This volume tells the story of two cultural groups: Afro-Hispanics, whose ancestors came to Panama as African slaves, and West Indians from the English-speaking countries of Jamaica and Barbados who arrived during the mid-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries to build the railroad and the Panama Canal.
While Afro-Hispanics assimilated after centuries of mestizaje (race mixing) and now identify with their Spanish heritage, West Indians hold to their British Caribbean roots and identify more closely with Africa and the Caribbean.
By examining the writing of black Panamanian authors, Sonja Watson highlights how race is defined, contested, and inscribed in Panama. She discusses the cultural, racial, and national tensions that prevent these two groups from forging a shared Afro-Panamanian identity, ultimately revealing why ethnically diverse Afro-descendant populations continue to struggle to create racial unity in nations across Latin America and the Caribbean.
A volume in the series Latin American and Caribbean Arts and Culture, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation