing in the Panamanian history, visible signs of economic and social prejudices. So that the images provided on computerized compact disc (3 *) are those that tarnish our cultural heritage so valued to all of mankind. They as with the inaccessibly vital records are in fact more than the visible attacks on our memories still suffering remembrances as surviving descendant of Silver Employees. We are part of a people
40 that all throughout the 20th century have existed and we are today here declaring that we have reached the age of retirement and a pension, and still are today experiencing attacks of the likes of earlier years of exclusionary public employee policies, whose aftermath are not showing signs of coming to any end. (7) We are declaring as descendants of those human beings, who were the historic principal group of workers in this Panamanian land, that their actions upon reaching these shores were for them a declaration to history itself and for all times to the world. That they would never again to be considered slaves, but that they were honest laborers and workers with families to support. Although history will record a stingy public administration that thwarted such a vision for people of our ethnic race, today we declare that there is still much avoidance to total compliance with our request for ensuring total inclusion in civic life under the governance of any of the States parties to these international conventions. However we are continuing clamoring in behalf of these honorable ancestors and lofty "Westindian leaders" of the past. Because they were some of our greatest thinkers, men and women, mostly humble workers, who today lay quietly in their graves as we speak out for our Patriotic Panamanian hearts. Considering that even if it is decreed and declared for us negatively, retorting that it had come to be that too many years has gone by, we are making sure that the international community become aware of the magnitude of such deeds done to our heroic ancestors. Then we as descendants are seeking redress based on facts, and are joining that community of citizens, clamoring for honorable recognition and safeguarding and respect that their name deserves. We reiterate that they were the people who were the heroes in all respect and main actors in the play that still make for some of the most memorable events in our history, and make such action undeniable facts of world history. By recognition of those Caribbean Patriots, citizens for whom today we demand recognition as intangible cultural treasures that in reality were those who labored when many other employed peoples could not, we affirm that they did so for the well-being of our country and for a future world to come. To them we are eternally grateful and proud to be a part of them, giving thanks today for being a part of it all. We are remembering that we must erect memorials to them who labored during the worse of times, periods of history that for them began much earlier than the start of the Panamanian Republican era. (*2)(*5) 8. For us this petitions requested of the fathers of the Panamanian nation is one that we are hoping for a positive decree. A law which will fulfill our civil, family and ethnic duties, which is to stand firmly for the rescue and a timely preservation, and safeguarding of all those the historic cemetery sites indicated as valuable cultural monuments. Today these sites are lying as valuable real estate, threatened by a voracious urban sprawl. They remain surrounded and in danger of being granted in Governmental concessions to local companies, or to foreign enterprise or Governments, who are threats to our intangible cultural heritage. (* 1) They as governmental entities and foreign international powers as described above are powerful entities who have held historical powers over our ethnic group, to do and undo amongst other things and to make disappear all traces concerning our "Silver communities" off the entire former American Canal Zone. The fact that our petition seeks to protect and preserve such historic sites, that in fact were all previously
41 segregated, makes our petition more urgent as we are afraid for those sites where the residents of the ancient "Black Canal Zone" are buried. (*3) (1a) With Patriots tears in our eyes as we are today pleading to anyone that hears us, that we should be given such opportunities and participatory spaces to work towards safeguarding and preservation, but not only the safeguarding of these described historical Sacred sites, but also for us as citizens to have a space and to duly participate in ensuring that all activities for the perpetual care, then to launch local and international public education efforts that would spare us descendants much pain. We are also considering what has been granted and agreed with the Government of the United States of America, concerning the use on Panamanian grounds of portions of lands, which in previous years of our history had been segregated racially and today is known as the Corozal American Battlement Cemetery. That as such as it is signed and appears in the Panamanian Official Gazette, and identified as Law number 21 of June 2000, G.O. 24081. That it be decreed that the Silver People of Panama in abeyance to Law number 24530 that in its first article refers to in part, "Any actions which denote discrimination, exclusion, restriction or preference based on color, race, social class... that undermines the enjoyment or exercise of fundamental rights enshrined in the Political constitution," be granted complete control over the Corozal Silver Cemetery of Panama. (*6) (1b) Considering that so earnest are our pleas that we are here so praying that our efforts will ensure the welfare of the Panamanian youth of our ethnic persuasion due employment, as we develop our historic Heritage Cemetery. Further more we will ensure that local and foreign tourist have a safe place and are able to enjoy in total security, without threats to their safety to those sites that they tour without incidents that mar with racial prejudice or otherwise compromise their safety. It is timely and opportune a time for us that we should have opportunities to own those inherited sites and to work towards such increase in employment opportunities in a field of technology, that lead to degrees in professionalism in such fields now closed to our Panamanian youths. We hope to labor from now on to have legally direct succession, becoming stewards over these sites. Then to become beacon to all people today who are unawares of the historical events that made our ethnicity and country great. We therefore are pleased with just to get this opportunity to work and contribute, to make these genuine national treasures of our culture and citizenship. It is by these means that we do raise our voices to get an international community attention and support to our efforts at rescuing our cultural sites, then further to be able to make memorial to them our ancestors on a yearly and regular basis. It is all meant for our youth to see our visions of citizen participation, which as a viable pattern in the affairs of Panamanian culture we stand counted as present. (9) Considering how evidence it has been for us these past sixteen years, time in which it had been that we have found those sites still abandoned, or in such state of total neglect. That all the years has passes by in which we have been deprived safeguarding measures witnessing the dehumanizing effect of racism vented on our culture through our cultural heritage sites. As described above the parties of States involved has left for us such an harsh examples of our communal distress which reflects the systematic weakening of our culture.
42 Today the sites are still suffering and we consider them part of our Cultural Sanctuaries, as we have described fully and precisely. It is for us as a people to size the opportunity with a vision to better administer the valuable tourist routes on the banks of the Panama Canal and recognize it all as part of our natural heritage. Thus in fact the region itself is really our natural heritage evidenced by the fact that we are still representing our living and vibrant cultural need to be present here despite the fact that all manner of threats have become a testimonial to such historical lack of inclusion of our community in the affairs of either of the countries member States historically involved with us as a people. Considering also that today we are professing openly and no longer in shame or hiding the fact that we are all suffering the same economic and social hardships that our forefathers continually endured throughout a history of association with those member States. As a community we have endured ethnic and racial distress, even changes to our identity by fellow citizens who propose to identify us as Afro-Antillean, AfroPanamanian, Afro-Americans and denying that are, and will always be, The People of the Silver Roll as in years past in our historical natural citizenship. Presently our problem is that we ourselves are aiding in the threat that has systematically come about to place our cultural heritage in danger of succumbing to total disappearance. To totally disappear all our deeds and social practices, rituals and festive events. We have played into the hands of our natural enemies and not claimed to have any traditional craftsmanship, oral traditions or performing arts. We have accepted also that ours is not an ethnic group, that even our God-given surnames and historical natural cultural heritage as a Canal generated Culture is invalid. We must reverse this trend of thought and recur to the noble memories of our forefathers and what they knew and have more faith in our Panamanian citizenship. We must consider such things learned by our forefathers who passed on to us as nonformal education, how things were transmitted to us, identify them, document them and promote them, so that we can then protect them and reinvent them as aspects of our heritage. It might now sound crazy to the younger generations who have been erroneously indoctrinated. However, we are the ones who can show the respect for anything we produce if we want others to respect and value them. Master Plan: Below we have submitted a “Master Plan for Immediate Action,” in the safeguarding that will preserve all the cultural sites in the interim until our fundraising efforts can suffice for us to have complete and perpetual care of those cemeteries and other identified cultural treasures. We must consider making some efforts to collaborate with these efforts at providing the Silver People Heritage Foundation some ease at even traveling and supervising that no changes be made, that will damage the worth of the cemetery sites we are so concerned about. When we go to these site you as a collaborator is also present with us in conservation and saving the site from further threat. It is especially so for the Corozal and Mount Hope or Monte Esperanza sites, which are still in use, although they are heritage cemeteries and your property. (4 *) The plans that we have proposed cannot be put into operation due to some legal and
