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U niv e rsit y of T e nn e s s e e Kn o x v ille T r a c e: T e nn e s s e e R e s e a r c h a n d C r e a tiv e E x c h a n g e U n i v er sit y of T en n e sse e K n o x v i lle
To the Graduate Council: I am submitting herewith a dissertation wr itten by Sonja Stephenson Watson entitled "'Black Atlantic' Cultural Politics as Reflect ed in Panamanian Literature." I have examined the final electronic copy of this dissertation for form and content and recommend that it be accepted in partial fulf illment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, with a major in Modern Foreign Languages. Michael Handelsman _______________________________ Major Professor We have read this dissertation and recommend its acceptance: __"scar Rivera-Rodas ___________ __Dolly J. Young _______________ __Luis Cano ___________________ __La Vinia Jennings _____________ Accepted for the Council: ___ Anne Mayhew _______ Vice Chancellor and Dean of Graduate Studies (Original signatures are on file with official student records.)
BLACK ATLANTIC CULTURAL POLITICS AS REFLECTED IN PANAMANIAN LITERATURE A Dissertation Presented for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree The University of Tennessee, Knoxville Sonja Stephenson Watson August 2005
ii Copyright 2005 by Sonja Stephenson Watson All rights reserved.
iii Dedication This dissertation is dedicated to my w onderful husband and best friend Mr. Marcus Jermaine Watson, my loving parents Mr. a nd Mrs. Willie and Millie Stephenson, my sister and confidant Dr. Becky L. Stephens on and to my friend a nd colleague, Ms. Lori Celaya, all of whom have been with me sin ce the beginning of this intellectual journey.
iv Acknowledgments I wish to thank all those who helped me to complete my Doctor of Philosophy degree in Modern Foreign Languages. I woul d like to thank my dissertation director, advisor, and mentor Dr. Mi chael Handelsman for his in sight, recommendations, and countless attention throughout these seven year s. Dr. Handlesman, I owe a great deal of my intellectual growth and development to you. I would also like to thank my dissertation committee: Dr. "s car Rivera-Rodas, Dr. Dolly J. Young, Dr. Luis Cano, and Dr. La Vinia Jennings for their time and cons ideration of my work. Dolly, thank you for your constant encouragement. I would also li ke to thank all of my "unofficial" mentors for giving me advice, encouragement, a nd words of wisdom: Dr. John Hodges, Dr. Carolyn Hodges, Dr. Dawn Duke, and Dr. Da wn F. Stinchcomb. Lori, thank you for being my friend, confidant, colleague, and proofreader since we began this journey together in 1998. I could not have made it without you. I wish to thank Mr. Charles Gee and Ms. Lori Celaya for providing me with a place to stay during my frequent trips to Knoxville during the final stages of my disse rtation and Ms. Yudith Mara Padilla for giving up her room. Mama and Daddy, thank you for instilling in me the importance of education and for supporting my dreams. B ecky, thank you for being a great role model and a tough act to follow. I would like to thank my husband Jermaine for his constant support, encouragement, and understanding throughout this le ngthy process. I am grateful for the W.K. McClure su mmer fellowship whic h provided financial support to conduct research in Panama in 2002. I greatly appreciate th e dissertation year fellowship (2003-2004) from the Southern Regional Educational Board which was instrumental in enabling me to complete th is dissertation in a timely fashion. I would
v also like to thank the Sociedad de Amigos del Museo Antillano in Panama for embracing me and introducing me to Panamanian West I ndian society and culture. I would also like to thank Ms. Ins V. Sealy and Mr. Cec il V. Reynolds for all of those unofficial excursions and trips throughout Panama City. Lastly, I woul d like to thank all of the Afro-Panamanian writers for providing me with the literature to make this project happen.
vi Abstract The diaspora experience is characteriz ed by hybridity, diversity and above all, difference. The nature of the diaspora experience therefore precludes an exclusive articulation of identity. Black identity in Panama is one characterized by this same multiplicity. My dissertation examines race, culture, and ethnicity in the development of Panamanian national identity and is informed by the critical theories of Paul Gilroy, Stuart Hall, and Frantz Fanon. The articulatio n of Afro-Panamanian identity is both intriguing and complex because there are two groups of blacks on the Isthmus: Spanishspeaking blacks who arrived as a result of slavery (15th -18th centuries) and Englishspeaking blacks who migrated from the West Indies to construct the Trans-isthmian Railroad (1850-1855) and Pana ma Canal (1904-1914). The countrys cultural and linguistic hete rogeneity not only enriches the study of Panama and illustrates that it is a nation characterized by multiplicity, but it also captures the complexity of the African Diaspora in the Americas. This plurality is evidenced in Afro-Panamanian literary discourse from its in ception in the late nineteenth century to the present. This study analyzes the representa tion of Afro-Hispani cs and Afro-Antilleans during different time periods in Panamanian literature, the literature written by AfroHispanics, and the literature written by Afro -Antilleans which emerged during the latter half of the twentieth century. Finally, I address how the discour se of both groups of blacks converge and diverge.
vii Panamanian literature has been grossl y understudied. While its history, geography, and political ties to the United States have been examined extensively by intellectuals from the United States and Latin America, with the exception of a few studies, its literature has been virtually i gnored by the Hispanic li terary canon. Within the field of Afro-Hispanic literature, black Panamanian literature has also been understudied. With the exception of works published about Gaspar Octavio Hernndez, Carlos Guillermo Wilson, and Gerardo Malo ney, Afro-Panamanian literature has not been examined comprehensively. My dissertati on seeks to fill this void in the field of Afro-Hispanic literature and, hopefully, it wi ll enrich the field of Latin and Central American literature and literary criticism.
viii Table of Contents Introduction ..1 Chapter one: The Rhetoric of Nation and the Invisibility of Bl ackness in the New Republic of Panama .........21 Chapter two: The Black Image in Ea rly Twentieth-Century Panamanian Literature ......................................................................................................................67 Chapter three: The Social Protest Novels of Joaqun Beleo Cedeo: A Study of the Inherent Conflicts and Contradictions of Anti-imperialism and Negritude in the Canal Zone 94 Chapter four: The Afro-Caribbean Works of Carlos "Cubena" Guillermo Wilson and his (Re) Vision of Panamanian History .. ...140 Chapter five: Race, Language, and Nation in the Works of Three Contemporary Panamanian West Indian Writers: Gera rdo Maloney, Melva Lowe de Goodin, and Carlos E. Russell .175 Conclusion: Afro-Panamanian Discourse: From Invisibility to Visibility .217 List of References ........................................................................................................222 Vita ............................................................................................................................... .247
1 Introduction Paul Gilroy in The Black Atlantic: Modern ity and Double Consciousness defines the 'Black Atlantic' as "a culture that is not specifically African, American, Caribbean, or British but all of these at once" (3). Gilroy's metaphor desc ribes the multiplicity of the black diaspora and the difficulty in articulating a single collect ive identity. The nature of the diaspora experience precludes an exclusiv e articulation of identity. As the black British cultural critic Stuart Hall notes, the diaspora experience is one shaped by hybridity, heterogeneity, diversity, and difference (235). Black identity in Panama is one characterized by this same multiplicity. Panama, much like its Central American neighbor Costa Rica, possesses a unique history characterized by various migrations of blacks, both forced and voluntary to the Isthmus, originating in the colonial peri od and ending after the construction of the Panama Canal in 1914. Blacks in Panama ar e divided into two cultural groups that migrated to the Isthmus during different tim e periods: one during the colonial period (15th-18th centuries), and th e other during the constructi ons of the Trans-isthmian Railroad (1850-1855) and the French (1880-1890) and North American Canals (19041914).1 The two groups, identified as Afro-His panics and Afro-Antilleans respectively, 1 Although this study is primarily concerned with West Indians in the Canal Zone, there also exists a group of English-speaking blacks in Bocas del Toro located on the northwestern coast of Panama. Their history dates back to the early nineteenth century. According to Mi chael Conniff, in the ea rly 1800s West Indians came as slaves with their British masters who migrated to the region of Bocas del Toro as planters (16). The West Indian migration resumed in the region of Bocas del Toro during the establishment of the United Fruit Company in 1899 which also operated in the coastal city of Puerto Limn, Costa Rica.
2 differ not only culturally, but also linguistically since the majority of the latter group speaks English.2 These migrations not only make the con cept of blackness in Panama problematic within the national discourse, but they cr eate internal problems within the black community itself. There are cultural and linguistic differences between the AfroHispanics and the predominately English-speaking Afro-Antilleans. Furthermore, the black West Indians are a heterogeneous et hnic group because they are composed of blacks from the English-speaking Antilles of Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad, and the French-speaking Antilles of Martinique and Guadalupe. As Richard Jackson asserts: "Black identity is probably more complicated in Central America than anywhere else in this hemisphere, given the added Afro-Caribbe an factors of color, language, and culture" ( Black Writers and the Hispanic 73). This cultural and linguistic plurality further illustrates Gilroy's paradigm which resists limiting blacks to one cultural, racial, or ethnic group while celebrating their multiplicity a nd, above all, their difference. While Gilroy's paradigm permits the analysis of the problematic of multiplicity, the model, as suggested by James Clifford and Lourdes Martnez-Echazbal, fails to include black South America, and it is more representative of the black 'North Atlantic' because of its British and North American emphasis (320, 121). Despite this oversight, Gilroy's model illustrates the transatlantic a nd transnational experience that characterizes the black diaspora. As Dorothy Mosby obs erves: In spite of Gilroys geographic concentration on transatlantic movements and communication among diaspora blacks in 2 Throughout this study, I use the term Afro-Hispanic to refer to blacks of colonial descent and the terms Afro-Antillean, Afro-Caribbean, West Indian and Afro-West Indian to describe the black English and French-speaking population who migrated from the Caribbean.
3 England, the United States, and the Anglophone Caribbean (particularly Jamaica and Guyana), the concepts he explores may be a pplied to the other America in the black South Atlantic and to migrations to n on-metropolitan centers such as Costa Rica, Panama, and Nicaragua (234). Thus, Gilroy's paradigm demonstrates that the diaspora experience as described by Stuart Hall "is de fined, not by essence or purity, but by the recognition of a necessary hete rogeneity and diversity; by a conception of identity which lives with and through, not despite, difference; by hybridity" (235). The diaspora experience is further compli cated in a country such as Panama that is characterized by multiple diasporas in which blacks brought various cultures and languages to the Isthmus. These multiple di asporas problematize the concepts of race, ethnicity, and nation in a country that di d not receive its full independence until 1903. That is to say, although Panama gained its independence from Spain in 1821 and joined Simn Bolvar's Gran Colombia with the right to maintain its own government, Colombia never recognized Panama as an autonomous nation (Szok La ltima 76). Thus, Panama's nation-building project that began in the nineteenth century was characterized by both cultural and political contradictions. Moreover, one should bear in mind that since the Spanish conquest of the New World, the Isthmus of Panama has served as a primary route of commerce and communication between the Pacifi c and Atlantic Oceans. Until late in colonial times, the isthmian crossing served as the major t horoughfare for trade between Spain and its colonies in western South America. The narrowest link between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, Panama's geographical posi tion has shaped the country's external, economic, and social relations (Priestley "P ost-Invasion" 85). As Gerardo Maloney
4 notes: "El elemento bsico de la formacin soci al panamea, es y ha sido la explotacin de su posicin geogrfica" ("Panam 1920" 7). As a result, Panama envisioned itself as a nation whose progress was ti ed to its geography. Colombia's distance from Panama, its ge ographical ties to South America instead of Central America, and its failure to r ecognize Panama as a sovereign nation led to Panama's desire for independence and complete autonomy. In El estado federal de Panam (1855), Justo Arosemena was the first who articulated Panamanian nationalism and the countrys desire to become a sove reign nation. During the federalist period (1855-1885), Panama realized its dream of b ecoming what Peter Szok calls a "Hanseatic Republic," "a place of interna tional transit, and community traditionally dependent on its close interaction with foreigners" ( La ltima 121). Panama's "Hanseatic" dream was restored in 1850, a date which marked an important milestone in Panamanian history with the abolishment of slavery and the commencement of the construction of the Tr ans-isthmian Railroad which would connect the opposite shores of the Americas. Fr om 1850 to 1855, thousands of black West Indians migrated to Panama in search of better opportunities and economic prosperity. During this period, more than 45,000 Jamaicans came to the Isthmus along with workers from Grenada, England, Ireland, France, Ge rmany, Austria, India, and China. The attempted construction of the French Canal from 1880-1889 would bring 84,000 more Jamaicans to the Isthmus. After France's fa ilure, the United States intervened with the agreement to complete construction of the Canal and supported Panama in its independence from Colombia. On Novemb er 3, 1903, Panama seceded from Colombia and became a protectorate of the United States. The United States remained on the
5 Isthmus from 1904 to 1914 during the arduous c onstruction of the Canal and imported as many as 19,900 workers from Barbados as we ll as a small number of workers from Martinique, Guadalupe, and Trinidad. After the completion of the Panama Cana l in 1914, Latin America, as well as other countries, perceived Panama as a Unite d States territory de void of its Hispanic heritage. Determined to defend itself as a Hispanic territory, Panama reaffirmed its hispanidad by utilizing neocolonial architecture, constructing a monument of Cervantes in 1923, and by naming its currency the balboa, in honor of the conquistador of the Isthmus, Vasco Nez de Balboa (Szok La ltima 99). All of these things were done with the hope that the outside world would recognize Panama as a unified Hispanic nation. Moreover, hispanidad became a major tenet of Pa namanian nationalism with the aim of whitening Panamanian culture (94). Panamanian nationalists desired to rid them selves of anything that did not reflect a nationhood of unified people, that is, a mestizo Catholic, and Spanish-speaking republic. Religion, language, and Hispanic cu lture marked the major differences between the West Indians and the other Panamanians, including the Afro-Hispanics. Indeed, West Indians presented a threat to the unity that Panamanian nationalists and intellectuals desired. The thousands of protestant Eng lish-speaking West Indian immigrants who migrated to the Isthmus during the nineteenth and early twentieth centu ries to help build the nation were now viewed as a threat to th e nation-building project. In the eyes of many nationalists, West Indians were not willin g to assimilate, that is, to speak Spanish and intermarry, as many of the Afro-Hispa nics had done centuries before. Their continued use of the English language, their construction of Englis h-speaking protestant
6 churches, and their high rates of intermarriage demonstrated that West Indians were a threat to the mestizo nation. The anti-West Indian sentiment led to the derogatory term chombo which was used exclusively to characterize Afro-Antilleans and not Afro-Hispanics.3 This term is recuperated and explored in Carlos Guillermo Wilson's (1941) diaspora novel Chombo (1981). In Chombo, Wilson recalls the contributions of black West Indians on the Isthmus and demonstrates that the anti-Wes t Indian sentiment is perpetuated by AfroHispanics and, in his opinion, is worse becau se they share a common origin: Africa. Olmedo Alfaro's El peligro antillano en la Amrica Central (1924) articulated an anti-West Indian sentiment and defended the difference between the two groups of blacks on the Isthmus. According to Alfaro: Es evidente que hay gran diferencia entre el negro antillano y el hombre de color desarrollado dentro de la civilizacin Indo-Americana, no solamente por su status en las veci nas colonias ingls as donde su situacin econmica es deprimente y sus salarios ridculos, sino tambin por el ambiente de respeto de que en nuestras sociedades disfrutan las razas de color, consideraciones que les han sido acordadas por la nobleza de su carcter y su asimilacin a nue stras ms altas virtudes morales. (7) These comments reflect the opposition to black West Indians. The message is clear: unlike Afro-Hispanics Afro-Antilleans were culturally and linguistically different from other Panamanians and did not reflect hispanidad These sentiments contributed to 3 Chombo is a racial term of disrespect designed specifically for West In dians. However, the term can be used affectionately.
