My wife and I recently returned to Barbados after our trip to Panama City, Republic of Panama,Central America – from April 13th – 16th 2009) for the 3rd Indigenous Leaders Summit of the Americas; while there I was pleasantly surprised to meet two middle-aged men of Barbadian parentage.These gentlemen (see photo attached) Louis WARREN (at left) and Albert SMITH (at right) are Captains at the 5 star Riande Continental Hotel where we stayed, and in conversing with them I noticed that they pronounced certain words in English with a distinct Barbadian accent.I asked them if they were born in Barbados, they said their fathers were but they do not know if they still have any relatives in Barbados, being a firm believer in fate I assured them they most certainly were many members of the Warren and Smith families in Barbados – and I am pretty sure they would be as excited as I am to discover their long lost relatives (it has been a hobby & part time business of mine for over 20 years); and I promised these two fine gentlemen that I would send an article to the media in Barbados along with their photograph to get begin what I hope will end in long lost relatives reuniting once more.
Thanks you for assisting us by publishing this article and accompanying photo. Anyone suspecting either of these two gentlemen to be their relatives may feel free to e-mail me for contact information at the Riande Continental Hotel in Panama.
8 responses to “‘LONG LOST’ BAJANS IN PANAMA – LOOKING FOR FAMILY IN BARBADOS, CAN YOU HELP?”
As you probably know, Barbados supplied the biggest labor force for the Panama Canal. 20,000 came to work incredibly hard to build the canal, and many remained.
Amazing story, but in my brief time in Barbados I didn’t get the sense many in Barbados know about it, and, sadly, many in Panama have lost touch with their roots. As you observed, some still have a Bajan accent, but many of the younger generation now speak only Spanish while their parents were bilingual English/Spanish speakers.
I saw your story linked on Twitter and have “retweeted” it for you. Hope something turns up.
All the best,
Twitter name: PanamaGuide
p.s. I hope you had a chance to see the Afro-Antillean museum in Panama City. Small but interesting collection.
And unknown to many today, Bajans also went to Costa Rico to help that country build its railway.Most of the Bajans and other West Indians have settled in Limon.
One of my co-workers grew up in Costa Rica and also commented on the large Bajan-descent population that still speaks English with a decidedly Bajan accent. Most of whom still proudly discuss what they know of their roots.
I also knew a few Panamanians with Bajan roots. Almost every Panamanian I have met that has a English surname turns out to be of Bajan descent.
We mustn’t forget the Bajans of Bequia either.
The migration of thousands of Barbadians to work on the Panama canal is little known in Barbados. During my travels in the USA, I have met descendants of those workers, many of whom are extremely proud of their Bajan roots.
The base of the workforce, however, once again came from the West Indies. After experiencing the empty promises of the French in the 1880s, most Jamaican workers were unwilling to try their luck on the American canal project, and so in 1905 recruiters turned their attention to the island of Barbados.
The “Colón Man” was reborn as representatives from Panama boasted of a rewarding work contract, including free passage to Panama and a repatriation option after 500 working days. By the end of the year, 20 percent of the 17,000 canal workers were Barbadian.
Now we are very proud of our West Indian heritage, mostly Bajan. Every year we celebrate a big festival on honor of those brave men who leave their land and their famimilies searching for a dream of a better and prosperous life.
Looking for any descendent of Milan Braithwaite. Also looking descendent of Conrad Harte. Parish of St. Philip and Parish of St. John or anywhere else in the island.
I had an uncle who migrated to Panama from Barbados between 1900 and 1925.
His last name would have been Doughlin and in Panama he was a boxer who was called “Panama Kid”. I am not sure if he was the only one with that nickname but he was from Barbados West Indies.