43 international community unawareness of the gross violation of the conventions we have here described for our country fathers at the National Assembly. Our readers are privy to these issues through this document and that we posses laudable alternatives that will be begging the process for the rescuing and preservation of these cemeteries and begin the process of the botanical garden parks we foresee. As for spaces on the historic Black Canal Zone we hope to have joint access and space available. However we are facing an up hill battle but we are sure that justice will be done in Panama, the United States Supreme Court or the International Court of Justice. Considering the world trend for heritage cemeteries, upon victory for our cause, it will afford us such space and time to set the pace for the sustainability and permanence, on the famous Panama Canal tourist route. We are hoping that all our heritage cemeteries will achieve the eminence desired and reach the sustainability economically as Touristic Heritage Cemeteries they will aide the respect and honor preservation will bring to our humanity. At the same time we will strive for complete transparency in our dealings as administrators of our project, and that without trickery or add-ons we will become a cultural monuments to the whole humanity as we tell the tales and stories of a Christian culture that has elevated from penury to perpetuity assuring our future and our coming generations of descendants with the corrected pride and respect for our forefathers. (1a) It should be remembered that our research and studies have made us reach the above conclusions, and that they are as we have stated; upon recent recognition for a place on the 2010 Watch List of the World Monuments Fund, thus we present as proof that ours is a natural Heritage Cemetery. We must also note that it has been until today that we have come to have such opportunities, even as University graduated professionals with advanced degrees in research and experiences in the public administration fields. That we haven’t been able to peruse public records and indexes or governmental records that are in possession of both historical governments and States involved with our ethnic group. It is precisely the American Government as well as the Panamanian Government that we are referring to and who is in possession of such records and files that have recorded the historical presence and ethnic history of laborers citizens belonging to the world that we as descendants can not access. We are declaring here that we as educated professionals and direct descendants of the Silver People Community have such a need know, and such right to be able to amply peruse, those vital sources of information regarding our ancestry. That it be decreed that ample deference’s will be afforded to us for the researching, resolving of some of the historically unknowns about our ancestry and the history as part of the Silver Roll community on the former Panama Canal Zone, and the Afro Antillean Panamanian barrios of urban Panama. Ours are those intangible cultural heritages, which are still today suffering from such modernisms, as globalization, which seems to have been still restricting our access to information vital to our culture and heritage. The information needed is that that would solve some of the unknowns about our participation in historical and cultural events by us and our predecessors, then the time has come for us especially to give names to individuals and honors them in our Panamanian society, or in any international event as citizens of a fully world independent State. (1 *) (2b) The matter of final reversion or return of the Panama Canal to Panamanian Government control has not promoted the inclusion of our Westindian culture since it is clear for any fair-minded observer to see such results on our sacred cultural cemetery sites mentioned above, in this paper and other Afro-Antillean Panamanian documents or
44 other former Westindian community facilities today. The story is historically the same in the whole region on the banks of the Panama Canal, because in so little time that is left for total disappearance, we will also find it impossible to find or to describe any descendants of our ethnic group on the present Black Canal Zone also. This historic tramplelling on our intangible cultural inheritances is noticed and the old exclusionary policies are also noted present in other intellectuals backed venues. We believe that without the proper adequate protection, ours as a culture, which has been devoid of any protection for more than a century, will surely be gravelly hurt without any possibility of seen light of return. (3c) Therefore, the above have caused us to seek international assistance from the organization known as the World Monuments Fund (WMF) who are esteemed experts in the international community for years working for the preservation of cultural and historical heritage sites, and as such have described their work, in more than 90 countries around the world for over 40 years. Their offices are in New York City and are now in constant alert and consulting us in these matters, and will aide us in the task of preserving them as outlined in our Action Plans, in sustainable ways as heritage of the world and cultural legacies. (4 *) (10) Considering that it is worth noting that on the recent date of September 29, 2009 we were informed, at our Organization’s headquarters’ that The Silver People Heritage Foundation, a non-profit organization still in process of formation, with offices in the City and Republic of Panama, that the sites we have sponsored as the Silver Corozal Cemetery on the Pacific side, and Mount Hope or Monte Esperanza Cemetery on the Atlantic end have been selected for the 2010 Watch List. In addition, the historic City Center of the City of Colon also on the Atlantic side of the country has been chosen as well for inclusion in the list of 100 Cultural and Heritage Sites worldwide, in danger and threatened with disappearance. We are extremely pleased to report that these cultural and historical sites lie in areas of the former American Canal Zone, now designated as reverted to the Panamanian government Corregimientos. For the Ancón Corregimiento is the Corozal site, which is located not far from the former site and township in which Negro workers of our ethnic group had historically populated the township of Paraiso Black Canal Zone. Considering that it is at this township of Paraiso that also lies in the recently uncovered ancient and historic graveyard, with remains of mostly laborers of the Jamaican labor force and others of our Caribbean Negro heroic ancestors. They are the ones who labored with the French government in starting the constructions of the above mentioned Panama Canal from1880-1889. In this document we are announcing that the remains of our glorious ancestor will be rescued from decades of neglect, their memory thus tarnished from recorded history due to racial and historic prejudicial treatment of their deeds. The above mentioned international recognition motivates us further to continue in our aggressive actions so over due for the perpetual care of all these sites. With our conservation management plans, without relying on frequently changing government and administrations, we hope to care for our natural cultural heritage and historic patrimony for perpetuity. We will thus stem the tide of neglect that such political systems cause every five years by changes in its public administrative policies placing further stress on our community and natural heritage in danger as they are
45 handled without any planning for the preservation and safeguarding of our cultural legacy and historical heritage cemeteries sites. (*4) (11) Considering such “perpetual preservation,” as the way we have developed the road map for such a long-range management plans, and that it is not only for us to achieve historical and cultural integration, but for a permanency on the countries most important tourist route of the famous Panama Canal. It is so viewed by us the proponents of this bill of law that as such our ancestors labor honored the entire Canal Project and was that labor that caused the deaths of our heroic forefathers, as associates in all the works in that area of the county. World history need to be corrected in its views of our ancestors, and that further more as such our assertions have met the test in proof that our community is ready to take the lead as principal care takers as descendants that will respect and make proud such care for our inherited cultural treasure. Then being that our Board of Directors has been directing this movement for perpetual care and have finally seen such a reality to come true, that all these sites mentioned as cultural heritage and historic patrimony to mankind will be so decreed under Panamanian law. Furthermore, we descendants as Panamanian citizens are eternally indebted to the ensuring promotion of these sites as such, and will be the entity to bring this message to the youths in the Panamanian slums and to all areas economically linked to these patrimonies, as is the traditional Black Canal Zone. We are proposing that it be decreed that opportunities to any or all employment opportunities generated from our efforts make for these new professional fields, opened to persons for which they were previously closed to and to those of the poorer economical sections of the urban areas mentioned. We have chosen this legal course to assert our Panamanian Citizenship rights, also to see included in Panamanian Constitutional Law what has been accepted in international conventions for a very long time. That such expected and desired recognition should reach us at this time in history in an attempt to safeguard a portion of our cultural heritage speaks loudly in our favor herein after for recuperating some of our damaged intangibles and natural inheritances. Good news and a welcomed addition to aide in gaining respect for our people in all historical and cultural contexts. (1a) Considering that such tracking mechanism as WMF Watch List of 2010 is today one of the only international recognizing so far any part of our human rights and cultural legacy and has agreed to aide us un the fight for our heritage sites. The only aid leading us to the study and understanding of the UNESCO international conventions that speak to the issues at hand, involving our natural, cultural and Patrimonial in the Republic of Panama. Furthermore, as direct descendants of such Silver People who labored and left such legacies which are today the mainspring of cultural diversity in the Republic of Panama. For us this development has assured us success in our missions and the safeguarding for any of our projects of importance to the world. It is what, in fact, has led to such historic rapid urbanization at the turn of the 20th century and has become a model for all of Latin America, and remained as a key factor in securing success after the construction of the Panama Canal. Historians versed in such matter have recognized such cultural patrimonial heritage and as such have a patrimony that date back as far as the mid-19th century.
46 Recognizing that ever since such ideas for a waterway across the shortest route of the continent emerged until such a feat had become a reality, our ancestors were present, employed and laboring Jamaican people. Then all the proof we have mentioned above and that we have place here in this document suffices as reasons for us to have embarked on this task for overdue historical inclusion. To gain control over the inherited properties then to legally begin such work of conservation and reinstatement of our historic public trust is a matter for much pride for our ethnicity and culture. We are vehemently requesting the support of all our people, urging them to become collaborators to this work, until we can gain the ear of national and international entities that will make substantial donations in grants that will ease the economic strains needed to put all our projects into practice. However we are praying that the proposed Law reflects that we are heirs and owners of our national historical patrimonial heritage, hoping to see relief from the century old sorrows for the weakening of our cultural misfortunes. Our mission shall continue being one of advocacy but moreover becoming administrators of the rescue operation, then directors of the conservation programs which all involves a strong program of re-education involving publicity of awareness in all the above-mentioned cultural legacies, as is our natural duty to humanity. (* 4) (2b) Considering that such human rights still is valid as it enclose the dignity in death, and that as such respect and dignity also transcends to sites in which human remains lie, still however we are finding prevailing historic indignities of our human person and that such rights are not remaining as sacred. As for us as Silver People we do not intend to ever stop honoring our Centennial forefathers and racial ancestors. It is not solely because we have coexisted with governments and people outside of our cultural sphere who have continued to ignore us before and after our death. As such the dead for us never cease to have an identity or to be bereft of human rights, and that further our deceased forefathers do offer us much more than rights to be in our communities. Such rights transcend our Souls and our Spirit in which we can gain the emotive happiness or sorrows when progressive actions are taken to honor and respect or when we see desecration or negligent care taken of our tombs and morgue records. Just because they are dead or have been dead for a long time does not minimize their worth as human beings. Recognizing that a century is not enough time for the expiration of any legal human rights violations we submit that these cemetery sites or pantheons we have mentioned above are for us no "Mausoleums to our vanity," but rather are places in which the honor we offer is one that is deserved and overdue, for history itself will defend the worth and respect we award our heroic forefathers. To only mention today's economic boom and the lifestyle enjoyed by economies around the world for over a century of time is proof enough for our allegations. We claim such benefits from the labor that our ancestors prayed over daily hoping to be able to survive then having families and for over decades praying to avoid the wrath of their racist employers. It had been historically so in this region of the world for our people starting during initial constructions periods and ending with the times at mid 20th century when reduction in forces would send families into despair. Our labors today also is but a follow up on those times, that we today are in constant prayer to see beneficial conclusions for us, is no paranoia as heirs and part of the Silver peoples of Panama.