7 several laws directed against all those who di d not reflect the nation-building project. In 1926, law 13 prohibited non Spanish-speaking blacks and Asians from entering the country. In 1941, President Arnulfo Arias ma de it a requirement to speak Spanish to become a citizen. West Indians were encour aged to give up their own culture and adopt that of Panama or leave (Conniff 4). As a re sult, many West Indians decided to repatriate to their native homelands. Because Afro-Antilleans were viewed as incompatible with the Panamanian nation, Afro-Antilleans, such as Ge orge Washington Westerman (1910-1988), a prominent sociologist, encouraged young West Indians to integrate into the Panamanian nation by adopting the major tenets of panameidad: language, culture, and religion. This assimilation project lasted from the 1940s to the 1960s and aimed at economic improvement (Barrow Piel oscura 95). West Indians who came to the Isthmus as young adults reacted differently to the integrationi st and assimilation project as many felt that assimilation would result in the eventual lo ss of their political, economic, cultural, and linguistic ties to the Caribbean. These differences have created years of tension between the two groups of blacks on the Isthmus despite attempts in the last tw o decades of the twentie th century to resolve their differences and promote a black Panamani an nationalism that in corporates both the Afro-Hispanic and the Afro-An tillean into the national para digm. This tension, along with the years of rejection and the attempts of integration and assimilation, has created a polemic about the use of the term Afro-Pan amanian to describe all Afro-descendant populations in Panama. While many Afro-His panics celebrate the term, there is some dissention among West Indians because, in th eir opinion, the term promotes assimilation
8 and, therefore, denies their Caribbean ancestry (Barrow Piel oscura 215). The use of this category, as well as West Indian assimilation, is explored by the Panamanian West Indian writer and political scientist Carlos E. Russell (1934) in hi s book-length essay, The Last Buffalo:Are Panamanians of Caribbean Descent an Endangered Species? (2003), which will be studied in chapter five. Hi s essay, as well as the writings of other contemporary Panamanian West Indians, il lustrates the importance of the Caribbean when articulating Panamanian national discourse. Caribbean, West Indian, and the "Question of Names4" In his ground-breaking study, Central American Writers of West Indian Origin (1984), Ian I. Smart analyzed literature writ ten by black writers of Anglophone Caribbean descent from Panama and Costa Rica. In the introduction to hi s study, Smart proposed that the term "West Indian," which has "a real but unfrequently uns tated connotation of blackness," be used interchangeab ly with "Caribbean" since "the majority of the people in the Caribbean area are, in fact, of African origin" ( Central American 12). Although Smart is correct when he states that th e term "West Indian" has a connotation of blackness, an explanation corroborated by Barbadian writer and critic Edward Brathwaite, his analysis fails when he claims that both "West Indian" and "Caribbean" evoke blackness (Brathwaite Roots 40). Indeed, the term "West Indian" most often refers to the English-speaking populations of the "Caribbean" because "to be West Indian is to be Anglophone and black" (Mosby 21). However, the term "Caribbean" possesses multiple meanings and 4 In Central American Writers of West Indian Origin (1984), Ian Smart uses th e phrase The Question of Names to initiate his discussion on the synonomous use of the term West Indian with Caribbean to describe the West Indian population in Panama and Costa Rica.
9 carries with it various geographic, linguistic, cultural, and racial implications that must be specified according to the region being discusse d. The term "Caribbean" not only refers to the Anglophone, Francophone, and/or Hi spanophone archipelago, but it also makes reference to various racial and ethnic groups. Thus, the te rm "Caribbean" does not carry the same racial implications as "West Indian and therefore does not exclusively denote Africanness. Nevertheless, Smart's analysis remains im portant for this study because he is the first to publish a book on literature of Central American writers of West Indian origin which notes the importance of Panama's and Co sta Rica's relationship to the archipelago. One must bear in mind that a significant portion of Afro-Panamanian and Panamanian identity is comprised of the Afro-Caribbean cultural element. The connection between the Caribbean and Latin America is not only a pparent in Panama, but also in other Latin American countries. According to Antonio Bentez Rojo, the Antilles are an island bridge connecting, in another wa y, North and South America" ( The Repeating Island 2). Bentez-Rojos (re)reading of the Caribbean explains the cultural phenomenon in Panama and the countrys cultural, linguistic, and ethnic affiliation with the Caribbean. This cultural phenomenon is explained by the Panamanian historian, Alfredo Figueroa Navarro, who claims that "el pas panameo de nota poseer alma caribea a travs de su idiosincracia cultural, de su msica, y de su modus vivendi..." ( Latinoamrica 199). One must bear in mind that the Caribbean referenced by Bentez-Rojo is not the one that constitutes the West Indian popul ation of Panama. His analysis makes references to the Hispanphone Caribbean and not the Anglophone Caribbean, which comprises a majority of the Afro-Caribbean population in Panama. In effect, the texts
10 analyzed in this study illustrate that the Anglophone Caribbean constitutes an integral part of Panamanian culture and identity and contributes to its cultural, linguistic, and ethnic hybridity and heter ogeneity. While the Anglophone Caribbean may complicate the articulation of black Panamanian identit y, as Richard Jackson suggests, it also makes for a rich literary tradition. This will further enrich the reading of the works of Panamanian West Indian writers who emerged in the latter half of the twentieth century. Not only does this illustrate the plurality of Panamanian culture, it facilitates our understanding of Afro-Panamanian discourse which is embedded in this tradition. At the same time that Panama's history makes for a rich heterogeneous country, its distinct migrations have complicated race relations in Panama and impeded the articulation of a single collective identity. The nationalistic project to Hispanicize all Panamanians failed to realize that Panama was, and continues to be, a multiethnic, multiracial, multilingual, and multicultural nation. Black identity in Panama is complicated as a result of various migrations to the Isthmus and has created two distinct literary traditions. The development of the two traditions that share the common origin of Africa, but differ linguistically and culturally and complicate the articulation of black Panamanian identity, will be analyzed in my dissertation. This study, however, involves more than Panama. One needs to bear in mi nd that the differences inherent in black Panamanian identity, which are reflected in the literature, constitute a microcosm of the black diaspora experienced throughout the Americas. Organization of the Dissertation My dissertation will analyze the devel opment of black Panamanian literature. This study is rooted in Afro -Hispanic criticism which cons iders the factors of race and
11 ethnicity in relation to the fo rmation of national identity. Wh en reading literature about blacks and, most importantly, when reading li terature written by black writers, race can not be ignored. Richard Jack son asserts: "Whether in th e Hispanic Caribbean or in Central and South America, race is the funda mental issue in Afro-Hispanic literature" ( Blacks Writers and the Hispanic 2). Race and ethnicity will be considered in the readings of literature writte n by blacks and non blacks in Panama in order to articulate another facet of the black diaspora. Specifi cally, this dissertation will analyze the following themes: the representation of Afro-Hispanics and Afro-Antilleans during different time periods in Pana manian literature, the litera ture written by Afro-Hispanics the literature written by Afro-Antilleans wh ich emerges during the latter half of the twentieth century, and finally, how the discourses of Afro-Hispanics and Afro-Antilleans converge and diverge. Chapter one, "The Rhetoric of Nation and the Invisibility of Blackness in the New Republic of Panama," discusses nineteenthcentury Panamanian nation-building and how the national discourse affected th e writings of the Afro-Hispanic poets, who as a result, stressed their panameidad through a consciously deraciali zed discourse. This analysis will focus primarily on the modernista poet Gaspar Octavio Hernndez (1893-1918), who is considered to be one of Panama's national poets, as well as others such as the mulatto Jos Dolores Urriola (1834-1883) and Si mn Rivas (1867-1914) whose poetry is characterized as escapist according to critics such as Richard Jackson. Richard Jackson, however, has argued that the poetry written by Hernndez is particularly significant because it does not openly discuss the problems of race.
12 The works of these poets will be contrasted with the Afro-Hispanic poet Federico Escobar (1861-1912) who openly discussed his blackness and protested against the social ills of the time period. However it is importa nt to remember that while Gaspar Octavio Hernndez's poetry is nationally revered because it is patriotic and nationalistic, Escobar's poetry was less accepted because it "served much to awaken the government of Panama to the trend of unjustifiable practi ces of the time" (Barton 207). This chapter will show that while Escoba rs poetry exhibited racial consciousness on the Isthmus, the majority of these poets we re torn between being blacks who wrote for a white audience on the one hand, and being a part of the nation-bu ilding project which stressed hispanidad over racial and ethnic particulari ties, on the other. Thus, their literature was more nationalistic and patrioti c than racially-centered, and it focused on Panamas fight for independence from Colombia and its status as an independent nation. Chapter two, "The Black Image in Early Twentieth-Century Panamanian Literature," discusses the objectification of the black in early Panamanian literature written during the 1920s and 1930s and whic h coincides internationally with the poetic negrism movement. Specifically, the works of the vanguardista writers, Vctor M. Franceschi (1931-1984), Demetrio Korsi ( 1899-1957), and Rogelio Sinn (1904-1994) are analyzed as representa tive voices of non Afro-Panam anian writers who made an effort to depict blacks in their works. The poetry of Vctor M. Fran ceschi (1931 -1984), analyzed from Carbones (1956), accentuates the black womans body and portrays blacks negatively. Similar to other negrista writers of the Hispanic Caribbean, the poetry of Franceschi is colored by
13 stereotypical images of black women that portray her excl usively as the embodiment of the sexual. Similar to Franceschis poetry, the poetry of Demetrio Korsi (1899-1957) analyzed primarily from Los gringos llegan y la cumbia se va (published in 1953, but written during the 1930s), characterizes blacks as exotic figures who sing and dance. Notwithstanding Korsi's attempts to reproduce the language of blacks on the Isthmus, his representation of the characte rs never transcends a flawed essentialism. In addition, while Korsi viewed blacks such as Gaspar Oc tavio Hernndez as patriotic, he perceived West Indians to be a threat to Panamanian nationalism. While Korsi's poetry is antigringo, pro-African folklore, and pro-Panama nian, he addresses his own preoccupations with the dominant presence of the West I ndians and advocates ex pelling West Indians from Panama. While Vctor Franceschi's and Demetrio Ko rsi's poetry treats blacks primarily as exotic figures, the prose of Rogelio Sinn (1904-1994) denou nces racial discrimination by employing techniques of surr ealism, a movement that originated in France in the 1920s that represented the thought s of the unconscious mind. In La boina roja (1954), a collection of short stories, and Plenilunio (1947), his first published novel, Sinn denounces racial prejudice by allowing his charac ters' subconscious fears of the "Other" to consume their thoughts and lead them to irrational conclusions. For example, in "Todo un conflicto de sangre" (1946), the main character, Mrs. Rosenberg, fears that she is becoming black after she receives a blood transfusion from a black West Indian man, Joe. Her nightmares of becoming black, and more importantly, of the black culture dominating her lifestyle, illuminate her fears of the other culture. Like Mrs. Rosenberg,
14 Linda Olsen of "La boina roja" (1953) hates blacks. Linda Olsen is a North American woman on a remote island who, after unknown reasons, transforms into a mermaid, becomes pregnant, and gives birth to a dead fetus without knowing if it is black, white, a monster, or a mermaid. The thought of her ch ild being black scares her because of her disdain for the black race. De spite her disdain, Linda is extr emely attracted to black men and dreams of sexual encounters that she has ha d with them. Like Linda, Mrs. Rosenberg shares similar exotic fantasies about the chauffe r, Joe, despite her apparent disgust for the black race. In Plenilunio, the major character, Elena Cunha, like Rosenberg and Olsen, becomes sexually satisfied with Mack Amar go, a man of dark features, during a dreamlike state. "Possessed" by the full moon, Elen a does not recall the event even though she is secretly attracted to Mack. These wome n outwardly deny any attraction towards black men even though their dreams reveal otherwise. Although Rogelio Sinn's works denounce ra cial discrimination, his depiction of blacks falls victim to the same essentialisms inherent in Franceschis and Korsi's poetry. Sinn fails to show character tr aits of blacks other than thei r sexuality or involvement in witchcraft. In addition, while Sinn's wo rks denounce racism, the principal characters are from other countries which reinforced the myth that there were no racial problems in Panama. While Sinn's works denounce racial prej udice, the works of the Afro-Hispanic writer Joaqun Beleo Cedeo ( 1922-1988) address the antichombo sentiment that was prevalent on the Isthmus duri ng the 1940s and 1950s. A jour nalist born to a Panamanian mother and a Colombian father, Joaqun Be leo dedicated his career to exposing the social injustices in the Ca nal Zone. Although his works have been examined by various
15 literary critics inside and outsi de of Panama (e.g., Jos Carr James Henry Corliss, Mirna M. Perz-Venero, Mlida Ruth Seplveda, Ia n Smart, Diana L. Strom, and Patricia Watkins), none has analyzed his works while ta king into account that he is a Panamanian writer of African descent. While these cri tics have mainly concentrated on Beleo's denouncement of United States imperialism, th e U.S. presence in the Canal Zone, or Beleos depiction of West Indians, a mo re afrocentric readin g of Beleo's works illustrates not only the conflicts between Panamanians and North Americans, but also those between Afro-Antilleans and Afro-Hispanics. In Central American Writers of West Indian Origin (1984) Ian Smart argues that Beleo's works are a precursor to literature written by black West Indians because of his pot rayal of West Indian life on the Isthmus. Smart's analysis, however, does not consid er Beleo's position as a black writer in Panamanian or Afro-Panamanian literature. The novels Curund (written in 1946 and published in 1963), Luna verde (1951) and Gamboa Road Gang (1960), or Los forzados de Gamboa make up Beleo's trilogy which is analyzed in chapter three, "The So cal Protest Novels of Joaqun Beleo Cedeo: A Study of the Inherent Conflicts and Contra dictions of Anti-imperialism and Negritude in the Canal Zone," to explore the representa tion of blacks by an Afro -Hispanic writer in Panama. Luna verde narrates the injustices of th e workers in the Canal Zone, and Curund narrates Beleo's personal experiences as a worker in the Canal Zone in Fort Clayton. Luna verde reflects the racial problems on th e Isthmus, depicts the hatred and animosity among all ethnic groups, and presents a community that is characterized by "[n]egros contra negros. Negros contra latinos. Gringos contra gringos. Latinos devorndose entre s. Gold Roll contra Silver Roll (Beleo 50). The Canal Zone is
16 presented in Beleo's works as the contem porary plantation, and it demonstrates the omnipresence of the United States along w ith subsequent threats to an Hispanicized nation. The last novel of the trilogy, Gamboa Road Gang is the most widely known and accurately portrays Zonian racism and anti-West Indian sentiment. Gamboa is a fictional work based on the historical account of Lester Len Greaves who was accused of raping a white woman and sentenced to fifty years in prison. Gamboa Road Gang protests and denounces North American imperialism and exam ines the search for identity of a black West Indian, At, a mestizo born to a mother from Barbados and a North American father. He represents the "first generation of children born to West Indian immigrants and blends elements of the West Indies, th e United States, and Panama" (Conniff 68). Beleo's novels of social protest are the first to denounce racial discrimination in the Canal Zone against West Indians a nd announce the division(s) between AfroHispanics and Afro-Antilleans which intensified as a result of the presence of the United States. Black West Indians were able to be nefit economically because of their ability to communicate in English. However, it is importa nt to note that racism did not begin with the arrival of the United States. In fact, as in the case of the gringos black West Indians were viewed as threats to panameidad as early as the nineteenth century. Chapter four, "The Afro-Caribbean Works of Carlos 'Cubena' Guillermo Wilson and his (Re)Vision of Panamanian History," anal yzes the works of the black West Indian Carlos Guillermo Wilson, known in literary circles by the pseudonym, Cubena. Wilson is a professor at San Diego State University a nd has published all of hi s works while in the United States. Cubena's work is didactic and criticizes race relations on the Isthmus and,
17 for this reason, "much of his work ha s been censored in Panama" (Jackson Black Writers in Latin 180). I argue that Cubena's texts are dialoguing with Beleo's because Cubena overemphasizes the importance of the West Indi an contributions in Panama and desires to redeem the representation of the black We st Indian in Panamanian literature. Cubena's novel Chombo (1981), discussed previously, will be analyzed because it is a diaspora novel that blends elements of Africa, the Caribbean, and Panama. The second novel published as part of a trilogy that still lacks completion, Los nietos de Felicidad Dolores (1991), is a symbolic call to all grandchildren to remember the past and their origins. In Los nietos Cubena emphasizes the importance of memory and identity. Cubena 's novels do not just address the blacks of Antillean origin, but also the Afro-Hispanics as well. Chombo and Los nietos illustrate the pr oblems between both groups of blacks and urges them to unite. In Los nietos Cubena emphasizes the lack of unity by spelling unidos backwards, sodinu as a reminder to the reader that there remains an unresolved enigma in the black Panamanian community. Indeed, Cubena is on a personal quest for black solidarity, and hi s novels emphasize cultural diversity on the Isthmus by reflecting the linguistic, cultural, and religious ties to the Caribbean, Africa, and Panama and the race relations experienced in the new homeland. Cubena stresses the common origin of Africa shared by Af ro-Antilleans and Afro-Hispanics and hopes that this origin will enable them to put aside their differences and unite. The last chapter, "Race, Language and Nation in the Works of Three Contemporary Panamanian West Indian Wr iters: Gerardo Maloney, Melva Lowe de Goodin and Carlos E. Russell," as the title s uggests, treats the effect of race, language,
18 and nation on the writings of contemporary Panamanian West Indian writers. Like Cubena, the sociologist, essayi st, cinematographer, and blac k West Indian poet, Gerardo Maloney (1945), is concerned wi th preserving the heritage and memory of black West Indians in Panama and presenting "los personaje s y los hechos," as th e subtitle of one of his volumes of poetry suggests. Hi s collections of poetry include Juega vivo (1984), Latidos: los personajes y los hechos (1991), En tiempo de crisis (1991) and explore AfroPanamanian life on the Isthmus. Such black West Indians as Melva Lowe de Goodin (1945) a nd Carlos E. Russell (1934) stress the importance of language, me mory, place, and nation in their works. Although these writers are inte rested in remembering thei r homeland, their works often propose questions of identity, that is, an Afri can and a Caribbean one, in an Hispanicized nation. Their works, like Maloney's, are conc erned with preserving their heritage, but unlike him, they emphasize the importa nce of language in their bilingual (Spanish/English) communities as they seek to maintain linguistic ties to the Caribbean. Gerardo Maloney (1945), Melva Lowe de Goodin (1945), and Carlos Russell (1934) are West Indians who "find themselves in touch with four cultu res, in fact, but not belonging totally to any" (Barton 207). Lowe de Goodin's play De Barbados a Panam (1999), much like Cubena's Los nietos uses memory to remind the present generation of Panamanians where they come from. Lowe de Goodin's play presents Manuelita Martin, a descendant of black West Indians who mu st write a research paper on the Panama Canal. She is urged by her family members not to write about the United States which is the story that is traditionally told, but to sh are the "unofficial" stor y about the workers of the Canal. Manuelita uses the memories of her parents and gra ndparents to write the
19 paper which includes not only the North American influence, but also the forgotten West Indian workers who helped in the construction. Manuelita's focus on the West Indian influence in the construction of the Canal makes this piece an historic al drama. It also demonstrates the importance of oral traditions and shows us first hand how legends, stories, and histories are passed dow n from generation to generation. As for Carlos E. Russell's collections of poetry entitled Miss Anna's Son Remembers (1976), An Old Woman Remembers (1995), and Remembranzas y lgrimas (2001), both are bilingual tributes to "los personajes y los hechos," much like Gerardo Maloney's works. More so than Maloney, Russell brings to light the problems of language and the survival of the Anglophone Caribbean culture in Panama. In his booklength essay, The Last Buffalo: Are Panamani ans of Caribbean Ancestry an Endangered Species?" (2003), Russell expresses concern over the loss of Caribbeanness in the future generations of Panamanians of West Indian descent. His bilingual works raise questions about writing English in a Sp anish colonized territory; furthermore, his use of English and Spanish demonstrates the linguistic hybridity th at has characterized these generations. As a result, the wo rks of Russell and Lowe de Goodin also demonstrate that English remains a constitutive part of Panamanian culture, and not just of the black West Indian community. Justification of Topic Panamanian literature is grossly underst udied. While its history, geography, and relationship to the United States have b een intensely examined by United States and Latin American intellectuals, with the exception of a few studies, its literature has been virtually ignored. Within the field of Af ro-Hispanic literature, black Panamanian
20 literature has also been understudied. W ith the exception of works published about Gaspar Octavio Hernndez, Carlos Guill ermo Wilson, and Gerardo Maloney, AfroPanamanian literature as a whole has not been examined comprehensively. While such critics as Richard Jackson, Elba Birmi ngham-Pokorny, Ian Smart, Haakayoo Zoggyie, and Carlos Guillermo Wilson have aided in filling this void, Panamanian and AfroPanamanian literature have been disregarded by the Hispanic literar y canon. In addition, to date, no one has published a book or writ ten a dissertation that examines the development of Afro-Panamanian literature. This dissertation will not only fill a void in the field of Afro-Hispanic lite rature, but it will also contribut e to the field of Latin and Central American literary studies.
21 Chapter one The Rhetoric of Nation and the Invisibili ty of Blackness in the New Republic of Panama Panama, like other Latin American countries during the nineteenth century, fought for independence and autonomy from Spain. Pa nama won its independence from Spain in 1821 and joined Simn Bolvar's Gran Colombia (i.e., presentday Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela). The desire to liber ate itself from Spain was not the only reason why Panama joined Gran Colombia During the nineteenth century, Panama was already known as Colombias black province (Biesa nz "Cultural and Economic" 773). In 1789, 22,504 blacks identified as slav es or free Negroes comprised 63% of the total Isthmian population of only 35,920 people (Deas 273). Panamas large African population and reput ation as a black pr ovince troubled the Panamanian European oligarchy during the early nineteenth century, especially in light of the Haitian Revolution (1789-1804) which intens ified the oligarchy's fear of its black, indigenous, and mixed populations on the one hand, and its own mi nority status on the other (Szok La ltima 19). Haiti's occupation of the Dominican Republic and its expulsion of Santo Domingo's European populati on would alter the construction of race in the Dominican Republic, which later define d itself as a Spanish-speaking non-black nation, the antithesis of Haiti (Derby 7). Hait i would later serve as a model that was not to be followed in Latin America. Represen ting only twelve percent of the Panamanian population, the criollos (European-descended Panamanians) feared that Panama would turn into "another Haiti, a country of blacks (Szok La ltima 19). As a result, Panama's large African population influenced the oligarchy's decision to join Gran Colombia in
22 1821. While constituting a minority elite of the population, the criollos sought to secure their position within the new republic by joining the newly formed Gran Colombia Simn Bolvar (1783-1830), the founder of Gran Colombia frequently expressed concern over Haiti and its rebellious blacks, a nd stressed that it was an example that Latin America should avoid if at all possible (Ge ggus 48-49). In fact, Bolvar was already preoccupied with Colombia's large African popul ation in the coastal region of Cartagena, where free people of color constituted the majority of the population (Helg 161). Therefore, race became a major considera tion of the Panamanian nation-building project, and its role must be examined in re lation to the country's search for nationalistic autonomy during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries The discussion of race alone is problematic since race is a social construction (Wade Blackness 3). In Latin America, race is even more complex given the added factors of color, class, and complexion. In fact, this same plurality comp licates the articulation of race and ethnicity in Latin America, and particularly in Pa nama where indigenous and African components of this nation were eclipsed by mestizaje. Mestizaje and Nation-building Like other Latin American countries, Pana ma defined itself based on centuries of mestizaje In Latin America, the term mestizo was used initially to refer to the mixture of the indigenous populations with the white European conquistadores (Deas xv). During the nation-building project, which originated in the nineteenth century and extended into the early twentieth century, racial particularities were de-emphasized and the intellectual discourse of mestizaje permitted a unified nation based on a common group of peoples. As Juan de Castro notes: "...the discourse of mestizaje thus became a way for the three
23 numerically dominant races living in the Americas--white, Amerindian, and black--to become incorporated into the same national project" (19). In El mestizaje : An All-Inclusive Ideology of Exclusion, Ronald Stutzman examines the role of mestizaje in the small town of Puyo, a provincial capital located on the western rim of Ecuadors Amazonian in terior, and concludes that blacks and indigenous people traded their et hnicity for nationality (45).5 He argues that mestizaj e, which secretly hoped for blanqueamiento or whitening, led to the exclusion of the indigenous and black populations. Much of Ecuador's indigenous and African populations internalized this hegemonic disc ourse and sacrificed their ethnicity for nationality since to be ethnic was consider ed to be anti-national. As Stutzman acknowledges however, this situ ation is not unique and "occ urs commonly, and not only in Ecuador" (46). Stutzman's analysis of r ace and nationalism in Ecuador is analogous to the situation in Panama. In Panama, mestizaje reinforced the myth of racial democracy by encouraging intermarriage between the various ethnic groups whic h resulted in a larger mestizo population and a decreasing indigenous and black population. Consequently, mestizaje in Panama invisibilized the black masses, a nd its proponents hoped that blacks would eventually assimilate, intermarry, and gene rate lighter populations. The Panamanian literary critic Ismael Garca notes: "El mestizaje es la ndole principal de nuestra raza. El blanco, el indio y el negro se mezclaron en la vastedad de un continente y dieron lugar a 5 Stutzman lists five thematic compone nts of Ecuadorian nationality that le d to the exclusion of ethnicity in Puyo, Ecuador: 1) the nation is centered in the capital, Quito; 2) the nation is urban, and therefore excludes the indigenous peoples that surround the capital; 3) the nation is controlled by a minority elite; 4) the nation is mestizo; and 5) cultural change comes from the outside (68-69). Stutzman argues that these five pillars of Ecuadorian nationhood have b een accepted as constitutive of ecuatoriaidad and have served to exclude the indigenous and African populations.
24 la aparicin de un tipo racial distinto al de cada uno de sus componentes" ( Medio siglo 25). Clearly, mestizaje did not celebrate the diverse ethn ic composition of the nation, but encouraged assimilation and acculturation whic h would result in the elimination of the darker populations. The Afro-Antillean Panamanian educator Armando Fortune described Panama as a mestizo nation as well. However, unlike Garc a, Fortune focused on the heterogeneous aspect and not the homogeneous one. He wrote: "El pueblo panameo...es, pues, un conglomerado heterogneo de diversas gentes, razas y culturas que se agitan, alternan, entremezclan y disgregan en un mismo hervidero social. Panam es, por tanto, un pueblo mestizo en donde, desde su descubrimiento, siem pre ha existido el mestizaje de raza, el mestizaje de cultura y el mestizaje de cocinas" (295). While Garca viewed mestizaje as a cultural fusion that eventually dissolved racial particularities over time, Fortune celebrated and promoted these same differences. As we will show in this chapter, these two competing views of mestizaje were especially problematic for the Afro-Hispanic poets writing in Panama during the apogee of the nationalistic movement (1880-1920). Mestizaje shaped Panama and the way Afro-Hispanics view themselves and are viewed by other Panamanians. When discussing the role of mestizaje in the formation of racial paradigms in Latin America, Richard Jackson asserts: "This process [mestizaje] ...helped...in the creation of an atmosphere that fosters patriotism and cultural nationalism rather than separatism and black nationalism" ( The Black Image 92). Furthermore, racial appearance and not African ancestry determines ones racial classi fication in Latin America (Jackson "Mestizaje" 9). Cons equently, the classification of many Panamanians of African descent ranges from mulato, mestizo, moreno to negro,
25 depending on their complexion and presence or absence of African features. Even though the term mulato generally refers to the mixture of whites and blacks, mestizo is commonly used to designate any combina tion of the white, indigenous, and African populations and, therefore, ignores racial differences. The terms moreno and negro refer to people of visible African ancestry, but differ based on the visibility of their African characteristics. The classification of a person of African ancestry as moreno or negro depends on ones proximity to whiteness or bl ackness in terms of both color and physical features. For example, many black West I ndians are almost always referred to as negro because of their dark complexions. Although A fro-Hispanics are almost always referred to as moreno, depending on the presence or absence of African features and their position within the color spectrum, th ey too can be considered negro Obviously, the use of these terms remains ambiguous. Biesanz points out: "Al negro se le llama moreno en situaciones sociales en las que la palabra 'n egro' sera un insulto. Moreno se aplica a los antillanos por quienes se siente simpata o a los negros que hablan espaol" ( Panam 180). In Panama, the term negro continues to generate nega tive connotations that are associated with slavery, Africa, and the West Indian population. For many AfroHispanics, to be called negro is an insult and implies that they are incompatible with the official national and cultural foundation of the Isthmus. As a result, mestizaje became accepted as an all-inclusive ideology of exclusion and the articulation of race remained ambiguous Blacks of colonial descent in Panama reflect the process of mestizaje and are culturally a part of the Panamanian nation: i.e., they speak Spanish, practice Catholicism, and intermarry. Because blacks of colonial descent were viewed as culturally compatible with their Hispanic counterparts, their
26 racial and ethnic differences were de-empha sized and their allegi ance to the nation was stressed. As Paul Gilroy notes: "The emphasi s on culture allows nation and race to fuse. Nationalism and racism become so closely id entified that to speak of the nation is to speak automatically in racially exclusive terms" ( Small Acts 27). Therefore, the mestizaje discourse emphasized cultural affiliations and, by extension, a sense of nationality which superseded any specific racial identity. Consequently, Panamanian nationhood a nd national identity were based on a sense of racial, cultural, and ethnic commonality. As Ra dcliffe and Westwood assert: "The imaginary of the nation is usually bound to a fictive ethnicity, organized around an homogenizing account of race and nation" (28). However, Panama's desire to establish itself in Europe's image was difficult because of a decreasing criollo population, an increasing black population fueled by high Anti llean immigration, and a lack of European immigration. Therefore, West Indian immigration, coupled with Panamas large African population, undermined the official ideology of Panama as a mestizo nation. The ethnic composition of the nation was quickly transformed because of the black Protestant English-speaking workers from Jamaica and Barbados who migrated to the Isthmus in search of economic prosperity. The presence of these black Protes tant English-speaking workers not only contested the mestizo Catholic Spanish-speaki ng nation, but would also challenge Panama's traditi onal image as a country of hispanidad To counter these changes, many Panamanian intellectuals igno red the African majority while propagating ideals of an independent republic based on hispanidad and not North American and West Indian influences. Furthermore, the influx of West Indians created a problem for the
27 Panamanian oligarchy who desired to create a nation in the image of Europe (Barrow Piel oscura 53-54). Many black political leaders in Panama during the period of 1880-1920 promoted a nationalistic unity based on an imagined and deracialized cultural homogeneity. Instead of focusing on racial differences, they worked in the name of panameidad In effect, by insisting on panameidad these leaders emphasized their cultural, national, and patriotic affiliation with the Isthmus and dismissed the need for any emphasis on race. Because panameidad or cultural nationalism wa s understood in terms of the customs, habits, religion, and language that Panamanians shared, there was no need to acknowledge racial differences. Armando Fortune noted the connection between panameidad and culture: La panameidad es, ante todo y sobre todo, la peculiar calidad de la cultura panamea. En trm inos corrientes, es condicin del alma, del espritu; es complejo de sentimientos, ideas y ac titudes (294). It is no surprise, then, that leaders such as Juan B. Sosa (1870-1920), a prominent black in Panama's Black Liberal Party, and Carlos A. Mendoza (1856-1916), Pana ma's first black Pr esident, " did not serve as forceful advocates for their own race but instead worked for national unity within the framework of hispanidad (Szok La ltima 101).6 Black leaders were not the only group to internalize an all-inclusive ideology of exclusion. This nationalistic discourse wh ich excluded race from the nation-building project influenced writers of African and non-African descent on the Isthmus from the 6 Sosa and Mendoza both served in the Black Liberal Party, and held a variety of positions in the Panamanian government. In 1908 Mendoza became second in command u nder President Jos de Obalda and served as President of the Republic from Marc h 1910 to September 1910 after Obalda's death.
