In recognition of the contribution of Barbadians to the construction of the Panama Canal, the Cabinet of Barbados has declared August 15 from now on, as Panama Day, a national day of celebration. Although this day will not be a national holiday, there will be activities each year to highlight the day’s significance, including a message from the Prime Minister.
“It is anticipated that Panama Day will preserve the memory of the contribution of thousands of Barbadians to the construction of the Panama Canal,” a statement from the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) said.
As chronicled in several pioneering works, Barbados became the first and largest source of foreign labour contracted by the United States government during the constructing phase of the canal.
“Barbadians’ reputation for hard work, honesty and devotion to duty displayed on previous construction projects made them the right choice, when others were unwilling to allow another large-scale movement of people from their countries to Panama,” the statement noted.
The mass migration at the turn of the 20th century, which saw approximately 60 000 Barbadians journeying to Panama to assist in the construction of the Panama Canal and Railway, is associated with the emergence of a Barbadian middle class, as Panama money assisted many families during a difficult period of Barbados’ development.
Over the years, Barbados and Panama have enjoyed a friendly and productive partnership and their relations have been based on commonalities of culture, like-mindedness and ancestry.
“Barbados has identified Panama as one of its main bilateral partners and, therefore, the declaration of August 15 as Panama Day will be a fitting symbol of the historical journeys and the affirmation of a commitment to building a new phase in their bilateral partnership,” the statement added.