47 We pray that member States of governments signatory to the UNESCO Conventions become our brothers nations to rush to our support as citizens of the world at large. We ask them to join us in these trying times of mourning for our honorable ancestors The Silver People of Panama to be successful in rescuing and safeguarding our heritage. In addition, we are begging all people, descendants of our ethnic race, to become collaborators in this work that we have launched. For to only remember and reverence these humble laborers, employees, and workers is not enough if we cannot have vocal support today for our ancestors as it will be a great step forward for us the living of our black race of people. For us it is such reverence that would extend for us more than reasons for valuing and respecting our past. As you become collaborators and associates to the Silver People Heritage Foundation you will help bring to life those that gave us more than heroic perseverance, but that also secured for us a bright future as the Free People of Panama. (12) Recalling then all the historic negative consequences suffered by our country in recent events, so that experiences in which the violation of human rights to our Silver communities had been included. Then such was to be the historic shock to see our besieged Panamanian Westindian Silver community included, which had been a main part of Panamanian black ethnicity. So that those had been acts that would be added to other historical atrocities committed against us Silver’s in the history of our national territory. We feel as though we are still continuing to inherit as a cultural heritage such atrocious sights as we visit what for us appears today as the cemetery site of our indignity. It remain for us a reminder of how weakened has remained our association historically with our neighbors who had been side-by-side to our Sacred Silver Cemetery site. Because to witness there in full view such interpretation of what is segregation and oppressive is to see our Silver site disarray, threatened and neglected not only by natural hazards and careless handling. Considering these conditions we again translate with the saddened hearts of patriots, that image that had historically evoked sadness, which for us now is more than a representation in oral history. In the meantime it remains for us to view over and over again, as something rooted in our national territory, something as historic and negative as racial segregation can still be tolerated. In the meantime governmental functionaries of the District of Panama have been taking aim at our sacred sites as one of the issues standing in the way of “progress” regarding space availability in cemeteries in the district. There, in full view remaining dishonored, and without help on one of the most visited tourist routes on the banks of the Panama Canal, lays that Silver graveyard about to be desecrated as the graves of our old black ancestors are summarily removed. It remains thusly threatened as if it had been the Silver People Heritage Foundation so we took up the challenge to labor to “fix them all” and bring honor to those who worked for the betterment of the whole world. Even renowned historians will verify and date what we had heard our ancestors talk about as early laborers, also of those who had served as un-official tour guides to visiting touring white persons from the United States. Today those same eager foreign Westindian Panamanian federal U.S. employees are lying in dishonor asserting what oral accounts had been passing down to us their children. For us the site is more than just a cemetery site but all are sacred sites on the banks of the Canal Zone being a silent repository to our genealogy and history since the Republican era of the country Panama.
48 Eager we are to recount such times when black Jamaican youth were already in our country, times when they were but young forefathers being buried in these historic sites. For us the sites are sacred places in which those old timers are now buried, and they as members of our community are still descendants of our Afro-Antillean and “Jamaican” Caribbean ethnicity, for all were referred to as Jamaican or Westindians. Those are periods in national history, times in which all persons of our race are not any more referred to as "Jamaicans," but times they are in our history, in which we are again meeting the presence and Spirit of our ancestors. These are in fact times to revive the stories in our history which date back to the decades of arriving black youngster, who were immigrants. Times there are today that has reach us descendants as people who are again excited to be Silver People and receive real good jobs that would have never been available if our organization had not research the UNESCO Conventions and sought to persist. Like our forefathers we too have worked for subsistence wages but our lives will became adjusted, not with seeing production as advancement but appreciating the freedom felt as respect is awarded to our cultural heritage as a part of our human rights hardly fought and won. Part of our work in revitalizing and strengthening and safeguarding the cultural heritage is the producing of healthy children for our Panamanian descent. Though our youths have become separated or dispersed for most part because of our weakened culture and heritage we now will need help from a cadre of young “Silver people Docents” who will as trained actors tell the story using the most modern of technology to assist them. As members of our still growing community we desired to see any reparations go strictly to descendants. It is because we as descendants need to be able to stand and fight erroneous ideas about our culture to make people aware and keep them informed regarding these issues. Today for us at the Silver People Heritage Foundation to be able to see and report to our people how such denial of our legacy and patrimonial treasures has been a conscious, systematic deed, designed to wipe out all vestiges of our people from that historic Black Canal Zone and even the Panama Canal is painful. It is of such importance that our people as descendants to be totally included in the giving of such reeducation classes and talks that will secure the numbered intangible Cultural Heritage now to claim but as citizens of the poorest neighborhoods of the more populated first cities in the nation, they as experts with such experiences are to be made to understand that our conditions of poverty is part of the grossly perpetrated crimes against our intrinsic and natural heritage and cultural legacies. (*10) (13) Considering that it would be times in history that North American citizens as renowned historians, who did university thesis, have conducted research and written published works that cited events in history, from eye witnesses, persons interviewed at the time in history that made such declarations which mention our forefathers. These records have become permanent records of such times during the mid 19th century have recounted in detail how our ancestors the Westindians began to suffer racial discrimination and how such racial intolerances became acts of retributions for just being surviving laborers. History will further relate how such retributions become historic, and aimed at dehumanizing them as it became a phenomenon of public administrative policies. That such racial intolerance was adopted in far reaching labor administrative policies
49 was adopted by all United States governmental agencies and agents and that as such became a matter of Panamanian Constitutional Law clearly aimed at our Westindian Silver People as early 1903 and 1941. These policies were then reflected in the people amongst the Panamanian populace in which they were indoctrinated to disrespect our Westindian people as an unwanted class, even as the Silver People had to live amongst them, after being expelled from life on the segregated Black Canal Zone. Considering that since the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 had become an international human rights legal instrument, then later in 1966 the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, later that year the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights were agreed and ratified by the member States, Parties States of Panama and the United States, who cannot claim today to have promulgated any such information included in the above declarations and covenants at any time to aggrieved victimized Silver communities. Then so it had been with the continued systematic cultural genocide perpetrated against our Silver People. That our people would remain ignorant of these facts as our storytellers and relatives would not have been able to publish such eye opening information that would make aware such rights to cultural heritage. Remaining then as now isolated and silenced our Silver people of Panama sought to migrate too battered to even stay and fight for their space as Panamanian citizens. However instead the burning candles of freedom would take their places, lighting the way to seeking peace, self-respect and recuperation from a life of genocidal cultural harassment, akin to “ethnic cleansing,” as our colored people had to continue receiving such unethical cultural legacy, which spelled further weakening of their views of heritage and culture. The work ethic would rise through such medium as The Panama Tribune weekly newspaper, better known in the Spanish language as La Tribuna de Panama. They of the Tribune would become the spokespersons in Panama and a watchtower of Panamanian English Language literature and some of the first cultural example of Westindian Panamanian Literature. The Panama of the 20th century would close and a campaign of denial would take over governmental policymakers likened to an addiction to such stupefying substance that racism was. Today in the 21st century we descendants of the Silver People lye as a defeated populace bereft of the voices of our culture in literature of our ethnic make up. All the works of the Tribune lie lost amongst negative phenomena of those times, which had impeded social transformation backwards for us Silver People, so that meeting such challenge against racial intolerance is again asked to come read the prescriptions for the cure. Considering that again for us descendants would dawn this 21st century, times that would mark for us descendants to become not only participants observers, but to become a proactive source that would meet powerful intolerance at the retribution courts of human rights suing for compensation. To remain alive and well as long as one could would become our battle cry since to die for black men is what the system is hoping our risk taking lifestyle would take us and thus that our ethnic group would disappear. As a teacher, social worker and correction official for this writer it had become a challenge to continue the mandates of our God and return the hope in all men and women of good will.
50 To settle for being the quieted and unaware citizens would only make the “True People of America” a poor witness for our case. In the meanwhile all traces of our tangible and intangible cultural heritage would be swallowed up as another insult to our very existence. The Silver People Heritage Foundation has uncovered the systematic approach to cultural genocide, such a system is losing its argument for keeping the people of the world engrossed in idleness, hoping that the day will come when we can find any of the traces of our Westindian Panamanian-ness anywhere in the world, which is our natural historical inheritance. (12) Then the years following mid 20th Century that could have become a crucial point of reference for all our people of our Westindian communities that had still remained helpless and defenseless for many generations in our country of birth would see defeat. Such a power that had hoped to remain powerful dispatching currents of racial discrimination and erroneous sustainable misinformation would have achieved its aim. However, it appears that such hate mongering did not completely weaken all of the generations of Silver People who, at one time in history, felt dispossessed. Such painful and degrading name-callings did not penetrate what feelings of Natural Panameñismo filled the soul of all natural born Panamanians. It had been until both States parties to the human rights conventions feuded over perpetuity clauses, that War invaded the helpless unarmed neighbors of the poorer barrios, to set order to what? (14) Considering that for us Silver People it has been a silent and pernicious internal war against even ourselves, as sickness we witness invasion of our private spaces on the old Black Canal Zone. To date such that results are to be compared to invading armies as we remain without such properties in our own country of birth. But then so has been our experience with the viewing of such atrocities that are made for having mental health problems as we see subjects of our ethnicity walking the streets of our Barrios seeking direction. We feel for our older parishioners who are trapped without any help from us. This petitioner has his wishes taken notes at such scenes of the crime of a weakened culture and heritage. Hoping we are that would not be played over and over again at the yearly honoring of the martyrs. Considering that such scenes of attacks so severe it had depressed our emotions seeing how heavy artillery of mortal bombs in a hot war invaded our motherland. That year was 1992 and an experience of viewing our country agonizing made our patriotic mental health to falter, then it is was equally a tragedy to reach home and again experience the aftermaths of such pernicious actions of historic racial intolerance. It had been again to witness as in our youth that were born shortly before that national tragedy we remember as the Invasion, would now be committing acts of hatred and bitterness, if not ruthless homicides, against unarmed citizens and neighbors. That those youths seamed to mimic homicidal acts aimed, as empowerment against his or her own fellow citizens and neighbors, and any other foreign residents or visitor alike. Then also they have become aware that we as Blacks or Westindians are still a people dealing with historic problems of labels, dominated as a people and still racially separated and even excluded. It had been as if we had some kind of terminal social disease as a people and still suffering. Then such a malaise as racism that for such a long time a pestilence, that has been attacking our humanity, we are aware that it is not cured with monuments and ceremonies. (* 1) However, we are sure and affirm that the role of monuments used to demonstrate honor is a right of all mankind seeking cultural and heritage respect, then as such our Silver
51 People had performed honorably as laborers and workers and still are without possessing such records of their performances in years as being laborers. Those work records we cherish are as such files and records belonging to workers and that had never been prisoners or wards of any of the States involve. Our is a community of families which has never seen any records of their diseased who had been former employee of the American Canal Zone, and it seems as though we will never become eye witness to them. Then again we are justified to so claim as intangible historical cultural heritage such documents, which would give us pride and respect for our Silver Men and Women. That we would be able to extend to them such honorary mention, make statues and other means of certifying our gratitude, to such that have equal importance to us as actors in the drama of our historic times. We are then here declaring that trophies and monuments are for us, not just objects we will use to placate and hide the shame of racial intolerance, or hide the tears of an entire community still in distress. In the meantime we deplore, as an historic people of the history of Panama should still be feeling such treatment as if we had still remained a foreign group of people amongst our fellow citizens. It is reason enough for us to be engaging in such action on our part, that will be aiming to correct today such mean spirited treatment meted out to those who at one time represented our Silver People. In need we are of demonstrating our own appreciation for our ethnic forefathers. Then it has been all these issues over time that we are today putting together for such demands of our historic citizens rights. We are hoping that people from every where would accept our invitation and to come and joins us in these emotive and comforting events for our people who once were not shielded from self contempt. It would be here that during these ceremonies we will be making attempts at strengthening our culture and as a community with historic economic and socially heritage under constant attack for over a century now, who has been suffering the devastating battering of negative cultural appreciation, we are hoping that these ceremonies would serve to gain for us such positive effects on so many years that it had festered into a nefarious syndrome. Hoping we are that it has not become so incurable a social illness that it would not progress to a state of being irremovable. Hoping that it would not become that ardent contempt which burns the soul as the way salt acts as applied to the open sore of self-contempt. (*13) (15) Considering that such an event were we are and still today declaring that we are same people who in the country of Panama are remaining for the reasons above outlined, able to overcome racial discrimination in a campaign called for in such globalization of the English language in Panama. Here again our experiences have detected an unwritten campaign against historic Westindian heritage by which accusations has been launched misleading the Spanish speakers claiming that speaking the natural Caribbean mother tong in the English language is not a preferred kind of English. However, as we have asserted above so it had been for the "Silver Canal Zone Employees," our forefathers who were sought out historically as tour guides around the urban cities. Then a campaign would be launched surreptitiously to deny the ethnic Silver race of people all historic spaces thus make all attempts at discouraging them from even becoming Spanish language docents and other professionals in the educational realms “because of ethnic ascendancy.”
52 In the meantime such a campaign of discouragement would have been launched consciously aimed at weakening the Silver Roll cultural heritage, keeping the youth of that ethnic race completely confused and even agreeing to join in such a nefarious plan against their natural cultural heritage. To even deny such historic facts that such a people had been of value as an ethnic group present on the Canal Zone’s employment roster of indignity. Today those persistent negativities had been openly used as methods to segregate the people of the Silver ethnicity who had been suffering the brunt of a negative campaign of being racially discriminated and segregated from people of the European white races newly arriving in the country as foreign investors. Then it should be noted that so historic had been such a campaign in the Republic of Panama that such negative separatisms have followed the Panamanian Silver People into the Hispanic Caribbean countries and even migrated with them to the United States. Then we at the Silver People Heritage Foundation have an important detoxification campaign to launch in our attempts at reeducating the descendants of the ethnic Silver People if not the whole human races of people that are today on the planet earth. The Panamanian Westindian Silver people even as part of the black race of people would suffer the classic contempt even as educated Panamanian citizens while they attempted to practice total integration by the speaking and writing correctly in their Spanish language as a natural heritage. That even this natural cultural heritage would suffer weaknesses regardless of their intellectual or culturally demonstrated levels of being themselves. 1st. Then here considering that our Silver People had such foresight that their cultural and natural heritage are of outstanding interest and value that need to be preserved, could they on their own have been able to overcome such magnitude and gravity of such historic dangers constantly demonstrating to them intent to weaken their heritage of outstanding value? Are above historic recount to remain evidential proof of our times? Or should we keep trying in vain to seek reforms on our so weakened remaining cultural resources trying to forget. Without such collective economic assistance in the forms of compensatory payments by the member State Parties responsible for these historic inhuman acts of cultural genocide over seen by a neutral third party as judge and jury to future venues of reparations we as Silver People will be at a lost against them. It is for us as Silver People of Panama to remember, that it had been more of our fundamental rights or our human rights that had been out rightly violated and that we had no recourse for more than a century without the proper reeducation of our natural rights and privileges. Then we must admit that our human rights today are weakened by the negative implications and setbacks now posing as truths, in the standards of a populace misinformed. To battle alone such erroneous issues of historic propagation that we as a people lack basic rights to the truth regarding our humanity and then to expect us who have being denied such right to respond positively, and to have such social justice enforce by avowed enemies of our culture, or to expect just rewards or compensation for such injurious State Parties to such International declarations on human and cultural rights, who have never admitted guilt is to admit more injustices. To view our rights to have powers and complete control over our own rescue even in death, is worthy of negotiation to rid our people from more unworthy historic threats, or to preserve our
53 right to inheritances tangible or intangible. So strong a cases will be made after viewing such facts that spells out to us that to date our forefathers have not been considered as important actors in that drama played out in Panamanian history to be considered fathers of our country. Such lack of having citizens participatory roles in such areas as in intellectual sphere of influence were it concerns contests and prizes offered, as such to demonstrate importance of preservation, maintenance, and even reinvention of our Silver type of Panamanian cultural history, would be a first step in any attempts at redressing any part of our natural and intangible silver cultural heritages. (1 *) 2nd It is also notable how our Panamanian Westindian community, as a viable community has not enjoyed such ample opportunities for the disseminating of our Silver historical heritage. We also have not been given opportunities in assisting in having vital roles for the enrichment of our identifiable cultural diversity, or for displaying what is the natural creativity of our Panamanian Westindian Silver humanity. Further it had been foreign historians who had reminded us that our ancestors were known to have been in our national territory from such historic times, even before the Panama Railroad construction of 1850. That then they were in abundance in the French era of 1880-1889, and further on in the well known American Panama Canal Zone, Canal Construction and operation periods between 1904-1960 and even as to be known as Silver People since the beginnings. Such a trajectory for us as Westindians Panamanian, had been loaded with gross violations to our human rights, which has taken a heavy tolls on our community of black Antillean Westindian culture. Even as Jamaicans, as our community had been described still we remain the same people who have been omitted from historical accounts and denied our natural cultural development even of our intangible cultural heritages. 3rd It is further a fact that literary works describing our cultural prowess are not included in Panamanian history or cultural makeup. As written works by thinkers of value in either the Spanish our English languages, we have been able to identify the voice or the presence of our ancestors in our history, not even in the maternal Creole language describe as Patois or Patwa in any literary performances. Furthermore we have seen very little writings or theatrical productions promoted by State subsidized venues written by Silver Westindian Panamanian authors. People foreign to our Panamanianess have been included as cultural themes in venues supported by the States parties to these overt segregations and cultural weakening though any of them has shown protest for such outright omission of our community from gaining governmental grants or support. Then such governmental cultural promoting institutions and other cultural entities, which handle such administrative matters regarding culture dissemination, seem at a lost as to how to promote such events. Even though Westindian minstrels and troubadours have been included of late, historically they have been sought out by foreign Touristic venues, still today such governmental Ministries do not address such a need at any time throughout the Republic of Panama, so much so that it is an indication of a conspicuous absence of our cultural presence. Then even in recent intellectual literary contests in which language is the central theme, our poets and essays writers are not included, and if so they do so not reflecting our Westindian community cultural heritage.
54 Endeavor we will to continue protesting these overt commissions and omissions of our inherent Panamanianess so that were gala events and celebrations are considered throughout the country of Panama, our natural native Panamanianess will be present at such events. Panama is and has never been solely a rural country but there has always been and historic thriving urban centered culture present. Compensation for us at the Silver People Heritage organization are making a call to the Honorable Legislative Assemblymen and women to view our plight and join our voices in calling for an halt to these human rights violations at issue, that have continued to hurt the development of our culture and people in accordance to protection decreed in international conventions. We are hoping to see them join our debate, then aid us in reaching favorable decisions for the granting of due ownership first to the resting places of our forefathers and them in the strengthening of our cultural heritage right here from our national parliament. (16) Considering that we of the Silver community remain strained but expectant, while remembering those abuses and overt omissions perpetrated against our human rights, hoping to see corrective actions in this Bill. Although time has passed and we are still witnessing overt omissions as it appears for our ethnicity and community, we as such a viable group of citizens remain desirous in becoming an important part of our country of our birth. We are in distressed, witnessing past signings of agreements with the United Sates of America, and were it concerns us as natural born citizens our protections is totally disregarded. That in such accords on reversals of properties to our country of birth, our community is left bereft of proper consultation regarding such historic places on the Black Panama Canal Zone. In the mean time witnessing changes of governmental public administrations past in review, then however we await some discussion on our human rights, which never arrives. Then as we witness international activists on human rights or other not-for- profit international organizations arriving to discuss such matters, we see and witness no such mentions of our historic plight. Thus, as party to neither such demands of violations or reparations, nor offers of repatriations to our people who still are on foreign soil and are desirous to return home to their motherland of Panama. Those who are still remaining dressed in the Panamanian flag abroad are regrettably acting as though they do not have a country. In spite of all that have occurred they are of our citizen’s group who has given up even trying, due to such weakened cultural interest and value to their humanity. Is it because of such omissions or perceived lack of opportunities for participation in issues that strikes at our dignity and natural citizenship? Then again we petitioners hold that as such they deserve the healing brought on by the initiative of this projected legislative initiative. To have such right to the remedies offered bi this Bill of law, to be a remedy of past overt omissions that provoked and caused the many abuses to our historic culture, here in our native country. (16) (a ) Then it is still a fact that we as a country have not reached such a time when spaces for discussion are insured, to come from measures in reparation from official sources to initiate such dialogue pertaining to issues of legal and emotional repercussions which negatively impacted our Silver Peoples natural and national citizenship. Where dialogue would reveal officially, how historical it has been for a people who are and were nationals to a country that has historically shown contempt and made every effort to dissuade respect for the contributions, ideas for enriching the cultural diversity of all the Panamanian people. Then we as Silver People were left to become a community in which such human rights
55 as citizens to be heard on a regular basis, is granted to other ethnic communities but one such as ours is discouraged. Today we are reaping such laxity in the quality of life we are displaying. The issues to discuss and resolve first should be about such questions as why today we are amongst the poorer of Panamanian citizens, amongst those looking towards and fearing being summarily cremated upon our death which is for our cultural makeup as unusual and equal to never have existed. Considering that such had been the indignities historically poured upon us as a people, while we remains quieted, without protesting, witnessing how callous public administrative servants announce the imminent inhumations of our ancestors from what should have become an heritage grave site. As a Silver People of historic evidence of always being of the Christian faith we believe in a Christian burial rite where the body of the deceased is placed in a permanent gravesite according to the Scriptural writings of the Judeo-Christian doctrine. We then ask for our coming generations, should we be party the promotion of cremation of the body at the end of life to save land for industrial progress for the living rich? Ours is a country that professes to have an official religion to be of the Roman Catholic religion. Then is it not for us Silver People to contemplate being a part of our national protective God? Who then it is who promotes such heresy of cremations and crematoriums? If so then should we just surrender from echoing our Christian prayers, due to the message reaching us historically that there is no place for us Silver People under your national God’s to preserve, or we to safeguard even the good name of our Silver ancestors. Then for us descendants is left a bleak future to look forward to as Silver People that to date cannot even preserve the good name of those which preceded us. However, to remain perpetually viewed as an enemy and pauperized because of the lack of opportunities due to a weakened culture, a prey to any and all threats without due protections to safeguard any economic prowess we might display is to be foolhardy in expectations. The safeguarding of our future will be demonstrated in the rescuing and safeguarding of our historical cemetery sites in whose name our own names will be memorialized. We will then not have to give in to such barbarity threatening our traditions and sense of cultural heritage. (16)(b) Reiterate we must here of how we have been noticing how other communities who have a farther way to travel to our sphere here in Central America and the Caribbean and who have almost the same history and centenarian trajectory as our black Silver ethnic group, who for us represent a stranger culture than our Christian Africanized Silver culture, have fared much better than us the Panamanian Silver People who are of the Christian faith and rooted in the same cultural basis as our determined mother country. That the Chinese should be deemed a sanctified humanity, beautified after death, due to the easing off on historic persecution towards them has been a noticeable pattern in our history. We are thus led to conclude that it is at us, The Silver People, that the whole machinery of ethnic cleansing is aimed. Must we declare that we are to give up even a deserved Christian burial or upkeep of our last resting places as memorials of remembrance by religions practiced in our community? We are hoping that it would never be so decreed.
56 As such all these events has made us to wonder, which people here in Panama as communities are more deserving that our historical Silver Roll People who have done more for Panamanianess historically, and who have entertained longer period of abuse even in death in the Republic of Panama? If then it is our community of men and women who have served more and then we as descendants have such history and cultural rights and integrity to posthumous memorials inscriptions in the Panamanian book of Life as any other classes of citizens. It is today an now that we as Silver People are declaring that we are hereby remedying those great faults inflicted on our people, even as they are in death denied such cultural memorials. Then further more we will cease to tolerate such disrespectful threats by governmental functionaries announcing mass inhumations and such gross violations of our cultural rights and desecration to our historical heritage. 18. Considering then that the Master Plan that we have submitted as in official Request For Assistance proposal, to the international body known, as World Monument Fund that uses as identifier their WMF initials in the English language. They at the WMF have accepted our proposal for assistance and we deem it an acceptable proposal for the initial works of conservation and safeguarding at any one of our ancestral heritage cemeteries on the banks of the Panama Canal. We have also enlisted community groups such as the well known SAMAAP and other groups of individual citizens to join us as proponents of this Bill, which we identified as The Silver People Heritage Foundation herein, calling on all religious groups, which represents us as descendants and as a community to rally to our defense. That we being a part the offspring’s generations invite all other human branches of our people, that preceded from such time of the mid 19th century and that then after arrived in large waves of human herds, settling with ideas of just going right to work, then continue to be of use in working and laboring to provide themselves a new homeland for their descendants. Today we as descendants and Panamanian citizens are recalling the times of our ancestors, such times in which parents and grandparents occupied most of the housing on the Black Canal Zone first made for Black laborers. Then there they were using housed which were once a workers camp, until times arrived that Westindian women would arrive, times when black Westindian females arrived to rescue the official program for attracting White American females with families. It would be then that after words previous work camps would become for us all home on the Silver Zones or the Black Canal Zone. (18)(A) Today, as citizen proponents, we are presenting all legal proof that we as a community are united and that this historic and cultural demand is for more than cemetery sites in our culture and traditions. That ours is a tradition and a culture that goes beyond traditions that began when the black workers camps were sparse living and the men had to fetch water from rives and streams. Even as they grow and harvested their own food and even cooked them for sustenance over a floor built fire stove. Then history would record how they all were repaid with contemptuous rejection and had come to realize that they were living and working and had a life that was completely segregated. Then history witnessed their rewards for such austerity and a job well done to a life prized with racial discrimination and rejection. Then times would come for them to experience periods of severe unemployment’s and even deportations out of the life of the entire Panama Canal Zone where it all started.