28 mid-nineteenth to the early twentieth century. As a result, black wr iters in Panama were constantly pressured to reconcile a racialized discourse with that of a deracialized and nationalistic one. While some writers ope nly expressed their blackness during this period, most avoided the topic all together. Although one may question the need to ex amine the role of race during Panama's nationalistic movement, when reading literature about blac ks and, most importantly, when reading literature written by black writer s, race should never be ignored. Antonio Olliz Boyd reminds us: "Black awareness, fo r Latin American authors, is a thematic contour which is psycholinguistically contro lled by race relations in the area" (73). Consequently, this chapter will examine th e nation-building project and its effects on racial awareness in the wo rks of Afro-Hispanic writers during the height of the nationalistic movement. The works of the Afro-Hispanic poets Jos Dolores Urriola (1834-1883), Federico Escobar (1861-1912), Simn Rivas (1867-1914) and Gaspar Octavio Hernndez (18931918), illustrate the tension th at race created in writing dur ing the formation of the new republic. Not only do their works differ aesth etically, spanning the romantic and modernista movements, but as poets their treatme nt of blackness and ethnicity ran the gamut from no discussion of race to vehement racial affirmation. These early writers were of colonial des cent and represent the hispanicized blacks who were descendants of slaves. Their references to, or denial of their own negr itude, demonstrate the complex nature of being black and of writing during th e height of the nationalistic movement. As writers of the new republic who were fighting for independence, they constantly felt the need to sacrifice their own et hnicity for the well-being of the nation. Although each dealt
29 with blackness in his own way, their treatment of blackness, whether absent or visible, reveals much about being black during Panamas struggle for independence. Considering the factors of race and nation, the poetry of these Afro-Hispanic writers will be analyzed first for their treatment of patriotism, a ma jor theme in all Panamanian literature during this period, and, second, for their acknowledgement or deni al of their own negritude. Their works demonstrate the extent to which concepts of race and nation were intertwined during this period. Indeed, it wa s a constant struggle for these writers to affirm their blackness in their poetry and to maintain their national identity and acceptance by other Panamanians during the formation of the new republic. Panamanian Romanticism During the nineteenth century, Panamani an writers expressed their national allegiance through verse which coincided w ith romanticism, a literary movement characterized by ideas of liberty, patriotism, evocation of the past, and an exaltation of love in Latin America (Lozano Fuentes 170). Spanish American romanticism flourished after 1830 and replaced the mi metic style and pragmatism of neoclassicism that was rooted in classicism and char acterized the eighteenth century and the first decades of the nineteenth century. Romanticism challeng ed classical norms with an emotional, sentimental, and irrational subjectivity that typified the writings of this new literary movement (Rivera-Rodas 13, 63). As "scar Rivera-Rodas explains: "La poesa tiene su fuente ya no en la realidad natural, sino en la propia emocin del poeta con la cual aquella se impregna" (58). The emotionally charged lyrics of the ro mantic poets stemmed largely from their nationalism. This patriotic allegiance was due primarily to the fact that romanticism
30 coincided with the beginning of the indepe ndence of Latin American countries from Spain during the first decades of the nineteenth century (Car illa 21). The question of political identity of the emerging nation-stat es, therefore, dominated the discourse of several generations of Spanish American roma ntic writers. Patriotism was a major theme in the poetry written by nineteenth and early twentieth-century Panamanian romantics, and it became important with romanticism because this movement allowed for the exaltation of the fatherland. It is not surp rising that Panamanian romanticism, which commenced in the 1850s, reflected the sear ch for national and intellectual autonomy (Garca Historia 40). The essayist Justo Arosemena inspired much of this nationalistic spirit in his work, El estado federal de Panam (1855), which is the first to articulate a consolidation of Panamanian nationality. Before then, Panama attempted to separate from Colombia on three occasions: in 1830, 1831, and 1840, yet rejoined Gran Colombia in 1841 (Garca Historia 39). The "Panamanian" romantic poets were the first major literary generation in Panama (although not the first writers), and thei r participation in the political movements of the period was noteworthy (Levi 20).7 The writings of the "Panamanian" romantic poets illustrated the Isthmus' burgeoning nati onalistic spirit. For example, the romantic poet Gil Colunje (1831-1899), a representative of the first generation of romantic writers, wrote his own ode to Panama's independence from Spain, entitled "28 de noviembre"(1852), a poem that praised bot h his country and Bolvar (Garca Historia 41). Jernimo Ossa (1847-1863) was a member of the second generation of romantic 7 I use the term literary generation to classify Panamanian writers by birth and prominent themes that characterized their works.
31 writers who marked a transition between romanticism and modernismo. He wrote "A Panam" and "Himno nacional" in 1865, bot h of which celebrated the Isthmus' independence. Patriotism not only charac terized the works of mainstream national writers such as Ossa and Colunje, but was also expressed in th e writings of AfroHispanic poets during the latter part of the nineteenth century. El mulato Urriola: The Nationalistic Poetry of Jos Dolo res Urriola (1834-1883) Jos Dolores Urriola was a writer of the nineteenth-century struggle for independence and belonged to the first gene ration of romantic writers. Known as "el mulato Urriola, he was a romantic poet whos e poetry dealt with poli tical themes of the time. Urriola participated in political movements during th is period and served as the Secretary of the Civil Jury in 1861 (Mir Cien aos 35). Known for his epigrammatic verse, Urriola's poetry was both popular a nd satirical and characterized numerous problems of the nineteenth century. Although his poems wh ich appeared largely in newspapers and have been reproduced in va rious anthologies are few in number, they continue to provide insight into the works of a black poet who wrote during the nationbuilding project and avoided i ssues of racial identity. Urriolas poems Soneto and "Stira cont ra el General Mosque ra are typical of his epigrammatic verse because of their wittin ess and light tone. In "Stira contra el General Mosquera, Urriola satirized a poli tical figure, Toms Ci priano de Mosquera (1798-1878), who served at different times as president of Gran Colombia between 1845 and 1867. Mosquera was an effective president, but was known to be domineering and violently emotional and, thus, wa s both revered and feared by the citizens. As a result, Urriola portrayed Mosquera as a ruthless tyrant.
32 Quin ms malo que Can, que Judas y Barrabs? Toms. Quin ms sangriento y tirano que Nern y Diocleciano? Cipriano. Sangre y luto por doquiera marca tu fatal carrera, Mosquera. Ms humana es la pantera, el tigre menos feroz; nadie, nadie es peor que vos Toms Cipriano Mosquera. (Mir Cien aos 36) Urriola dehumanized de Mosquera by compar ing him to the most ruthless figures in biblical history such as to Roman tyrants and voracious animals. His "Stira" sent a political message to a country th at desired to separate from Gran Colombia He used poetry to attack, criticize, and sa tirize politicians as well as the political situation of the period and was committed to Panamas nationa list project. Urriola recognized Panama's marginal position as a member of Gran Colombia ; after joining Gran Colombia Panama became dissatisfied with Colombia's govern ing policies which did not recognize the economic potential of Panama's geographical position (Szok La ltima 38). Like Stira, Soneto is epigrammatic verse and satirizes the impossibility of love. In
33 Soneto, Urriola related the story of a past love and of a woman whom he once idealized. Urriola is remembered as reciting a version of this poem in front of a group of friends (Mir Cien aos 35). No pretendis, amigos, que yo mueva guerra al objeto de mi amor pasado; ni que triste, cobarde y humillado, vaya a poner mi corazn a prueba. ¡Que yo idolatr! No es cosa nueva. ¡Que me dej por otro! Est probado. Mas quin sabe? ¡Talvez en el pecado la penitencia merecida lleva! No su inconstancia para m deplore, ni de su fama psima me ro; ni menos formo parte en este coro, que en torno de ella levantis bravo: ¡pues una dama que se rinde al oro no se merece ni el deprecio mo! (35-36) While relating a failed relationshi p, Urriola did not wallow in se lf-pity. He declared that a woman who desired money not only did not deserve his attention, but also was not worthy of his loathing. One of the most not able characteristics of the lover in the romantic period was to be a victim of an impossible and fatal love (Jimnez Romanticismo 35-36). In a humorous tone, Urriola not only made light of the situation
34 by minimizing his own despair and rejecti on, but also satirized his own literary movement because "los romnticos sintieron im periosa la necesidad de amar a la mujer (35). Although known as el mulato, Urriola wr ote about current political problems and other non-racial material, but he did not appropriate bl ackness for himself. Instead, he wrote as a national or romantic poet, and his racial awareness, or lack thereof, was never questioned by him or others Moreover, Urriola exhibits the national pride inherent in this generation of Afro-Hispanic poets. Hi s texts reinforce Paul Gilroys previously cited assertion that the emphasi s on culture allows nation and race to fuse. Interestingly enough, the poets identification as mulato did not translate into racial awareness or racial consciousness in his works. Despite his Afri can heritage, he was e xpected, or at least chose, to write for his country and avoid racial identification in his works. As the first writer of African descent to publish poems, and like other "Panamanian" romantic writers, Urriola emulated the l iterary style of the era. El Bardo Negro: Federico Escobar (1861-1912) As in the case of Urriola, the Afro-H ispanic poet Federico Escobar was also committed to the national project, but instea d, he expressed racial awareness in his poetry. Born Jos del Carmen de los Dolore s Escobar, he was a carpenter by trade who worked twenty years for the French Canal (Mir Cien aos 64). The poet, who liked to be called "el bardo negro," belonged to the s econd generation of roma ntic writers and his works possessed both romantic and modernista tendencies.8 During the period of 18808 The Panamanian literary critics Rodrigo Mir, Ismael Garca, and Aristides Martnez Ortega differ in their classification of Escobar as well as other Panamanian writers. While Mir considers him to be a romantic
35 1920, Panamanian literature experienced th e coexistence of both romanticism and modernismo While the majority of Escobars wo rks are stylistically and thematically romantic, his works do announce many modernista themes, such as United States imperialism and Latin Americas spiritual st rength and supposed superiority over North America. Although Escobar embraces so me of the thematic concerns of modernismo his work does not possess the stylistic innovati ons of the literary movements. Federico Escobar published several work s during his lifetime, including four volumes of poetry: Hojas secas (1890), El renacimiento de un pueblo: Oda a Cuba (1902), Instantneas (1907), and Patriticas (1909), and two theatrical works, La ley marcial (1885) and La hija natural (1886). Most importantly, Escobar's poetry addressed and celebrated his panameidad Patriticas (1909) is composed of severa l poems dedicated to Panama's celebration of independence. The poems 28 de noviembre" and "3 de noviembre, respectively, commemorate Panama's i ndependence from Spain in 1821 and from Colombia in 1903. In 1889, Escobar wrote 28 de noviembre, a hi ghly patriotic poem that recounted Panama's tumultuous histor y and struggle for independence in seven sections, a poem that would later ea rn him a first place award from the Sociedad 'Progreso del Istmo (Mendez 12). In the first section of the poem, entitled "Invocacin, Escobar calls upon the goddess of memory to allow him to recreate the history of Panama. He writes: writer and a member of the same literary generation as Jos Dolores Urriola, Garca classifies him as a transitional writer between romanticism and modernismo, and Martnez Ortega considers him to be a member of the second generation of modernista writers due to his birth and the publication of his works ( Cien aos 348; Medio siglo 14; Las generaciones 21).
36 ............................................................... Ven; diosa, ven, refresca mi memoria con tu suave aliento, y conduce a regiones ignoradas mi torpe y extraviado pensamiento, Musa de la Memoria, ven y ayuda en este augusto instante mi cerebro, para elevar a Panam un requiebro acompaado de armoniosas notas, aunque despus mi lira queda muda, rotas sus cuerdas, de entusiasmo rotas...(11) "28 de noviembre" is a dial ogue between the poet and his patria in which he desires to recreate its glory. The poet relates the inab ility to communicate with the image of the "lira rota, a common symbol that expresses linguistic failure in romantic poetry as well as the vulnerability of the poet in relation to his creation (Rivera-R odas 66). For this reason, Escobar calls upon the goddess of memory to assist him. In the first section, Escoba r recalls the years of ru le and domination by Spain. The verse, "tres centurias gemiste bajo el yugo de la opresin libera, evokes his country's years of suffering during the colonial period (11). In this same section, the poet personifies nature to evoke hi s country's euphoria. He writes: ....El astro hermoso luci con ms donaire en el Oriente: brill ms pura la argentada fuente,
37 y las tempranas flores, ostentaron ms bellos sus colores, y perfumaron el Istmeo ambiente. ¡Libertad! murmuraron nuestras aves y a ese nombre los bosques respondieron con acentos meldicos, suaves que las brisas tambin repercutieron. (12) The description of nature here is not a me re imitation, but rather symbolizes the poets elation over his country's independence wh ich he expresses with the exclamation "libertad, repeated throughout the poem. "28 de noviembre" is filled with the hyperbole that is characteristic of the romantic movement. Throughout the poem he exalts his country by repeating "patria" (ten times) and the exclamations "¡28 de noviembre!" and "¡Miradlos, all estn!" which manifests his nationalism. Like many other romantics of the nineteenth century, Escobar spoke of nationalism and celebrated his country's separa tion from Spain. Furthermore, Escobar's veneration of Panama demonstr ated a burgeoning nationalistic spirit despite the country's political ties to Gran Colombia. Escobars reflection on Panamas liberation from Spain was influenced by the presence of the Fren ch on the Isthmus. In 1889, when the poem was written, the French had invaded the Is thmus and had already begun construction of the Canal. Their project would later be take n over by the United Stat es and completed in 1914. Thus, the fifth section of the poem expre sses Escobar's fear of the French presence and occupation of the Isthmus. In commemo ration of the anniversary of the Isthmus'
38 independence from Spain, Escobar urges his fello w compatriots to "guardar la integridad de nuestro suelo" (19). Escobar returns to the theme of nati onal independence in "3 de noviembre, a patriotic poem that expresses joy over Panama 's independence from Colombia in 1903. Composed of twenty-two stanzas, "3 de noviem bre" establishes the poet's relationship to his homeland. In the first stanza, he reaffirms his panameidad exclaiming: Con qu nmero y metro yo pudiera cantarte ¡oh dulce e idolatrada Patria! en tu fecha solemne? Yo no encuentro en este instante el verso delicado digno de t ¡oh tierra de mis padres, en donde se meci mi triste cuna! (20) As in "28 de noviembre, once again Escobar expresses his inability to communicate his patriotism as a poet in the thir d verse: "Yo no encuentro en es te instante el verso delicado digno de t." Escobar defines Panama as his patria because it is "el cielo donde vimos por la primera vez el solar astro,la tierra idolatrada do corrie ron los aos de la infancia, and "el dulce arrullo del hogar ...do nuestras madres nos dorman con msicas de besos..." (22). In the remaining stanzas, Escobar traces Panama's eighty-two year struggle for independence from Colombia and defines Panama in terms of its material wealth and its economic prosperity. There is no question th at he was influenced by the United States and its focus on utilitarianism which was not ju st a foreign image to be imitated, but one that was located on Isthmian territory. This focus on modernity as progress in material
39 terms is exemplified in the verses: "unce al brillante carro del progreso la bella Panam su gran cuadriga y va sobre aquel carro, mage stuosa.../cuanto progreso material/ la Era es de prosperidad indescriptible" (27-28). Th ese verses demonstrate the poet's transition from the romantic movement to the modernista movement. Escobar was influenced by United States capitalism and had begun to de scribe Panama in terms of its material wealth as opposed to its natural resources and other indigenous factors. Escobar continues to defend his country, a nd in the final two stanzas he describes Panama as a crisol de razas where "todas las razas se dan ci ta" (28). His description is a utopia where racial harmony and economic prospe rity exist for everyone. He describes his country very proudly as a "Cosmpolis" with "gente de diversas razas" (28). By 1906, not only was there a significa nt number of black West Indians on the Isthmus, but there were also other ethnic groups, alt hough small in number, from China, England, France, Germany, Austria, and India. Es cobar recognizes this cultural and ethnic diversity, and idealizes the situ ation when he proclaims that "no hay pueblo, ni aldea, ni villorio sin escuela en el Istmo" (28). Ism ael Garca notes that during Colombia's rule, education was limited to Panama's elite ( Medio siglo 15). It is doubtful that just three years after Panama's separation from Colombia, the time when this poem was written, that educational opportunities were accessible in every Panamanian province. Escobar's vision of Panama is subordinated to an id ealism that is oversh adowed by nationalistic pride for his country's victory over Colombia. Federico Escobar was not only a national poe t, but he also "challenged the social life in Panama with reference to the black sk in of the negro" (Barton 194). Escobar was one of the few poets of African ancestry during the nineteenth and early twentieth
40 centuries who openly discussed and embraced hi s blackness. Escobar's most celebrated poem, Nieblas from Hojas Secas (1890), expresses self-pride and black awareness. He opens "Nieblas" with an epigraph from Negro nac, a poem he attributes to the AfroColombian poet, Candelario Obeso (1849-1884).9 Although "Negro nac" was not written by Obeso, the poem expresses an affirmation of blackness and provides Escobar with the inspiration to declare his own Afro-identity. ¡Negro nac! La noche aterradora trasmiti su dolor sobre mi cara; pero al teir mi desgraciado cuerpo dej una luz en el cristal del alma! (Mir Cien aos 65) Escobar responds to the poet's affirmation of blackness by stating: Tambin negro nac; no es culpa ma. El tinte de la piel no me desdora, pues cuando el alma pura se conserva el color de azabache no deshonra. Hay en el mundo necios que blasonan de nobles por lo blanco de su cara; que ignoran que en la tierra slo existe una sola nobleza: la del alma. 9 Laurence E. Prescott points out in his poignant study "Negro nac: Authorship and Verses Attributed to Candelario Obeso" that the poem which for many years was believed to be written by Obeso was authored by the Mexican poet Joaqun Villalobos and that the fo ur verses form part of Villalobos' poem "Amor de negro." Prescott also determined that Villalobos most likely was not of African descent (6,7). However, for the purposes of this study, the poem "Negro nac will be examined in the context of Escobar's poem "Nieblas," who at the time believed that Obeso was the author.
