Through years of field research and oral interviews, Stanley Heckadon- Moreno captures the life of Carlos Reid, a turtle fisherman, farmer and preacher from the island of Bocas del Toro on the Caribbean side of the tiny Republic of Panama, a territory inhabited by black, English-speaking Creoles; Ngobe Indians and Latinos or native Spanish-speaking mestizos.
Born in 1893, Reid’s life spanned the final years of Panama under Colombian rule, a time of constant revolutions and the birth of the banana industry. It describes the customs and beliefs of the Creoles and the forces acting on this West Indian society from the turn of the 20th century, through the Great Depression and the boom years of World War II. It rescues Reid’s experiences as a trader among the Ngobe and his participation in Panamanian politics at the grass roots level during the early decades of the new republic and under military dictatorship. It recalls the racial discrimination suffered by the Creoles on the Isthmus and in the old Canal Zone. Deeply religious, driven by a gift to spread the Good Word, and despite the havoc that the forces of history played on the world, Reid left his mark. His struggle through adversity and against all odds is an example to us all, for his life made a difference.
Though the Bocas del Toro of Carlos Reid’s time is no longer, thanks to the skilled and diligent efforts of Dr. Heckadon-Moreno, we have these vivid memories of a bygone era and a culture of the Caribbean to measure the distance between yesterday and today and to determine our tomorrow.