Such it had been that deportations would become persecution for being allied to activities centered on demands for labor and human rights of honest and loyal workers. Today we are clamoring by using this proposal to be considered a law and an Act of the Republic of Panama, which will render once and for all for the safeguarding of our historic and cultural experiences and a life style with the dignity of a people proud of their intangible and tangible cultural heritage. We clamor to be on the cutting edge of managing our own cultural heritage and be better able to hire agent descendants from our communities who are qualified and able to do such work. At the same time, we are including the four cemetery sites found on the banks of the Panama Canal all with cultural and historical trajectory in this country. They are the ones on which lay the remains of our honorable ancestors, those who were mostly workers in the field of construction and of digging, dredging and buildings and employed on infrastructures that would make up the old American Canal Zone. (18)(B) Declaring here also that we are citizens born in the country of Panama, and who at the time after our birth were residents and descendants of those black actors in the Panamanian drama of country building, that those were historic times of our people experiencing years of racial discrimination. Times in which they were founders of the "Black Canal Zone or “Zona del Canal Negra." That even then we had witnessed as direct descendants times when all the area known as the Black Canal Zone was populated by those who worked and those who attended school and worked on various part of the American administered Canal Zone. That we are in fact participants observers who saw some of the original surviving laborers that witnessed the devastation of jungle forests and who walked on the age-old virgin land when there was not cement roadways. Of those who treaded virgin forests and who dug by hand, until larger mechanical excavators and other heavy machinery could reach and work in the great pit. Considering then that ours were the people that lived those years since the mid 19th century and were pioneers still daily laboring people, even living in areas so inhospitable as citizens, remained with pristine moral values in the country, a Panama that they have left as a legacy to us as locals and also to foreigners. It is to them today that we owe our lives and the vehemence, for their honor and recognition of our culture and heritage. They are those which lie buried in those cemetery sites named above, with friends, family members, relatives still. Still considered and treated as strangers and foreigners, we are those who have been bequeathed a culture, tradition and folklore, that today we as descendants consider interdependent culture and a natural heritage. (18)(C) Considering those historic cemetery sites we are claming to care for in perpetuity, that beginning with our Master Plan which is the only known plan for safeguarding and developing such cemetery site of historic importance in the country of Panama, we are hoping that our heritage cemetery whose plans has been accepted and approved as an heritage cemetery by WMF international organization, would become a reality that will bring much needed respect and reverence to our Silver ancestors. The WMF, after reading our proposal for the sites, have shown interest and offered all
58 the support as experienced persons in the field of history, culture and ancient heritage properties. Further planning and organization of our Silver people is sure to make our pledged a reality safeguarding the site to become one of the heritage sites of outstanding world valued cultural and natural heritage sites. Future protection of the site will require such professional expertise to assist in maintaining and protecting all the cultural properties that we have identified above as valuable patrimony and heritage to mankind. The neglect and laxity found at all the sites we have identified as ancestral sites, today as displaying the deplorable acute degrees of total abandonment is part of the overt dangers involved in States that are member States continued disrespect for even recognizing the Silver People’s cultural and natural heritage in their territories. So dangerous is such an act that they have impaired those sacred cemetery sites and all but dismantled the Black Canal Zone in complicity so that there would be no traces left of the heritage of the Silver People on the Panama Canal Zone. All those cemetery sites still in the hands of former employers of the Silver men and women have left those sites as they are presently threatened with total disappearance forever. We of the Silver people Heritage Foundation are aware that for more than 100 years suffering improper care and maintenance, still they are living witness to the total disregards and disrespect our race of people have had to endure at the hands of those State involved with the black people. Coupled with disregards for our people and an inherent desire to not recognize such human rights for us spell of the truth in their inhuman and dreaded deeds, as recounted from historic times. Then for us remains that just because historic political racist policies and prejudices have plagued us as a people does not mean that today we are cowered by them, as we enter the 21st century. It behooves us as descendants to report here the insulting undignified sight at the cemeteries purposefully left for us to perceive the superiority of racial segregation. However we are seeing an opportunity for us to get friend everywhere to work with us in the restoration, safeguarding and preservation of those precious sacred cultural historical cemetery sites. Make them over to have meaning of honor and respect so that our youths, which are young persons of color, would not have to experience such visual negativity and gross mean spiritedness. We are in a hurry to dress up those sights but it will take years to get them to a desirable stage so that our younger generations would not have to be exposed to such mental and spiritual sufferings. In the mean time we have been ourselves suffering the same harmful emotional rages we have seen felt by our ancestors. We have had to make superhuman efforts to overcome the bitter experiences, even as we still must witness the raw exclusionary policies that had been the norm in the history prepared for our Silver People. Although those were the times before these times, we must overcome and become new renewed individuals for our Panama and become respectable and free people in a new Republic we had hoped for and remain hopeful. (19) We have reached our times in which we as petitioners can declare to be of The Silver People Heritage organization, and wear with pride such acronym SPHF, which denotes volunteerism working for the welfare of our culture and heritage. We are a not for profit organization, in formation dedicated to working with our communities in all facets of issues involving natural heritage and culture.
59 We hope to become more involved in such rescuing personal libraries, old photographic collections and encouraging the development of literary works pertaining to our culture and heritage, artistic presentations and sponsoring artist playwrights and poets, in venues in cities and towns at both ends of the Panama Canal. Presently we still are organizing, offering information and awareness presentations, sponsoring book signings by authors who write on the subject of the Silver People and the Black Canal Zone. Regarding of such thing that has become a part of our spiritual mission is the safeguarding of our intangible cultural heritage. As such the above are only the first stages in long awaited cultural battle to restart our culture and heritage. We have started with our hallowed cemetery grounds and have mentioned the ones named above in this document. Therefore our entire community is in approval of our efforts and unanimously calling for the designation of those historic, previously racially segregated cemetery sites of the former Panama Canal Zone as historic patrimonies of our natural heritage. Further we have declared that other such Holy grounds of equal historical value are likewise located in other provinces of the country of Panama for which we will show more interest as soon as our heritage sites as the City of Colon, Bocas del Toro, Darien and in places in the Reverted areas on the banks of the Panama Canal, are secured as our natural heritages and inherited sites, as we have indicated through out this document. 1st - Our most notable reasons for this protest and outcry is (1) The cemetery formerly known in history of our community, as fist in the English language as “Monkey Hill” then "Mount Hope, which is today also known in the Spanish language as “Cementerio de Monte Esperanza.” In addition is Gatún Cemetery, which also dates back to the era of the early construction of the Panama Railroad (1) 1850-1880. Later the world saw the era of the first attempts of building the Canal of Panama by the historical French between 1880-1889, where all such historic works were established in the city and province of Colon, on the banks of the today famous Panama Canal. Sad as we have been to report all the above cemeteries are in deplorable conditions, including to be spiritually and morally abandoned. Then again we must present such facts, that came for our Silver People at such times after the beginning of our Panamanian Republican era in 1903, in which the Government of the Republic of Panama sign over to the Government of the United States the virgin strip of land for development and the starting of construction works, which for us today is “the pride of God’s eye.” For us the most commercialized route and world entity, known as the Panama Canal is so because of the Silver People direct historical participation. So that it is historically documented that from 1904 to 1914, when opening the route for and by the United States government, that proud engineers gloried in their feat, and that our Silver People were all but ignored. By then it had been such times of rapid constructions in the cities and town near and in the Canal itself, that constant rock and mud slides required a greater number of laborers to keep the great works open for world to see and to use. However it would become some of the most regrettable times for our forefathers and others of our ancestors, and even for our Silver People community, as their appointed deaths would remain sanctioned onwards to remain as buried in racially segregated cemeteries.
60 2nd – Although racially segregated and suffering threats of disappearing we see the scenario in all this as the brutal exterior of a deeper crime and a commitment to a social order that guarantees endless suffering and humiliation. Still they are our deceased ancestors that today we are protecting as cultural and natural heritage and an important part of our Panamanian patrimonial heritage. We have recognized the site recoverable and are taken active measures for the protection, conservation and preservation of these cultural and natural heritages. Though hidden as secreted we are declaring the Corozal Silver Cemetery a site with the foundation in the life of the Panamanian community of people worthy of all comprehensive planning programs for cultural and natural heritages. It is here by also declared that that the site is an heritage of outstanding value and a sure candidate for being part of any comprehensive planning program services, that since such services do not now exist, The Silver People Heritage Foundation has taken these steps to insure that, when such time arises where State parties become aware that Natural and International protection are called for in the UNESCO Convention of 1972, we of the Silver People Heritage organization would be one of such services for the protection, conservation and the presentation of such cultural and natural heritages and have appropriate staff to do the job adequately. (*) Ours petition is based on historic facts owing to originally demarcations of the black community of people of the Westindian race, in dire need of a graveyard making as such for us an historic and cultural Pantheon. Then again we recognize its origins as established exclusively for our history and genealogy of the "Silver roll" or the "Silver People" of the Black Canal Zone. Our people later became "Local Rates," or signifying remaining as close to the Panamanian local poverty line pay rates. Then in recognition of the above historic events we today present as enough grounds for claiming as intangible and tangible proof of our inherited culture. To have discovered that we do posses recognized Cultural Heritage as Panamanian Westindian Silver People, and further to have a salient part in the development of the Afro-Antillean culture for us has been a marvelous discovery. (20) Considering today that those childhood memories of discovering one of the most unique legacies of the black Canal Zone as part of the Westindian Children of the times, in that around the year of 1947 for us kids had been just a few crosses, here and there, as we had made the path a short cut. That through that footpath we traversed barefooted thought to get to another part of town not far from that jungle undergrowth to the Silver Commissary. Back then as small children living on the Black Canal Zone in a town by the name of Paraiso, the footpath led us to the street near to the Paraiso Silver Commissary. We knew then it was a cemetery, however, we did not comprehend how extensive it had been until today as early as 1993 it remained so abandoned then around 1996 it had been uncovered in its totality as an historic cemetery site. The graves are of mostly Black Laborers we suspect but have no way of discovering their names or any other information about them that were buried at the site dating as far back as to be of the French Construction period. The recent named of Paraiso Cemetery or the French cemetery is a recently given name this little known site we of the Silver People Heritage Foundation are taking a special interest into.
Considering that for us these events of final recognition are as former Black Zone children who had discovered that sight hidden away in the nearby jungle. Then that we of the Silver People Foundation should be promoting the rightful way to honor then our forefathers, real pioneers buried at that historic cemetery site. The site still holds vital historical information for all our Panamanian black communities and of the people of French Caribbean nations. They are our ancestors, people who really did labor on the starting excavations of historic significance during an era that marked the History of the Panama Canal between 1880-1890. To us of the Silver People Heritage Foundation who today plead for the release of such data and historic archival records, with all the knowledge and information regarding the whereabouts and access to files and records of our Black people. In fact of the black races of men entered there such information is for us sequestered, hidden to deprive us descendants of our rightful cultural heritage and weaken further our culture and heritage. Those black workers are our forefather’s men of our Caribbean ancestry that had left us permanence here in the area of Panama. All our efforts continue as we are here tendering an invitation to the University of the West Indies to contact us for collaborative works on the subject of Cultural Heritage and of an history that is not lost, because our researches and investigation has uncovered renowned historians who have identified many of these sites as places in which from the beginnings of the historic works in which our ancestors participated they had a special place when no other peoples could stand the rigors of the works. Then again we are aware that most of them came from islands such as Barbados, Santa Lucia, Jamaica, Trinidad, Virgin Islands, Bermuda all islands of the English speaking Caribbean. So that what we had found as rusted crosses, with no identifying marks on them, no written archives or maps have been found to compare them with, so it remain for us today to just not give up the search but to press the French government for access to their achieves and search for the match for the painted white crosses, recently cared for by some paid anonymous entities. Considering that we as heirs are still suffering from the effects of such long term racist phenomenon, today only identified as long-range racial intolerance, which has had us all suffering deep emotional feelings of being dispossessed and powerless. Historically as a people we have been left economically pauperized and culturally weakened, we remain poor round about, our voices however rich and full of powerful moral fortitude. It will be such moral fortitude that we hope to use as a tool in gaining remedy for conservation and sustainability of what we have so far rescued by becoming aware of our to an heritage and a natural culture. Protection and preservation will be our duty from these moments on for gaining control of that portion of our inherited cultural patrimony that some had hoped would completely disappears forever. It has been historically so that our cultural contributions, which should be identified as part of the Panamanian black ethnicity, had been thwarted even when we were expressive and able to represent ourselves. We are here announcing that such possibility still exist and remains of that that had been denied will offer opportunities for us to become representative of our culture and traditions. Considering that today we have proved without a doughty, that as Silver People of
62 Panama we are an important part of all the cultural links to all the above named Caribbean Islands and communities. That further, we have been kept from garnering such rightful cultural properties, as a people entirely cut off from getting to know our heritage in all the Caribbean that should be protected and persevered. As such we have no longer to remain isolated because the time has arrived for us to be inserted as not only a salient part of our Panamanian culture but to also be included as the main parts of the Caribbean natural heritage and Panamanian history. We are not eliminating claims of historic numbers in early urban historic population count, but that it is of historic importance and value that we has a people had lived for more than a century in our assigned traditional Black Canal Zone areas. So that such areas are the ones we are claiming as Natural Cultural Heritage with tangible and intangible heritage of outstanding interest. That further more such unjust rejection affected deeply our ethnic race and even made for breaks in relationships with local historical black people and other Afro-Antilleans and even wanting to deny being Silver People and Panamanian of the Black Canal Zone. (21) Considering that ours is an organization, which is a collective heritage foundation in its developing stages of organization, with the mission to provide protection, restoration and preservation of the Silver Roll Cultural heritage. That further we have due cause to united because as heirs of the Silver Employee of the Canal Zone we have culture and tradition and our investigations, researches and studies has indicated that our ethnicity is in a “state of appreciable impoverishment.“ If the intentions of other black Westindian organization to included our ethnicity for insertion as it is today as part of the national Panamanian cultural heritage we would remain at a gross disadvantage. It is because the same forces remain as a wedge between accepting us as we are or remaking us in the image and likeness of our historic nemesis. Those of us as survivors who have reached these times to witness, us and the “Etnia Negra” of Panama as family of blacks, are disappointed to note that we are still not as close as one would have liked to see a family of united black people. Then we should spend our time uniting descendants of the Silver People we still have what should keep us together in our culture and heritage to be enough to make us descendants, family and community of Silver People of the former American Canal Zone. Because as a family of descendants and clan members of a people who had been "Silver People of Panama," since the times of participation in Panamanian history, we date back to such dates of times before the first construction and operation of the American Railroad 1850-1880 and the French Panama Canal of 1880-1889. Considering further that in fact all historical accounts have us being a part of the same race of people first Jamaican and then Barbadians who had continually arrive as workers and potential workers first for American Railroad and then the French and American Panama Canal Zone. The identifiable Silver denomination would turn into the identifier "Silver People," appellatives to be worn until the close of relationship between the States involved in ratification and recognition of the various UNESCO Conventions on human rights and Intangible Cultural Heritage since 1948 and 1966. The renaming to “Local Rate” of the same silver people came has recent as before the dissolving of the original Canal Treaty between the two States. Then for us at Silver People the Silver People Heritage Foundation, who have been the first to historically recognizes that ours is a legacy and a “culture with rights to cultural property.”
63 That further that as a people we have been weakened systematically by both governments who have kept from us such important information of value and interest to our history with all people of the world. Maintaining as powerful State governments much of our vital records and historical information sequestered, then violating all mandates of the Unesco directorate Conventions and protocols by not making all efforts to so informing us as a people, and thus weakening or culture and our future generations of descendants, leaving us as an ethnic race of people culturally damaged and culturally weakened that we could not unite to lodge such legal demands or public protest. Then as such our allegations are in fact correct that we as black people have been left to believe that we are the same as all other black people and that ours is a legacy and culture not worthy studying or for even to warrant such respect as a culture. However today we have substantiated proof of our allegations that ours is a history and also a part of our intangible, cultural inherited heritage. Considering further that we are in need of both reinventing and avenging our historic claims, to have been victims to even outright “cultural larceny” and that our cultural right and obligations had been historically open being murdered with impunity. Then that we as a people had been for more than a century associated with both member States stateless and without any laws to regulate our protection. That public administrative policy could assist us in securing proper “protection of our cultural heritage and the prevention of any illicit ownership there off were denied to us as a people. In fact that such governmental actions which has left secreted for more than a century such important information needed for a people so uninformed to gain access to such cultural property, in the end have wreaked havoc on our cultural expressions and self worth. Then we who are known herein as The Silver People Heritage Foundation and by our acronym in the English language as SPHF, and are affiliated with other organizations of descendants of our ethnic race in the country of Panama and in the international community, are open to welcome all collaborators. We invite any assistance from friendly sources in our recovery of all our cultural and natural heritage of outstanding value, which are all the things that meet the definition of cultural and natural heritage, in accordance to with the UNESCO Convention of 1972. We, The Silver People Heritage organization, continue our sacred mission as Panamanian Citizens representing all descendants of the described community thus following the above international dictates for defining our legacies on the Black Canal Zone. Amongst then are the historical burial places or Sacred Holy grounds in which our ancestors are buried. Thus keeping alive our claims are such sites, which are for us shinning lights of our ethnicity. However they are other sites that from the point of view history and art have kept us as a people hopeful and able to assist those who have not been able to express the ideas and principles detailed herein. Then for us such sites in which our forefathers labored and gave their lives are themselves of outstanding value from the point of view of history such are the citadels we have described as the Black Canal Zone, such as Red Tank, Paraiso and Silver City. Then also for us are those who find themselves too old and able to care for themselves and are in nursing homes, so elderly and too ill to participate, then we hope to speak for them here.
64 WE PROPOSE THAT THE NATIONAL LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY DECREE: 1. That the Government of the Republic of Panama with the aim of preserving full tangible and intangible, cultural values, as well as preserving such historic inherited legacies of the Panamanian community known historically as Silver People, Westindian ethnic race, and who have a history and culture of outstanding universal value as called for in International Conventions on human rights, the protection of cultural and natural heritage of outstanding universal value, protection of cultural property, the safeguarding of Intangible Cultural heritage and the promotion of diversity of cultural expressions consider for the decree of recovery and protection of these cultural expressions the grave yards were also human remains are buried and such sites on the banks of the Panama Canal, and all places with historical and cultural heritage for the people of the black race named in this document and petitioners descendants of the former laborers and residents of the historic Panama Black Canal Zone, and the historic Urban Barrios of the cities of Panama and Colon. Decrees: (1a) Considering that such cemetery sites are historic cultural properties and that the townships of the Black Canal Zone and all the areas surrounding are related to the history and social history and culture of the Petitioners. That such property is thus “ Important Intangible Cultural historic Properties relating to the history of the people described, weather on secular or religious grounds, are an important part of our national heritage. In acknowledgement of their historic participation in important parts of the Panamanian history and being that those sites are on lands in the territory belonging to the Republican Panama, which has always been their only Motherland and Natural Heritage. Decrees that the State has comes to recognize that the People commonly known as Silver People, Westindian, Jamaican, AfroAntillean, English speaking residents, on the Black Canal Zone and all old urban areas that have historical outstanding universal value, as the sites in which historically they have been entered and described above, are entitled to such Intangible Cultural heritage on all spaces and land associated thereto. * UNESCO Paris17 Oct 2003 Recognizing further that they are in fact descendants and petitioners, who are calling for just restitution and ownership of all cultural property enclosing all that concerns their human and cultural rights. That as such their social and history has not been adequately safeguarded for their rights and privileges for more than a century, and that such cultural properties are part of these basic elements of our civilization and national culture, justified to their citizen claims as Panamanian and world heritage. Then that at this stage in our history, in which such human rights are found enshrined in international conventions and international laws and regulations, accepted by our country in acceptance, as accession, ratification between al member States in years between 1952-2007 of our times, hereby decreed petitioners’ rights of cultural ownership. (9 *) UNESCO Paris 16 November 1972 2. Considering: That the government of the Republic of Panama in respecting petitioners right and considering that such cultural properties were in use by petitioners forefathers then they as residents and that they have been our territories since historic times. Then as is incumbent upon our “State to have come alive to such moral obligation to respect our own cultural heritage.”