41 Qu importa que haya seres que se jacten de nobles porque tienen noble sangre si practican el vicio?...Nada importa; que ellos son nada ante el Eterno Padre. ¡Negro nac; pero si Dios Supremo ha teido mis pieles con la tinta, me ha dado lo que pocos hombres tienen: un corazn virtuoso y una lira. ¡Negro nac, no importa! Mi conciencia me dice que conservo pura el alma, como las puras gotas de roco, como la blanca espuma de las aguas. Y si la noche con su oscuro manto logr cubrir mi cuerpo aun en la cuna, una luz intern dentro mi pecho y en mi mente una chispa que fulgura. (Mir Cien aos 65) Although critics such as Richard Jacks on identified Escobar as a writer who openly accepted his blackness as opposed to Gaspar Octavio Hernndez who was noted for his racial ambiguity, a closer reading of Escobars poem Nieblas shows that he too struggled with his blackness and, more importantly, with society's racism ( Black Writers in Latin 63). Escobar reveals some contradictions in his affirmation of blackness. It is evident that whenever Escobar makes refere nce to his race, it is in opposition to his
42 spirituality. He is superior because he has a corazn virtuoso y una lira." In the first stanza he insists: "El tinte de la piel no me desdora/pues cuando el alma pura se conserva el color de azabache no deshonr a." His "alma pura" is contrasted with "el color de azabache." In the fifth stanza he continues: "Y si la noche con su oscuro manto logr cubrir mi cuerpo aun en la cuna una luz inter n dentro mi pecho." Finally, he compares his soul to "las puras gota s de roco" and "la blanca espuma de las aguas." Escobar's legitimacy stems not from his racial identity, but from his spirituality. His heart, soul, and ability to write poetry will enable hi m to transcend the racial boundaries of discrimination. Furthermore, Escobars sp irituality is described through images of whiteness: "alma pura," "luz inte rn dentro mi pecho," "las pu ras gotas de roco," and "la blanca espuma de las aguas." These images of whiteness are contrast ed with the darker images that the poet uses to describe himself: "el color de azabache" and "oscuro manto." Although Escobar begins his self-portrait affirm ing his negritude as evidenced by the first verse (tambin negro nac), the poet elevates his status as a black man by demonstrating that his spirituality, characte rized by white images, is what distinguishes him and has earned him a place in society. Thus, Escobars poem results in elevating the white aesthetic over the black one. In the second stanza of "Nieblas, he insi sts that only one nobility exists, that of the soul. In the remaining stanzas, he mocks those who feel they ar e superior because of their nobleza de sangre Escobar retorts that he is superi or because of his spirituality (el alma pura) and his position as a poet (una lira ), and perhaps as an intellectual, even though he was a canal worker. Clearly, Escoba r's insistence on his spirituality as opposed to his racial characteristics is unders tood. Realizing that Panamanian society
43 preferred lightness to darkne ss and whiteness as opposed to blackness, Escobar espoused the mestizaje rhetoric and defended hi s blackness which was not valued by elevating his spiritual qualities. Furthermore, in 1890 Panama was still occupied by Colombia. Escobar's choice of the poem which he attributed to Candela rio Obeso, a fellow comp atriot and black man, reflects Colombias occupation of Panama, as well as his awareness of Afro-Hispanic writers outside of the Isthmus. Escobar res ponded to Obeso's affirmation of blackness with "tambin," meaning that he recognized their shared common African heritage and experience in the New World. Already in the ni neteenth century Escobar demonstrated an incipient sense of "diaspora consciousness" which suggests that raci al identity already transcended national boundaries In his seminal essay D iasporas, James Clifford describes the main features of diaspora as a history of dispersal, myths/memories of the homeland, alienation in the host (bad host?) c ountry, desire for eventual return, ongoing support of the homeland, and a collective identity importantly defined by this relationship (305). In addition, diasporas ar e dispersed networks of peoples who share common historical experiences of dis possession and displacement (309). Despite Escobar's ambiguous attitude about his negritude, he st ands alone as one of the few Afro-Hispanic poets of this gene ration to demonstrate r acial consciousness. Although a majority of his poetry treats the national question, his hi ghly anthologized poem Nieblas tells much about Panamanian race relations and the reception of blacks on the Isthmus. His poem Nieblas recognizes his negritude, and his reference to Obeso confirms his consciousness of belonging to a broader black diaspora. Escobar attempted to legitimize himself in a nation that a bhorred blackness and desired to invisibilize
44 anything associated with it. "Nieblas" is not only self-affirmation, but it also reflects a racist nineteenth-century Panamanian society. Moreover, it contrasts dramatically with the poetry of Jos Dolores Urriola who does not reveal racial awareness in his writings. Consequently, Escobar remains an important fi gure to study because he is the first writer of African ancestry on the Isthmus to openly discuss and acknowledge his blackness even though he embraces it cautiously. Panamanian Modernismo Romantic writers such as Urriola and Es cobar used their poe try to rejoice over Panama's separation from Spain and/or to cr iticize the contemporar y political situation. While the romantic poets often used images of nature to relay their message, the modernistas sought a renewed language and ut ilized exotic images such as cisnes princesas chineras and japoneras in their poetry. As a result, they were often criticized for being escapist since their work s purportedly did not re flect the problems of the era. Panamanian modernismo began relatively late in 1893 with Daro Herrera (18701914), a well-known modernista writer on the Isthmus (Garca Medio siglo 27). Daro Herrera belonged to the first generation of modernista writers along with Len A. Soto (1874-1902), Adolfo Garca (1872-1900), a nd Simn Rivas (1867-1914). Patriotism was not a major theme in the writings of this first generation of modernista writers whose poetry corresponds to the initia l stage of Spanish American modernismo where art focused more on the poet, utiliz ed plastic images, and was le ss concerned with exterior reality. This trend was also appa rent in the poetry of Colombian modernista, Jos Asuncin Silva (1865-1896).
45 In addition, literary production on the Isthmus was relatively low because of the Guerra de los Mil Das (1899-1902) when Panama fought to separate from Colombia. The costs of the war hampered literary production. While it remained difficult for romantic writers such as Urriola and Escoba r to explore racial c onsciousness because of the emphasis on nationalism, the modernista aesthetic also lended itself to escapist tendencies that permitted writers of African desc ent to avoid their own racial identity. Simn Rivas (1867-1914) Simn Rivas, a prominent writer of Afri can descent of this first generation of modernista writers, was known as the "Edgar Allan Poe panameo" partly because of his "fantasies which he called nocturnes" (Jackson Black Writers in Latin 64). Rivas, a pseudonym for Cristbal Martnez, was a t ypographer by profession and published most of his works in the newly founde d Panamanian literary journals El Heraldo del Istmo El Mercurio, and El Cosmos. A modernista poet, his work was characterized by images of whiteness and avoided mention of the political problems of the period as well as racial identification. Rivas was an avid reader of Spanish American modernista poetry, especially that of Bolivian Jaim es Freyre (1866-1933), author of Castalia brbara (1899). Rivas poem Las raras, which will be analyzed here, is sentimental and melancholic in nature and reflects the escapist tendencies that characterized this first generation. Composed of ten stanzas, Las raras was published in 1905 in El Heraldo del Istmo Partially reproduced here, the poem reflects the linguistic renovation that characterized much of modernista poetry.
46 All van misteriosas, eternas, all van como rosas de fuego que salpican la cauda esplendente de divino, sagrado misterio, del misterio que ardiente las crea con la luz de los ltimos cielos. ................................................. Viven, castas, del fuego sagrado que se extrae del dolor y las lgrimas, rumorosas, si sienten el gozo, gemidoras si pena las mata, con un algo: ¡me muero! Con un sueo que dice: ¡maana! . A su voz las tormentas se alejan, a sus pies los zarzales no hieren, el erial lo matizan de rosas y derriten con fuego la nieve, a la nieve del tedio derriten con el fuego de amor que no muere. ..................................................... Ellas son las viriles que tienen el poder de la luz: la palabra;
47 las que encarnan los siglos, los pueblos, las que dan su memoria al maana; y a la sombra del Dios Galileo, son las nicas, puras y raras. (Mir Cien aos 111-112) Las raras are described in the first stanza as misteriosas, eternas and like rosas de fuego, and in the second stanza as orifl amas que llevan las divisas de amor y del triunfo, divinos y frreros escudos, a nd antorchas que alumbran las noches. This referential plurality used to describe las raras refers to the phenomenon inherent in modernista poetry described by "scar Rivera-Rodas as la falibilidad de la poesa, or when el lenguaje modernista falla en su inte nto de aprehender la correspondencia exacta entre el significante y el si gnificado (291). Rivas e numeration results from this phenomenon. Throughout the poem Rivas searches for adequate language to describe las raras reflecting his search for a renewed language to describe natural and unnatural phenomenon. In the third stanza, he utilizes sinestesia in describing las raras. Transformed by joy or pain, las raras ca n be either rumorosas or gemidoras. Rivas employs personification to relate the power of las almas for they feel joy, sadness, and pain. Their power is so great that in the eighth st anza, a su voz las tormentas se alejan and a sus pies los zarzales no hieren. It is not evident in the begi nning of the poem that las raras symbolize las almas. It is in the fi nal two stanzas that the reader discovers that las raras are las almas que en ansias de cielo por la ciencia cansaron los aos, that they possess the power of light and are unique pure, and rare. Moreover, "las raras"
48 embody the soul, that is, the spirit and sym bolize knowledge, the power of light, and the word. For the poet, light symbolizes know ledge and "la palabra." The connection between las almas and light reinforces the connection between spirituality and knowledge. For the poet, spirituality is the highest form of knowledge that one can obtain. Simn Rivas found his place in the nation by writing modernista poetry. To be a national poet, and to be Panamanian, was to em ulate the European model. Like Urriola, he was more dedicated to writing poetry that reflected the literary movement of his contemporaries, and thus, he did not ma ke blackness an issue in his work. Consequently, his personal stance on race and ethnicity in nineteenth-century Panama remains unclear, especially in light of Rich ard Jackson's argument that the absence of blackness or of references to ones negritu de is just as important as a vehement affirmation. The Literary Generation of the New Republic (1903-1920) While Rivas' compassion and sentimenta lism coincide with the predominant artistic expression of the first generation of modernista writers, it is not until the generation of the republic that writers return to the patriotic themes that characterized the romantic movement. These writers of the fi rst generation of the Panamanian republic and last generation of modernista writers, such as Rica rdo Mir (1883-1940), Enrique Geenzier (1887-1943), and Gaspar Octavio He rnndez (1893-1918), idealized Panama's past, praised its colonial buildings, and celebrated Panama's independence from Colombia, which it gained in 1903 (Szok La ltima 104). Their works represented a continental solidarity and pride known as mundonovismo that sought an autochthonous
49 past rooted in the colonial past. The nati onal and patriotic poems by Mir, Geenzier, and Hernndez, correspond to this Spanish Amer ican movement, which was inspired by the Peruvian Jos Santos Chocano (1875-1934) at the turn of the twentieth century. However, for these Panamanian poets, a national focus di d not signify the absence of impressionism and symbolism that characterized the first stage of Spanish American modernismo These two trends coexisted in this generati on as writers sought to restore Panamas forgotten past and position themselves in the new republic of Panama. This last generation of modernista poets, or first generation of the new republic, utilized these images to extol their country's separation from Colombia. The writers played just as much of a politic al role as a literary one. Writers such as Ricardo Mir won fame for patriotic poems like "Patria" which evoked nostalgia for a glorious past. His poems "A Portobelo" a nd "Campanas de San Felipe" continued this patriotic theme by paying homage to Panama's ruins and colonial site s. Ismael Garca describes this generations patriotic stance as the following: se exagera la exaltacin de lo nacional. Todo lo que tienda a elevar la emocin patritica obtiene los sufragios nacionales ( Historia 56). These writers demonstrated that the modernistas were not totally divorced from the political situation of the period. As Garca notes: "el tema patritico es el que dentro de esta escala descendiente de afectos, se carga de mayores proyecciones" ( Medio siglo 39). El cisne negro: Gaspar Octavio Hernndez (1893-1918) Gaspar Octavio Hernndez, known in Pana manian literary ci rcles as el cisne negro for the sensuality and sentimentalism that are transmitted in both his poetry and prose, is perhaps the most widely known Af ro-Panamanian poet of this generation, both
50 inside and outside of the Isthmus. Like U rriola and Escobar, he was committed to the nation-building project Born Octavio Hernndez Solanilla in 1893, he later became known in literary circles as Ga spar Octavio Hernndez, taking the name of Gaspar Nuez de Arce, a nineteenth-century Spanish poet. His published works include two volumes of poetry, Melodas del pasado (1915) and La copa de amatista (1923), and Iconografa (1916), a collection of short stories, pros e poems, essays, and national eulogies. Hernndez is best known nationally for "Canto a la bandera" (1916), a patriotic poem that continues to be one of the most anthologized poems in Panama today. Along with Patria by the nationally revered poet Ri cardo Mir, Canto is considered to be Panamas poem of nationality and indepe ndence. "Canto a la bandera" confirms Hernndezs nationality, that is, his panameidad, in opposition to Yankee imperialism. Although Hernndez wrote the majority of his poetry during the height of the modernista movement, Canto a la bandera possesses roma ntic characteristics underlining again the coexistence of both romanticism and modernismo during the period 1880-1920 in Panamanian verse. Hernndez has been classified primarily as a modernista writer even though his national and patriotic poetry po ssess romantic characteristics, not only thematically but also stylistically. Ismael Garca has commented: Yo dira mas bien que Hernndez es un romntico retrasado, por la variedad mtrica, su temtica y el tono superlativamente sentimental de sus lamentaciones, que aprovech los procedimientos modernistas de versif icacin y estilo ( Historia 70). Hernndez's poem "Canto a la bandera" is an example of this. Published in 1916, "Canto" marks the cel ebration of Panama's independence from Colombia in 1903 and the completion of the North American Canal in 1914. The eight
51 stanza poem is a celebrati on of Panama's independence and liberty from Spain, Colombia, and the United States. Hernndez uses the mancebo to evoke his patriotism. In the epigraph to "Canto, th e poet writes: "el mancebo sien tse inquieto entusiasmo: el entusiasmo le hizo poeta y le inspir este cantar" (Mir Cien aos 190). The mere presence of the Panamanian flag causes the mancebo such disbelief that he describes it in awe. The mancebo exclaims: ¡Ved cmo asciende sobre el mar la ensena que refleja en sus vcidos colores el mar y el cielo de la patria istmea! ¡Mirad!...¡Es la bandera panamea, vistosa cual gentil manto de flores! (190) The flag and the sea symbolize libert y, independence, and national autonomy. Hernndez expresses his exuberance by empl oying the use of exclamation marks and by setting the scene in the sea. The second stanza provides a vision of a marine celebrating his country's freedom while sailing across the sea with Panama's fl ag. The ascension of the flag in the first and second stanzas para llels the "canciones de alegra" sung by the marine (190). The flag not only affects the sa ilor, but also "los hom bres duros" and "las mujeres bellas" who in the fifth stanza "s e inflaman por las es trellas" (190). The power of the flag and its stars, which symbolize the country's freedom and independence, is so important and prevalen t that it will regenerate admiration for Panama's natural resources: los naranjos and las palmas (191). In the last stanza the position of the flag shifts from the sailing ship to a spiritual position in the sky. The mancebo cries:
52 ¡Bandera de la patria! ¡Sube...sube hasta perderte en el azul. Y luego de flotar en la patria del querube; de flotar junto al velo de la nube, si ves que el Hado ciego en los istmeos puso cobarda, desciende al Istmo convertida en fuego y extingue con febril desasosiego a los que amaron tu esplendor un da! (Mir Cien aos 191) The flag establishes its spiritual position in what the poet calls el azul. A common symbol used in modernista poetry, el azul symbolizes the ideal, the ethereal, the infinite, and the unattainable for the huma n condition. In addition, it represents the unreal as exemplified in this last stanza. Hernndez commands the flag to return converted in fire if the Panamanians loose the faith and courage that ha ve been restored. While Canto a la bandera reflects the joy over Panamas separation from Colombia, his brief essay El culto del idio ma, expresses the c onsequences of the construction of the Panama Canal which gave the country its independence. Specifically, in "El culto del idioma," published in Iconografa Hernndez expresses his disdain for black West Indians who refuse to learn and/ or speak Spanish. Hernndez seems angered not only by the United States presence, but al so by the presence of foreign workers who entered and remained in Panama as a result of the construction of the Trans-isthmian Railroad and the French and North American Ca nals. What disturbs Hernndez most is
53 that many of these foreigners, who are now pe rmanent citizens, refuse to speak Spanish. He criticizes them for trying to be North American instead of Panamanian. Hernndez vents: No escasean quienes suspiran por la cad ena del siervo y abundan los que gozan del mayor de los goces cuando les toca se r adulones de hombres o de pueblos forman en estas filas algunos suramericanos y no pocos antillanos de procedencia hispana, que se pirran por norteamericanizarse y, en su afn de adular al pueblo de Roosevelt, prescinden descaradamente de su lengua madre y se ufanan de expresarse a menudo en incomprensible y tosco patois anglo-yankee. (112) Hernndez demonstrates that the anti -West Indian sentiment began upon the arrival of Afro-Antilleans to the Isthmus. Because many West Indians still communicated in their native languages, many Pa namanians viewed them as a threat to the Catholic, mestizo Spanish-speaking nation, and, th erefore, West Indians were perceived as allies of North America. Hernndez was an integrationist and obvi ously internalized the all-inclusive ideology of mestizaje believing that black West Indian s and other immigrants should renounce their native cultural and linguistic a ffiliations for those of their new homeland. In other words, they were to speak Spanish, convert to Catholicism, and intermarry. For Hernndez and many other Panamanians, We st Indian and, by extension, blackness signified "foreigner," as the group was identi fied with North Americans due to their language and perceived economic advantages. In Hernndezs essay, we begin to see the seeds of racial tensions among Panamanian bl acks, that is, between the Afro-Hispanics and the Afro-West Indians. Thus, Hernnde zs essay anticipates the anti-imperialistic
