The Panama Connection
The last time I heard the phrase from Wacky kill Phillup, I wasn’t in Jamaica or even around Jamaicans–I was in Panama. Many Jamaicans and other Caribbeanites went to Panama to work in the building of the canal in the early part of the last century. The descendants of those workers have kept alive many of the traditions and customs that were brought to the canal zone. Fueled by revenues from the canal, Panama looks prosperous and progressive. There is a building boom: skyscrapers dot the downtown skyline. Donald Trump is building a tower there. Americans, especially retirees, are flocking to the place in droves as the country has rolled out the red carpet to attract them. Driving around Panama city, I saw one sign that would ease any retiree’s worries about living outside the US: a hospital with the words “a subsidiary of John Hopkins University Hospital.” Overall, I had a wonderful time connecting with relatives and meeting members of this less publicized segment of the Diaspora. Interestingly, many of these descendants had never been to Jamaica but sounded as if they had just landed from Kingston or Mobay. Jamaica would do well to copy some of Panama’s marketing strategies.