65 Decrees: That petitioners claim are in fact correct and that considering that those cemetery sites are amongst properties relating there communities history, social history and have genealogical information that relate to the life of many of our national thinkers, who have participated in “events of national importance.” That such site embodies such elements of artistic and historical monuments, which have achieved the required antiquity, and as such have become objects of ethnological and historical interest. That as such these patriotic citizens complaint are to be accepted as historic demand of the Panamanian Westindian community for recovery and redress. UNESCO Paris, 14 November 1970 Considering: That our Westindian Panamanian communities have for almost a century anxiously awaited such times in which they would see such measures ensure their historical cultural heritage, and recognition to their natural tangible and intangible cultural heritage accepted and ratified as Panamanian law. That to make real citizen participation available to that community for the perpetual care of the ancient historic sacred cemetery sites becomes a reassurance. Decrees: That the National Legislative Assembly would not only become an acting watch-guard entity, but a vibrant entity acting to ensure that such Laws will remain in force to ensure such care and recovery, conservation and protection, of such cultural property granted to the aggrieved Silver Community. *UNESCO, The Hague, 14 May 1954 “Protocol for the Protection of Cultural Property” Considering: That as participants in the total care taking of all our the identified cultural heritages sites on the former Panama Canal Zone and that they will require to have a sustainable perpetual care. Then those places where identified as memorial of the world’s culture and history in our entire Panamanian homeland previously requested by petitioners are herein declared approved and published in our Official Gazette, and will at once become Law of the Land. Decree that for all times such massive spiritual penalties and moral decay shall be removed from all the sites and off the souls of any of our Panamanian community. So that improvement in our spiritual and emotional state of being, which now are found deeply suffocating our Panamanian humanity, mental and cultural respectability, now welcome to our united community those which have been always historically respectable Panamanian population in the citizenry at large. *UNESCO Protection of Cultural Property The Hague, 14 May 1954. 3. Considering: That those Sacred grounds and historic cemeteries that are a part of our cultural heritage, which petitioners are identifying today as managed by local government agencies, in which the State has recognized as been historical cultural heritage and cultural properties. That as such with direct community involvement will then have enough time to plan for cemeteries for total community ownership and sustainable management the State will make such reparations and aide the community management with such a yearly budget. UNESCO The Hague, 14 May 1954 4. Decree: Then that the Silver People Community organization will have management and total control to work our their programs of Information and Awareness, Education and work towards such sustainable Heritage Cemetery sites in line of international acceptable methods in consonant with the highest expectation and to hire suitable personnel, to aid participation in active urban planning committees as citizen
66 participants. Thus ensure the advising of the City Councils of problems in the ream of over population that such large number of deaths amongst the citizenry brings. Bring attention as watch for adequate structures and spaces for additional cemetery sites to rightly serve the basic needs of public administrative and social and spiritual health needs of the Silver Panamanian Communities and regional citizenry needs arrived. Considering the efforts made in these declarations and the efforts made to respect the right of consultation by petitioners and to seek closer working relationship with governmental public administration for the transfer of ownership of our historic Silver People Cultural properties, that official sanctioned for our Information and Awareness Programs, Cemetery Tourism Project, Black Canal Zone Living Museum be made part of the elicitations agreements made with the National Comptroller. That it be take into account such professionals in our communities, social achievements and professionalism as a basis of our requested inclusion. Then a as part of that citizenry accountability in the matters suggested that our Accepted Action Plan, be known as plans for immediate remedy and protection of our identified cultural inherited site now in danger of succumbing to urbanization threatening the sites. 4. Considering that since in like manner as was approved by the State Parties concerned, whereas agreements were reached between the Government of the United States, and Panama, concerning the use of 17 hectares of the Corozal Cemetery land. In that such a Law is today inscribed in the Official Gazette, identified as G.O. 24081, Law 29 of 21 June of the year 2000. Then the State has recognized citizen’s petitions requesting a respectful review of the International Conventions, for protection of petitioners, without regard for the great humiliation and damage to petitioners cultural values by whom in Principles and Agreement were formulated. Which also involves long standing international world conventions and agreements, protecting petitioners cultural and natural heritage, in which like agreement should have become part of our national laws protecting the Silver portion of the cemetery sites involved. Considering that such part of our Panamanian Constitutional make up, which should by this juncture in history be reflecting such protection and conservation for our Silver communities, had been omitted from having participatory space and protection of its natural heritage of outstanding interest. That further more such information and awareness programs has not been “ by all appropriate means of educational programs” made any attempts at endeavoring to strengthen appreciation and respect of the Silver culture and natural heritage. Further more they couldn’t have “ undertaken to keep the public broadly informed of the danger threatening this heritage, or make the general public aware of the of the World Heritage Centers or of the UNESCO Conventions due to the fact that they never had any intentions carry our the dictates of the above international conventions. Considering that it had been that such total absence of State attempts at gaining access to people in the Silver Community in the mass media’s publications, which speak to the specific community of such rights and opportunities they have to strengthen their historic Silver Roll natural heritage. Wherefore the apparent erosion of as such regarding interest in being a Silver community, that has been appearing as shameful neglects as a people, is part of the systematic weakening perpetrated against the culture and thus weakening ijnte4rgration in diversity and human creativity. So that all the decades that as a people the Westindian Silver People of Panama had been without such
67 cultural knowledge or of the needs to preserve the natural and historic world heritage which befell on them, that such cultural heritage had been denied them and mankind is a salient fact needing economic and social compensation. Thusly such historic damages that had continued for over a century has surely severely weakened and damaged the Silver People and their culture and natural heritage, placing them all in danger of disappearing. We contend that as such actions by the State Parties has placed the Silver Westindian culture in continued danger of producing ignorant individuals as descendants, people that would continue to display irreparable loss in self respect and the respect of unaware citizens locally and internationally. Contending we are that as such the appreciation for their ancestors as a cultural legacy has been damaged immensely. That our State, the Republic of Panama should for once in the history of the republic become our preserver and protector, that such that cooperation with our community now requesting just compensation from both States, to include the government of the United States of America. Decree: That economic compensation and reparations that would aid in detaining further erosions of all natural and cultural measures to safeguard and ensure the viability of the intangible and cultural heritage. That both States parties to the named international Conventions, will jointly or single handedly, provide economic assistance in researching, protection, preservation and the promotion, enhancement and the transmission to the community and the public through formal and no-formal educational means for the revitalization of the Silver People heritage. Then that the Cemetery site historically recognized as of the Panamanian Silver People cultural heritage be conceded for such development and safeguarding. That furthermore such acts of benevolence would entail returning all historic intangible cultural heritage property, which today are inaccessible, archival vital records now prohibitive to all Panamanian intellectuals. In accordance with Convention for Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, UNESCO, 16 November 1972, Art (3) (4) thus ratified by the Republic of Panama. Considering that petitioners are presenting here historic petitions that our State as a participant State and Partner in those General Conferences of the United Nations agencies, and that in the field of education, science and culture; recognize the people of the Silver Community known by their community to be valued thinkers and intellectuals not today know or recognize as in the local or international community as example of real public citizens participation, and who are our Living Cultural Treasures. That in ways of innovatively solving some of the public administrative problems which has been overwhelming our everyday life, and mean live and death for our Panamanian citizenship be used as much as they are able to be of useful help to their country of birth. Decree: Further, that such hard-hitting exhumations of loved ones at the cemetery sites be outlawed legally. In accordance with Regional Convention on the Recognition of Studies, Diplomas and Degrees in Higher Education.” *UNESCO Mexico City, 19 July 1974 5. Considering all of the above we are hereby announcing that we have received correspondence from one of the international key agencies known internationally by its acronym WFM, to which we have requested advice concerning our historic heritage to
68 be rescued. We then became encouraged to submit proposal for assistance. Since our historical studies demonstrated that our ancestor’s contributions to our nation and to mankind gave us grounds for requesting their rescue from threats. Historic Decree: Would reflect the arrival at last of full appreciation and respect for Afro-Antillean, Silver People Heritage and Culture in accordance with all human right conventions and protocols our nations of Panama and the United States of America as State Party to all these agreement and protocols formulations at the United Nations in New York, Mexico Paris, The Hague, Geneva, Brussels, etc. It would be then after working for approximately more than two years in mailings and electronic mail, which we had been advised that our proposals were "listed on the World Monuments Watch List for the year 2010." The WMF continued then to warn us that this important list, for which we had worked arduously to have our Afro-descendent community agency mentioned above, give the attention needed and the international community has become aware, that the challenges endured by our ancestors for more than two hundred years are part of the world cultural legacies. They of the WMF also communicated to us to "have faith that inclusion on that 2010 World Monuments Fund Watch List would have positive effect for our sites and all other such listed sites. That they were “willing to continue working with us for the protection of these important cultural resources for future generations.” (4) (9) World Culture and Natural Heritage, UNESCO Paris 16 November 1972 Decreed Law is to be in force as approved and published in the Panama Official Gazette. The Silver People Heritage Foundation (in formation) http://thesilverpeopleheritage.wordpress.com (FDO) ROBERTO A. REID GREEN Date: December 17, 2009 Cèdula No. 8-82-623 © 2009 all rights reserved-Roberto A. Reid Green
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