54 and anti-West Indian literature that forms the basis of the social prot est literature of the 1930s and 1940s in Panama which will be examined in the third chapter of this dissertation. The anti-yankee sentiment was not unique to Panama. During the early twentieth century, modernista writers throughout Latin Ameri ca demonstrated their anxiety concerning the influence of United States imperialism and utilitarianism as exemplified by Rod in Ariel (1900) and Daro in A Roosevelt (1904). Both Ariel and A Roosevelt presented Spanish America as ha ving spiritual strengt h in opposition to the utilitarianism of the United States. These are two examples of many modernista works that welcomed modernization but criticized United States materialism that often accompanied it (Lindstrom 14-15). While Canto a la bandera and El culto del idioma treat national concerns, a number of Hernndezs writings are mela ncholic and reflect a troubled childhood. His poems are melancholic in na ture and reflect an upbri nging and a young adult life of suffering which ended at the early age of tw enty-five. Growing up poor, his mother died when he was eight years old, and his two brot hers, Dimas and Adolfo, within a month of each other, committed suicide when he was twenty-one. Hernndez was a sensitive child and was chided by many of his peers for his interest in the arts. His private suffering contributed to the melancholic tone of much of his work. The themes of death and melancholy are not only a refl ection of his troubled childhoo d, but also foreshadow his premature death from tuberculosis. Hernndez's poem "Melodas del pasado, from the volume of poetry by the same title, expresses his childhood of suffering without his mother. "Melodas" is a longing for
55 the distant memories of the past that the poet can attain only thr ough the recollection of his mother's lyrical voice. Throughout the eight stanza poem he repeats the phrase, "inolvidable canto materno, a song that he l onged for after his mother's death. In the second stanza, he laments: De mi niez amarga recuerdo, apenas, que fue meditabundo como un anciano; que sent emponzoarse todas mis venas, precozmente, del virus del tedio humano. (Webster En un golpe 3) For Hernndez, life is characterized by pain a nd sickness and his total existence is a form of torment. He can only remember the bitt erness of his own childhood for his memory is haunted by the tender voice of his mother. He continues: La voz materna slo verti en mi odo una cancin de angustia y desencanto; cada trmula nota, cada sonido era como un vibrante nuncio de llanto. (Webster En un golpe 3) His mother's voice becomes a cry of anguish and disenchantment. He uses images of musical instruments to express his mother's voice by comparing it, for example, to a broken harp. In the fourth stanza, her voi ce is "lnguido, como acento de un arpa rota que gime en desolada noche de invierno" (3). The comparison of his mother's voice to a broken harp reflects the grief that her absence has left in his heart. A mother's tender
56 voice becomes for him a reminder of bitterness and anguish of a yearning that he can not recuperate. El escapista: Panama and Hernndezs Struggle with Blackness While "Melodas del pasado" is character ized by sentimentalism and melancholy, the majority of Hernndezs poetr y stands out for the well-known modernista images of cisnes, golondrinas, jazmines and azahares that are employed to venerate whiteness. Because his poems are filled with images of whiteness, his literature has been viewed as escapist, which also characterizes a major tendency of modernismo These images of whiteness come to fruition in "Visin nupcial" which also appears under the title "Vida nupcial" in La copa de amatista. "Visin nupcial" describes a woman adorned in whiteness. Siempre que hacia la torre de mis penas el dulce vuelo tu recuerdo arranca, te miro toda blanca, toda blanca de azahar, de jazmines, de azucenas. (Hernndez La copa de amatista 50) Again, the images pointed out before of jazmines, azahares, and azucenas evoke the culto de blancura inherent in modernista poetry and the poets ove rriding preoccupation with white images. The bride described in "Visin nupcial" is not one of man but of God, which makes her purity everlasting. The poet envisions this virgin, who is an angel of God, as a bride with folded arms who is taunting him.
57 Vistes la inmaculada vestidura de las que van a desposarse....y tiendes los bracitos en cruz porque pretendes crucificar en m tus desventuras. (Hernndez La copa de amatista 50) Finally the virgin bride: [se va] raudamente....como un vuelo hacia el azul, cual si del tenue velo de virgen novia [se] nacieran alas. (50) Reminiscent of his poem Canto a la bandera , the sky is identified by the poet as el azul. The virgin is finally identified as an angel of God who ascends into heaven towards an infinite, ethereal place (el azul). Hernndez directly mentions the virgins whiteness, purity, and by extension, her beau ty; as mentioned earlier, his emphasis on the virgins whiteness and common use of white im ages reinforce the notion that he is the most complex Afro-Hispanic poet of this gene ration for his racial ambiguity, which often contrasts blackness with whiteness. It is interesting to note th at the women in his poems are often described as having cabello de oro and tez de nieve. With the exception of the poems "Claroscuro" and "Cantares de Castilla de Oro," and the prose poem "Coincidencia, all of the wo men portrayed in Hernndez's works are white. The women in Claroscuro, Cantares, and Coincidencia are described as morenas. In "Cantares, he sings praises to a "morenita, morenita de pollera colora," but offers no other description of her physical characteristics ( La copa de amatista 61). Likewise, in
58 "Coincidencia, she is "alta y morena, ten a los negros cabellos en cortos bucles trenzados sobre la nuca y rodeados de fino ceidor blanco" (Hernndez Iconografa 134). Claroscuro differs from both Cantares de Castilla de Oro and Coincidencia because it possesses the most complete desc ription of a dark woman in his poetry. Claroscuro" is a portrait of a dark woman w ith African features. The title represents the opposition between light and darkness that provi de the structural and thematic framework of the poem. Blackness can only exist in rela tion to whiteness and, therefore, in relation to what it is not. Hernndez characterizes the morena with this polarized opposition: Ni albor de mirto, ni matiz de aurora, ni palidez de nardo, ni blancura de cera encontraris en la hermosura de su faz que a los reyes enamora... (Webster En un golpe 41). The repetition of ni that characterizes the portrait of th is anonymous woman insists on the absence of whiteness and thus, becomes a ne gation of identity. Although Hernndez begins the description with the womans abse nce of whiteness, he ends by elevating her dark features. Como a la Sulamita encantadora que hizo del Rey de Oriente la ventura, hacen ms adorable a su figura sus rizos negros y su tez de mora. As la presinti mi fantasa bella hermana del prncipe del da,
59 hija del sol y de la noche, aduna y en la complejidad de su belleza las pompas de la tarde y la tristeza de un tranquilo y sut il claro de luna. (41) In the second stanza, the poet recogni zes beauty in blackness. In effect, Hernndez challenged the literary whiteness of the era by daring to me ntion the beauty of a woman with African features, exemplified by her rizos negros and tez de mora. Moreover, she is not only beautiful, but she fo rms part of the poets fantasies. The poet found it difficult to describe her beauty, how ever, because of the complejidad de su belleza. This forces one to question whether the woman's beauty is complex, or if the poet lacks the language to describe a black wo man's physical characteristics. Given that the poet uses typical modernista images to describe what the morena is not, it is evident that language is the problem. Indeed, colo r was complex during this period because the morena 's beauty did not conform to the white ae sthetic. One must bear in mind that Hernndez was speaking to a white audience, an d he was forced linguistically to use the modernista language of the era. Politically, he al so had to demonstrate to his audience that this woman did not possess the features typically associ ated with whiteness and, by extension beauty. Almost apologetically, he begins to tell this audience that although you will not find the beautiful images of whiteness in this woman, she is still to be adored because she possesses other beautiful char acteristics not described until now in Panamanian verse. Perhaps Hernndez's poem "Ego sum" ( 1915) best reflects his struggle with societys racism. Ego sum is structurally a nd thematically similar to Claroscuro. As
60 Jackson asserts: "Both of these poems suggest blackness by contrast rather than through direct mention, as if the poet could not bring himself to confront it" ( Black Writers in Latin 74). In the first stanza, Hernndez describes himself first in terms of what he is not: Ni tez de ncar, ni cabellos de oro veris ornar de galas mi figura; ni la luz del afir, celeste y pura, veris que en mis pupilas atesoro. (Mir Cien aos 187) In this verse, Hernndez employs the use of correlative parallelism which allows the poet to contrast the preci ous objects of beauty with those of darkness (Garca Medio siglo 59). This is evidenced by the structural parall elism of the first and s econd verses with the third and fourth verses which prepares the r eader for the contrast. In addition, the words "ncar, luz del afir, celeste and pur a, which evoke beauty and purity, contrast dramatically with the next stanza where the poe t reluctantly describes who he really is: a black man with African features. Hernndez writes: Con piel tostada de atezado moro; con ojos negros de fatal negrura, del Ancn a la falda verde oscura nac frente al Pacfico sonoro. (Mir Cien aos 187) Hernndez describes himself not only as blac k, but it is a fatal bl ackness. Hernndez establishes the white/black, pure/unpure, and light/dark dichotomy with the contrast between the tez de ncar /piel tostad a, and ojos celestiales/ojos negros Although he
61 identifies himself as black in this poem, it is with reluctance and in relation to not being white. The language that Hernndez chooses presents problems that the black writer faced during this period. As in Claro scuro, he used the language of the modernista aesthetic that proved not to be adequate to describe himself or the complexities of his race and ethnicity. Linguistical ly, he described himself in terms of what he was not. Ironically, in order to affirm his identity, he had to first negate who he really was. Reluctantly, he was forced to use the la nguage of the colonizer and that of the modernista aesthetic to reach his audien ce, to identify himself, and to establish a niche in Panamanian society. He defined himself by appropriating the language of the colonizer since he already knew (as ev idenced by the repetition of ni ) that it was not adequate to describe himself as an Afro-Panamanian. Therefore, "Ego sum, which is supposed to be an affirmation of his identity as a black Panamanian, concludes by being a negati on of identity. In effect, it demonstrates the poet's internal dilemma and struggle with societys image of beauty. Ironically, "Ego sum is not an affirmation of his identity or his blackness. His description (white/black) seems to evoke Fanons assertion that in the collective unconscious of the negro, everything that is opposite of white and is black, remains negative when blackness equates to ugliness, sin, darkness, and i mmorality (192). Clearly, Hernndez's poetic sentimentalism and negative self-image stem fr om his internal suffering as a black man in a white world. Of course, his internal suffe ring and self-realization is not uncommon. As Lewis Nkosi notes: "Black consci ousness really begins with the shock of discovery that one is not only black but is also non -white" (cited in O lliz Boyd 65).
62 "Ego sum" and "Claroscuro" demonstrat e that Hernndez is not just employing the typical modernista images of the period, but that he is conflicted because of his blackness and societys reaction to it. Acco rding to Ismael Garca, his color was a hindrance to his literary success, which wa s not fully recognized until after his death ( Historia 69). However, Hernndez found a way to transcend his melancholic existence and his plight as a black man in Panama th rough verse. He suffered during his childhood because he was not accepted by blacks, and he suffered as a young adult because he did not know how to be both black and a nati onal poet accepted in Panamanian literary circles. Although Concha Pea, in her biography of Hernndez, argues that he was not a social pariah and was accepted by white wo men and men, this acceptance is questionable (41). Compared to his black literary contem poraries, he was definitely the most widely known, and his works continue to be studied today. Howeve r, the Panamanian literary critic Roque Laurenza is quick to point out when discussing th e literary generation of the republic, that Ricardo Mir, and not Hernndez, is more representa tive of the literary movement of his era and, thus, Mir is the on ly "authentic" poet of this generation (114). One might argue that Hernndez lacks authentic ity according to Laurenza because he is a poet of African ancestry who chose to write about his blackness. It should be remembered that his poem, "Canto a la ba ndera, and not "Ego sum, is nationally revered. Hernndezs racial ambiguity, escapist tend encies, and self-portrait are related to his nationalistic identity and focus on his panameidad As Richard Jackson suggests:
63 The pressures that propelled the poet on the one hand into evasive flights toward whiteness and on the other toward the depths of melancholy, in part because of the futile nature of these flights, are th e same pressures that made him opt for a patriotic stance rather than a racial on e. He chose the greater glory of a nationalistic identity over a purely ethnic one, certainl y over one that was black, considering the low esteem in whic h blackness was held--even by the poet himself--at that time. ( Black Writers and Latin 70) Clearly, Gaspar Octavio Hern ndez chose to stress his panameidad However, his emphasis on patriotism and nationalism did not necessarily mean that he chose his country over his race. It is useful here to return to Armando Fortunes definition of panameidad While Fortune stressed that panameidad was intrinsically linked to Panamanian culture, he also noted that c on panameidad, en un sentido abstracto del vocablo, entendemos de lo panameo, esto es, su modo de ser, su carcter, su condicin diferente, su idiosincrasia, su individuacin dentro de lo unive rsal, su ndole (293). This is what Hernndez sought in his own wo rk. Through his poetry, he challenged the traditional paradigm of panameidad which excluded ethnicities. Furthermore, Hernndez, who has been pe rceived as an escapist, was very much aware of the reality of Panamanian society and the populations views on blacks. He was also aware of the negative perception of black s in Panama. He alluded to this in his homage to the black journalist, Edmundo Botell o, when he wrote: Todava persiste en algunos pseudos antroplogos la idea de que la raza negra es mi serable manada de imbciles, dignos tan slo de habitar en sucias viviendas bajo el inclemente sol africano ( Obras selectas 417). In this speech, Hern ndezs awareness of racial
64 problems on the Isthmus is evident as well as his own personal struggle with racism. Therefore, Hernndezs apparent ambiguity towards his racial awareness is not a testament to his struggle with his blackness but with societys refusal to allow him to be both black and Panamanian. Hernndez ch allenged the traditional paradigm and Panamas acceptance of the all inclusive id eology of exclusion by emphasizing that he was defined by both his race and nationalism, that is, by his blackness and panameidad. Conclusions Afro-Panamanian writers during the nine teenth and early twentieth centuries appear to have vacillated be tween a racialized discourse and a nationalistic one. Black consciousness or black awareness is exemplifie d in the works of Hernndez and Escobar, but not in the works of Rivas or Urriola. Simn Rivas and Jos Do lores Urriola left few published poems, and there is little biograp hical information to discern their personal and/or professional feelings about race and ethn icity. The few works that they did leave, however, demonstrate that they were writers committed to the national project and/or the literary movement of the time rather than to a racial project. Th eir works clearly do not express their negritude, nor do they confirm or deny their blackness. Of the four poets studied he re, Federico Escobar is the most overt in his racial declaration, but as previously analyzed, he too is ambiguous. While both Escobar and Hernndez have been principally analyzed as black Panamanian wr iters who accept and reject their blackness, their disc ourse converges in that it is mo re nationalist than racially affiliated. Although it appears that Hern ndezs self-portrait, Ego sum, differs dramatically from Escobars Nieblas, they both subordinate their blackness to a higher image, that is, to whiteness and spirituality. Furthermore, Escobar, in his poem
65 "Nieblas, demonstrates racial consciousness, but this is the on ly place where it is clearly portrayed. The others are dedicated to the project of nation-building. In addition, while past analyses of Hernndezs works have vi ewed him simply as an escapist, further readings illustrate the complexities of colo r in nineteenth and early twentieth-century Panama where many writers were forced to write white to be identified with the national foundation of the Isthmus. As a result, in this first generation of Afro-Hispanic writers, patriotism and not negritude was a unifying theme and concept. However, there is a literary, political, and intellectual evolution in the di scourse of these first writers of African desc ent beginning with the nationalistic poetry of Urriola and ending with the racially conflicted works of Hernndez. Urriola avoids racial identification in his poe try, and although conflicted, Hernndez problematizes the duality of bei ng both black and Panamanian in a country that abhors blackness. Escobar and Hernndez should not be re membered as poets who stressed their panameidad over their blackness, but instead as poets who emphasized their nationality from their position as black writers in a hispanicized territory. Niebl as planted the seed for black awareness, and Hernndez problem atized this black consciousness by showing the failure of the modernista language to adequately describe himself. Furthermore, they each challenged the traditional paradigm by attempting to portray themselves and, by extension, their blackness in a society that desired to be viewed contradictorily as a mestizo non-black nation. All of these poets publishe d their works between 1890 and 1923 and represented a transition from the romantic movement to the modernista one, and from Gran
66 Colombia s occupation of Panama to the Isthmus existence as an i ndependent republic. Whether they were denying their blackness or celebrating their ethni city, these writers shared a common patriotism and a commitment to the nation-building pr oject. They were the first writers of African descent in Panama to leave behind published works and provide insight into the trials and tribulations of being bl ack and Panamanian during the height of the nationalistic movement.
67 Chapter two The Black Image in Early TwentiethCentury Panamanian Literature Panama experienced major demographic ch anges at the beginni ng of the twentieth century. After Panama's independence from Colombia in 1903, thousands of West Indians migrated to work on the Panama Canal (1904-1914). The Panamanian oligarchy, who had already expressed concern over Panamas rising black population in the nineteenth century due to its large Afri can indigenous population, felt increasingly vulnerable to the West Indians who migrated to construct the Trans-isthmian Railroad (1850-55) and the French Canal (1888-1903).10 To add to Panamas xenophobia, the United States took over the Fren ch project and occupied th e Canal Zone which included the terminal cities of Coln and Panama. Indeed, Panamanians felt threatened by the United States presence; they felt that the United States was trying to impose a North American standard of living on the hispanicized territory. With the in creasing presence of foreigners, Panama was pressured to de fend itself against the non-Hispanic, and therefore, anti-national communities on the Isthmus. In the early twentieth century, Panama attempted to defend its panameidad which for some was rooted in its indigenous past. Recently emancipated, Panama reinforced its hispanidad and distanced itself from North American imperialism that was identified with the Canal Zone. Regionalist literature emerged dur ing the second decade of the twentieth century which emphasized Panamas autochthonous roots. This literary trend, also known as criollismo, flourished in Latin American countries during the early twentieth century. The Argentinean Ricardo G iraldes, for example, contributed to the 10 I use the term African indigenous population to identify blacks who came to Panama as slaves.
68 myth of the gaucho as an autochthonous component of the pampa in his novel Don Segundo Sombra (1926). In the Andean region, part icularly in Ecuador and Per, this literary trend led to the creation of indigenismo as writers like Jorge Icaza in Huasipungo (1931) and Ciro Alegra in Los perros hambrientos (1938) focused on the exploitation of the indigenous populations. Like these countries, Panama turned to its interior to "discover" its origins. Panamanian literature highlighted its indigenous past as well as its Spanish heritage. This regionalist and anti-imper ialistic literature served to re store Panama's indigenous roots while stressing the Isthmus ties to Spain a nd distancing it from the cultural and imperial influences of the United States. For exampl e, the Panamanian jour nalist and poet Moiss Castillo (1899-1974) affirmed Panamanian na tionality and warned of the dangers of cosmopolitism in his works during the second decade of the twentieth century (Saz 32). In Crisol (1936), Jos Isaac Fbrega (1900-1986) described Panama as a crisol de razas comprised of a native African, Europea n, and indigenous population as well as immigrants from the United States and th e Caribbean. Notwithstanding the title of Fbrega's text, which suggested a crisol de razas where various races coexisted harmoniously, he argued that it was precisely this diversity which threatened Panamas autochthonous roots and that Panamas na tional foundation was rooted in its Spanish heritage. It is not surprising that Fbrega's novel is set in the interior of Panama on the sugar plantation of San Isidoro and contrasts with the Canal Zone which is filled with foreign immigrants who do not speak Spanis h. The main character in the novel, don Santiago Jovellanos, is from Spain and oppos es the relationship between his Spanish
69 daughter Dolores and the North American en gineer Frank ONeil. Don Santiagos Spanish heritage is continuously contrasted to that of the Nort h Americans who have made English a widely spoken language. Angr y over the use of English in his store, don Santiago says: Panam es de origen espa ol y mi tienda es espaola El que quiera venir a comprarme, que compre en nuestro idioma o que se vaya (Fbrega 84). Fbrega's text aided in propagating an ti-imperialism. Fbrega and other criollista writers contrasted the zone of transit with the serenity of the more mestizo interior and posited that Coln and Panama City were le ss national than the provinces (Szok La ltima 104). Poesa Negroide While Panama sought to reaffirm its Span ish and European roots, other countries of Latin America and the Spanish Caribbean de sired to explore their African heritage. During the first decades of the twentieth centu ry, European scholars became interested in African civilization and culture. The Ge rman sociologist Leo Frobenius (1873-1938) studied African civilization a nd culture, and in 1910 published The Black Decameron which helped to propagate legends, myths and assorted oral literature from the heart of Black Africa (Wilson La poesa 91). Duri ng the years that immediately followed the First World War (1914-1918), European intell ectuals reacted agai nst the failures of Western civilization and looked to Afri ca which was untouched and uncorrupted by modernization and Western thought (Coulthard 41 ). As Watson Miller suggests: "After World War I, all aspects of black culture becam e of interest to the Europeans and, later, the Americans" (33). European scholars l ooked to Africa as a source and as an example of a pristine culture untouched by Western Eu ropean or United States decadence. The
70 interest in Africa manifested itself in all artistic realms including art, literature, history, and psychology (Coulthard 41). This movement eventually spread to Latin America and the Caribbean where white intellectuals became interested in por traying Afro-Latin America. The literary subject was no longer Euro-centered, but rather had its roots in Africa In Latin America, this movement manifested itself in poetry and was known as poesa negroide or poetic negrism. Poesa negroide emerged in the second decade of the twentieth century and is considered a part of the Avant-gard e movement (Videla de Rivera 200). Poesa negroide was a pseudo-black poetry that focused on phys ical elements of the black, his/her sexual prowess and propensity toward music (Cartey 67 ). These poets used poetic devices such as onomatopoeia, repetition, rhythm, and rhyme to portray African culture. Although this poetry was concerned with the black image, it was primarily a movement of white intellectuals who portrayed bl acks as objects. As a result, the movement has often been viewed as the "exploita tion of black culture by white writers" (41). The major exponents of poesa negroide were found in the Spanish Caribbean, particularly in Puerto Rico and Cuba. Pu erto Rico's Luis Pals Matos (1898-1957) and Cuba's Emilio Ballagas (1910-1954) are two writers who portrayed blacks and African culture as sensual, exotic and sexual without any psyc hological profundity. These writers failed "to provide a realistic image of the black man in Cuba and the Caribbean" (Watson Miller 34). Therefore, while white in tellectuals made efforts to depict blacks and black culture in their works, the black l iterary image that emerged during this period was often superficial, and rarely focused on the socio-historical and socio-economic factors that plagued black America such as poverty, discrimination, and racism.
71 Moreover, black characters were never depicted as being able to think or to create ideas. Consequently, poesa negroide was primarily superficial and ahistorical, and did not present the effects of slavery or the arrival of blacks to the New World. Instead, blacks were simply musical figures derived from the white imagination. This interest in black culture also spread to the United States where black artists became part of what is known as the Harlem Renaissance. However, unlike the movement in Latin America, this was a moveme nt of black artists a nd intellectuals such as Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen who promot ed African heritage and racial pride. Despite Panamas large African population, poesa negroide did not flourish in this country as it had in the Caribbean nati ons of Cuba and Puerto Rico; nor did it experience a movement similar to that in the United States. The lack of major Panamanian writers of poetic negrism wa s due perhaps to Panama's geographical remoteness from these Caribbean islands as opposed to the rest of Latin America and, also, because of Panama's late independen ce in 1903. As Matilde Elena Lpez notes: "La poesa negra de Panam no ha tenido grandes exponentes como en otras latitudes. Las Antologas de poesa negra americana incluy en excepcionalmente a Demetrio Korsi que explot con acierto el filn de riqusimas vetas de la lrica afroespaola" (cited in Franceschi Carbones 11). In addition, like the Domi nican Republic, Panama sought to emphasize its Spanish heritage and want ed to ignore its African heritage.11 Similar to the Dominican Republic which attempted to divorce itself culturally from Haiti and, by extension, from blackness, Panama also reject ed any meaningful id entification with its 11 Although poesa negroide flourished more in the Do minican Republic than in Panama with writers such as Manuel del Cabral (1907), Rubn Suro (1916), and Toms Hernndez Franco (1904-1952), intellectuals attempted to ignore the African heritage (Stinchcomb 59).
72 large African indigenous and Afro-Antillean populations. Consequently, while other countries such as Cuba and Puerto Rico de sired to discover their African indigenous heritage, Panama wanted to di sassociate itself from anything that was not European. In effect, Panama ignored its black heritage and subsequently escaped to the interior of the country as previously illustrated in Crisol. Although many writers such as Fbrega fo cused on Panama's rural interior, a few Panamanian writers such as Vctor M. Franceschi (1931-1984), Demetrio Korsi (18991957), and Rogelio Sinn (1904-1994) made an effort to depict blacks in their works during the early twentieth century. However, despite the efforts of these writers to portray blacks in their works, many of them such as Franceschi did not surpass a flawed essentialism. In addition, their works de monstrate the changing representation of the black in Panamanian literature which I divide into four categories: descriptive exoticism, social protest, anti-imperialism, and the emergence of the new Panamanian, the West Indian.12 In the works that I characterize as desc riptive exoticism, the black figure is superficially portrayed as an exotic figur e who sings and dances. In addition, the exoticism of the mulata is overemphasized and she is portr ayed as a forbidden fruit that results from the poet's own desires. Although Vctor M. Fr anceschi (1931-1984) chronologically writes much late r than Demetrio Korsi, his poetry will be analyzed first because it is an example of the first category, descriptive exoticism, and best demonstrates the evolution of the literary im age of the black in Panamanian literature. 12 Descriptive exoticism is a term coined by the German scholar Janheinz Jahn in his work Muntu: African Culture and the Western World. New York: Grove Press, 1961. The fourth category, the emergence of the new Panamanian, the West Indian, is not evidenced in this chapter but will be further explored in chapter three.
73 Vctor M. Franceschi Born in the province of Chiriqu which is located in the interior of Panama, Vctor M. Franceschi (1931-1984) wanted to be a poet of Afro-Panama, but failed. Franceschi wrote much later than other negrista writers and published his collection of negroide poetry, entitled Carbones, in 1956. This is Franceschi's only collection of published negroide poetry, and is one of three published volumes of poetry which include Epstola sideral (1959) and Apocalipsis (1975). The title of the collection, Carbones, comes from a quotation by the Dominican negrista poet Manuel del Cabral (1907) that Franceschi includes in the preface: "Y como si sacaras a pedazos tu cuerpo de la tierra, te vi sacar carbones de la tierra" (23; emphasis mine). Franceschis anthology begins with a pictorial caricature of a danc ing black woman with unchara cteristically large lips and illustrates the extent to which his work ex emplifies descriptive exoticism. In his depictions, blacks spend the day dancing which conveniently frees them from any worries of discrimination or oppression. His poem "Zamba, Kilombo y Zamba, (1955) is an example of descriptive exoticism and presents the zamba, a wo man of Indian and African ancestry. Zamba, Kilombo y Zamba, .. Zamba, Kilombo y Zamba, ... Zamba, Kilombo y Zamba, ... ¡Ese es tu sueo! Suena tu negro zambo, zambo que est bailando tumba t repicando,
74 ¡tu negro zambo! Dice que t cantando canto para Tomasa baila que baila en casa, ¡la negra zamba! ........................................ Fuma tu habano, fuma... Sorbe tu whiski, sorbe... Negro te est esperando, Sigue soando, ¡Zamba, Kilombo y Zamba, ...! (Franceschi Carbones 39) The repetition of the refrain "Zamba, Kilom bo y Zamba, ," emphasizes the dance motif that runs throughout the poem. The actions of the blacks are limited to dancing, singing, smoking, and drinking. Franceschi attempts to establish African rhythms by ending the verses with , He imitates other trope s of negroide poetry by using the apocopation of t in the seventh verse, a common aspect of negroide poetry. Yet, the poem lacks authenticity in its inability to portray accurately Afro-Panamanian culture. Franceschi is unable to surpass a superficial aestheticism when characterizing the zamba because he is not familiar with blacks or black culture on the Isthmus; he does not know the black por dentro or from the inside. A similar characterization of the black Panamanian woman can be seen in "Ritmo que mueve y mata, where the mulata appears as an exotic, da ncing, sexual figure.
75 Clave, tumba y maracas. Tumba, clave y bong. Ritmo que mueve y mata, rumba que ya empez Squi-sisqui-squi squi-sisqui-ss van diciendo las maracas, riendo, riendo en su comps Mueve tus senos, mulata, Dle a tu cuerpo el son. Quema tu sangre en ron: quema tu esclavitud ........................................... (Franceschi Carbones 36) The mulata emerges again as a sexual figure who gyrates to the musical sounds of the maracas and the bongo, the African drum, as evidenced in the verses "Mueve tus senos, mulata/Dale a tu cuerpo el son." Franceschi objectifies the mulata; instead of a subject, he sees her only as an object of his own personal de sires. The repetition of the refrain, Squi,-sisqui-s qui/Squi-sisqui-ss, is an example of jitanjforas or nonsense words that evoke a carnavalesque atmosphere. Jitanjforas are "words created by the poet to set the tone or musicality of the poem" (Watson Miller 36). Although Franceschi refers to slavery in the verse, quema tu esclavitud, any notion of oppression and its significance is lost to the mulata s gyrating hips.
76 Franceshis description of the mulata is an example of the works of white intellectuals who were more interested in the black as a child of nature, and as a result, depicted him [or her] as an amoral primitive, full of song, dance, unusual rhythm, and sensuality (Jackson The Black Image 43). Franceschi was highly criticized for his inability as a white intellectual to write negroide poetry, and for his poems lack of authenticity. He responded to these accusa tions in his essay, "El hombre blanco en la poesa negra," by emphasizing that white writers can accurately depict blacks in their works. He argued: "Es mi nico inters, de mostrar que no hay verdad en la aseveracin de que el hombre blanco no puede escribir poe sa negra, so pena de que cae en afectacin y en insinceridad" (138). Despite his argument, Franceschi's poetry comes off as being insincere; it fails to capture the complexitie s of the black Panamanian due to its onedimensional portrayal of blacks who supposedly only contributed music to the Isthmus. Although Franceschi makes a distinction between th e Afro-Hispanic and the Afro-Antillean according to their cultural and national affiliations to Panama, he is only concerned with representing the Af ro-Hispanic population. He notes: Refirome especialmente al negro venido cuando la construccin del Canal de Panam, porque se es el que habita la s ciudades terminales y es el que ms acentuados rasgos africanos muestra. El negro de la colonia yace ms asimilado a nuestra nacionalidad, son ms criollos y por lo tanto difieren bastante. (El hombre 135) Franceschis assertion reinforces the myth that colonial blacks assimilated into Panamanian culture and that West Indians did not. He seems to be concerned only with rescuing the African past and not with charac terizing West Indians. These distinctions
77 and representations of blacks in Panamanian literature will affect the reaction of contemporary Panamanian West Indian write rs who seek to redeem these myths and negative portrayals in their works. Ironically, while Franceschi distinguishes Afro-Hispanics from Afro-West Indians in his essay, his poems do not differentiate the two groups. In fact in his poetry blacks are black; whether they are of colonial descent or Caribbean ancestry is not of importance to Franceschi. He characterizes them as exotic, and for this reason his poetry does not surpass the first category of descriptive exoticis m. As a result, his racist comments about Afro-Antilleans as evidenced in the above-cited essay, and his essentialist descriptions of blacks in his poetry illustrate his racism towa rds all blacks in Panama during this period. Demetrio Korsi Demetrio Korsi (1899-1957) is considered to be a writer of the first generation of the Avant-garde movement in Panama (Martnez-Ortega Diccionario 48). Born in the barrio of Santa Ana in Panama City to a Greek father and a Panamanian mother, Korsi is the self-styled poet of Afro-Panama (Szok La ltima 105). Demetrio Korsi was no stranger to blackness or to black Panamanian culture. He and the Afro-Hispanic poet Gaspar Octavio Hernndez, studied in the previous chapter, were good friends which compelled Korsi to eulogize him after his pr emature death in 1916. Therefore, Korsis interest in portraying black culture and bl ack people in his works is no surprise. While Korsi's poetic repertoire is extensiv e, including several volumes of poetry and novels published during his lifetime, the ma jority of his negroide poetry comes from
78 the collection of poems entitled, Los gringos llegan y la cumbia se va (1953).13 Although Los gringos was not published until 1953, many of the poems were written in the twenties and thirties and appeared first in the volumes of poetry Cumbia (1935) and Cumbia y otros poemas panameistas (1941). The title Los gringos llegan y la cumbia se va reflects the anti-imperialistic tone of the entire collection. Los gringos combines the three pillars of Panamanian nationality: folklore, race, and the Canal, symbolized by the cumbia the chombo and the gringo (Jaen E. 31). The gringo and chombo are both by-products of the canal and are viewed in opposition to the interior and to Panamas autochthonous past which is symbolized by the cumbia Korsis poetry possesses aspect s of descriptive exoticism, social protest, and anti-imperialism. While some of his poetry possesses exotic descriptions of the mulata he also protests discrimina tion against blacks and denounces racial inequality and United States imperialism. Many of Korsis poems depict women as exot ic creatures that serve to satisfy the male sexual appetite. This stereotypical por trayal of black women dates back to their portrayal in Peninsular literature where black women were almost always characterized as inferior to white women and the embodiment of the sexual (Young 138). In "Zamba chamera" (1932), an example of descriptive exoticism, the zamba of Indian and African ancestry is portrayed as an exotic, sexual being, and as a kind of forbidden fruit. 13 Demetrio Korsi's published volumes include: Los poemas extraos, (1920), Leyenda brbara (1921), Tierras vrgenes (1923), Los pjaros de la montaa (1924), Bajo el sol de California (1924), El viento en la montaa (1926), Antologa de Panam (1926), El amor fuerza universal (1926), El palacio del sol (1927), Block (1934), Escenas de la vida tropical (1934), El Dr. Llorent (1935), Cumbia (1935), El grillo que cant sobre el Canal (1937), Cumbia y otros poemas panameistas (1941), El grillo que cant bajo las hlices (1942), Yo cantaba a la falda del Ancn (1943), Pequea Antologa (1947), Canciones efmeras (1950), Nocturno en gris (1952), Los gringos llegan y la cumbia se va (1953), El tiempo se perda y todo era lo mismo (1956).
79 Zamba chamera, por t el milagro de que yo quiera dos ojos, negros como el carbn; por t, se enciende mi cara mate cuando tus brazos de chocolate me aprietan contra tu corazn. Eres un goce nunca gozado, una caricia desconocida, y as ha sabido mi errante vida del exotismo de tu pecado en una noche de frenes. .......................................... (Korsi Los gringos 18) In the first stanza, the zamba stands out for her blac kness which is emphasized with the dark metaphors of carbn and chocol ate that depict her eyes and arms. She emerges as an exotic figure unknown to the poe t as evidenced in the first verse of the second stanza: "Eres un goce nunca gozado," an d "una caricia desconocida." The poet only knows the zamba through his dreams when he fantasi zes about her. In addition, her pleasure is only to be enjoyed at night, en una noche de frenes. Clearly, for Korsi, the zamba represents the biological, the physical, an d the sexual, and serv es as an object of his fantasies. While "Zamba" is characterized principa lly by an exotic woman, "Incidente de cumbia" comes closest to surpassing a flawed essentialism. "Incidente de cumbia"
80 (1929), published in Los gringos llegan y la cumbia se va (1953), alludes to the friction caused by the North American presence, and it exalts Panamanian nationality through its folklore (Martnez O. La identidad 143). This poem possesses elements of all three categories of Afro-Panamanian literature. It begins: Con queja de indio y grito de chombo, dentro la cantina de Pancha Manch, trazumando ambiente de timba y kilombo, se oye que la cumbia resonando est... Baile que legara la abuela africana de cadena chata y pelo cusc, ..................................................................... Pancha Manch tiene la cumbia caliente, la de Chepigana y la del Choc, ...................................................................... Chimbomb es el negro que Meme embrujara, ...................................................................... Meme, baila...El negro, como un animal, llora los desprecios que le hace la negra ¡y es que quiere a un gringo la zamba fatal! Como un clavo dicen que saca otro clavo, aporrea el cuero que su mano hinch; mientras ms borracho su golpe es ms bravo; ---------------------------------------------------
81 Del pual armado los persigue, y ambos mueren del acero del gran Chimbomb; y la turbamulta de negros y zambos, sienten que, a la Raza, Chimbomb veng... ....................................................................... (Korsi Los gringos 13-14) "Incidente de cumbia" takes place in Pa ncha Manchs tavern and tells the story of black Chimbomb who stabs both his girlfriend Meme and the North American after she tries to run off with him. The acti on takes place to the background music of the cumbia The music intensifies along with th e action of the poem which builds up to Chimbombs stabbing of both Meme and the gringo The association of the cumbia with blacks and, more importan tly, with Chimbomb is evident in the first verse of the second stanza, "baile que legara la abuela africana." Chimbomb appears as a figure bewitc hed by Meme ("el negro que Meme embrujara") and is motivated by his animal instincts to dance and kill. Chimbomb "tiene mala juma y alma de len, and "llora lo s desprecios que le hace la negra." In the eighth stanza, Chimbomb kills both Meme and the gringo to avenge both his reputation and the black race. Notwithstanding Korsis attempts to portray black culture on the Isthmus, Chimbomb is described as someone promulgated by his animal instincts and, by extension, his lack of civility to kill and avenge his reputation and race. Meme is described first as a zamba fatal and then as an ardiente mulata, whose sexual powers have "possessed" Chimbomb to kill the gringo who is depicted as the enemy, all of which reveals the anti-imperiali stic tone of the period. De spite his lack of civility,
82 Chimbomb ends as the hero of Incidente de cumbia, and by the ninth and tenth stanzas has already been tran sformed into a legend. Incidente de cumbia combines folklore from the interior exemplified by the reference to Chepigana and Choc with that of the urban ar eas of Coln and Panama. It incorporates popular speech which reflects both the urban and the rural Panamanian provinces, as reflected in the expressions f uerte y bochinchosa, de cadena chata y pelo cusc, Pancha Manch tiene la cumbia caliente, como un clavo dicen que saca otro clavo, and turbamulta de negros y zam bos (Martnez O. La identidad 143). El tambor la cumbia and el tamborito are all typical dances of Panama that originated in Colombia (Fortune 398). In addition, the cumbia is a form of music and dance in 4/4 meter from the Atlantic coast of Colombia th at is identified with its African heritage. These references to the urban and the rural c ontrast with some of Korsis contemporaries, like Jos Isaac Fbrega, who posit that the esse nce of the Panamanian nation lies solely in the interior and in its indigenous past. Kors i recognizes the importan ce of all these ethnic factors. However, despite Korsis depicti ons of urban and rural Panama, blacks in his poetry, as in that of Franceschi's, are ove rwhelmingly stereotypi cal and essentialist. The poems written in the 1940s by Ko rsi demonstrate the changing ethnic composition of the Panamanian nation due to Un ited States imperialism. In "Una visin de Panam," (1943) also from Los gringos llegan y la cumbia se va (1953), Korsi portrays Panama as a city of negros and gringos It represents the second and third categories, anti-imperialism and social protest. The arrival of the gringos i.e., the North Americans, signifies the loss of Panamas Spanish roots:
83 Gringos, gringos, gringos...N egros, negros, negros... Tiendas y almacenes, cien razas al sol. Cholitas cuadradas y zafias mulatas llenan los zaguanes de prostitucin. Un coche decrpito pasa con turistas. Soldados, marinos, que vienen y van, y, empantalonadas, las cabaretistas que aqu han descubierto la tierra de Adn. Panam la fcil, Panam la abierta, Panam la de esa Avenida Central que es encrucijada, puente, puerto y puerta por donde debiera entrarse al Canal. .................................................................... Gringos, negros, negros, gringos...¡Panam! ( Los gringos 37) The repetition of gringos and negros in the first and last verses brings to light the new ethnic composition that characterizes Panama of the 1940s. The juxtaposition of blacks and gringos reinforces the connection between blacks and foreigner in the last verse: "Gringos, negros, negros, gringos...Panam! Panama is primarily foreign and nonHispanic and is not the mestizo nation that intellectuals once tried to promote in the latter part of the nineteenth ce ntury; it is a country of negros and gringos Korsi does not identify blacks as Afro-Hispanic or as Afro-A ntillean; what disturbs him the most is the
84 multitude and the fact that foreigners and blacks outnumber the mestizo population in Panama. In addition, Panama has been transfor med into a brothel ("los zaguanes de prostitucin") created by the "soldados, ma rinos, que vienen y van. The verses, Panam la fcil, Panam la abierta, refe r to the North American exploitation of the country and Panamas lack of autonomy despite its independence. Panama is no longer a country of the cumbia, and it has been culturally tr ansformed by the effects of imperialism and the subsequent exploitati on of its geographic position. As Heliodora Jaen notes: En este poema [Una visin de Panam] Korsi asevera el bajo nivel del capitalismo, donde se capta pblicamente t odo gnero de torpeza y sensualismo y, en consecuencia, el problema evidente de la prostitucin y corrupcin (78). Not all of Korsis social pr otest poems are anti-imperialistic. Dos nios juegan en el parque (1949) is a poem of social protest that denounces racial inequality. -------------------------------------------------Al parque llega un nio, blanco y rubio. Lo cuida una sirvienta: es hijo talvez de un gamonal. Parece endomingado con su ropa aplanchada. Y es tan frgil su aspecto que parece una flor y es tan fina su voz que parece un cristal. Despus, llega un negrito del pueblo y se le acerca. Y la sirvienta grtale: ---¡Huye, que t ests f! El negrito del puebl o es limpiabotas, y saca su bolero
85 y lo juega, sentado en su cajn. El nio-bien lo mira y le sonre, y haciendo su capricho va a ponerse a su lado. Al blanco y al negrito lo mismo les da el sol. El chico de la calle le presta su bolero al otro, blanco y rubio, como una suave flor. Y all no hay diferencias sociales: ¡solamente hay dos nios que juegan, sin mirarse el color! (Korsi Los gringos 47) Dos nios takes place in Korsis native Sant a Ana and tells the story of two children, one black, one white, one poor, one rich, who play together despite their racial and social distinctions. Dos nios resembles th e Afro-Cuban Nicols Guillns poem, Dos nios, from Sngoro Cosongo (1931) and seeks to give a vi sion of harmony where racial and social divisions do not exist. Korsi notes in the last two verses that during childs play social divisions do not exist becaus e of the innocence of childhood. Thus, blacks and whites are equal because "Al blanco y al negrito lo mismo les da el sol." Here, the innocence of childhood impedes racial distinctions. Korsis concern with black/white unity is diminished when one reads his views on West Indians which supported the racist discourse of the period. Ironically, while Korsi's poetry is anti-gringo, pro-African folklore, and pro-Panamanian, he addresses his own preoccupations with the dominant presen ce of West Indians when "advocating the expulsion of sixty or seventy thousand West Indians that infest our cities..." (Szok La ltim a 47). Such contradictory attitudes towards race are not uncommon in Latin
86 America (Jackson The Black Image 134). While Korsi recogni zed the importance of race and celebrated racial diversity on the Isthmus, he could not free hims elf of his internal fears of another race taking over. It is evident, then, that Korsi was merely interested in blacks and black culture on a superficial anthro pological level. As a Panamanian, he felt threatened by blacks and believed that they would alter the national foundation of the Isthmus. Rogelio Sinn and Socio-negristic Prose Rogelio Sinn (1904-1994), pseudonym for Bernardo Domnguez Alba, is the most prolific essayist, novelist, dramatist, poet, and short story writer on the Isthmus. Credited with initiating the Avant-garde movement in Panama in both poetry and prose, as exemplified by his collection of poems Onda (1929) and his short story "El sueo de Serafn(1931), Sinn is another Panamanian writer who attempted to portray blacks in his works.14 It is in his prose and not his poetry, however, where Sinn utilizes the black image to protest racial discrimination. The prose of Rogelio Sinn (1904-1994) belongs to the second category of Afro-Panamanian lite rature, the social protest literature with some remnants of descriptive exoticism. His short stories protest racial discrimination and are examples of socio-ne gristic literature. As Ri chard Jackson notes: Socionegristic prose dealt with the social probl ems of the black in his struggle against prejudice and social degradation ( The Black Image 132). Although there remain sexual 14 Sinn's published works include: Onda (1929), La Cucarachita Mandinga, farsa infantil (1937), Incendio (1944), Todo un conflicto de sangre (1946), A la orilla de las estatuas maduras (1946), Plenilunio (1947), Dos aventuras en el lejano oriente (1947), Semana Santa en la niebla (1949), La boina roja (1954), Los pjaros del sueo (1957), Rutas de la novela panamea (1957), Chiquilinga (1961), Cuna comn (1963), Saloma sin salomar (1969), Cuentos de Rogelio Sinn (1971), Lobo go home (1976), and La isla mgica (1977).
87 stereotypes and sexual myths about blacks in hi s prose that evoke de scriptive exoticism, unlike Franceschi, Sinn exposes racial disc rimination. His work surpasses that of Franceschi and Korsi because very little protest against prejudice and racial discrimination come from the white pract itioners of poetic negrism (42). Although these short stories are not vanguardista texts, published in the 1940s and 1950s, they were highly impacted by surrealism, which inspired many vanguardista writers such as Sinn during the early twen tieth century. Surrealism was a movimiento cultural que pretende una comprensin y expresin total del hombre y del mundo, utilizando todos los medios del conocimiento, especialmente aquellos ajenos a la razn: sensacin, intuicin, examen de lo onrico, ex periencia sexual, [y] la exploracin del azar (Videla de Rivero 63). In the storie s analyzed, Sinn incorporates dreams, an integral part of surrealism, to expose th e racial fears and prejudices of his main characters. The short stories, "Todo un c onflicto de sangre" (1946), "La boina roja," (1953) and the novel Plenilunio (1947), protest racial disc rimination, but still possess essentialist black characters. Sinn protests racial discri mination by exposing the racial fears and attitudes that non-Panamanians ha ve towards blacks. In addition, his short stories are cosmopolitan and international, often depicting foreigners and not just Panamanians. In "Todo un conflicto de sangre," Sinn utilizes dreams to expose the racial conflict of the main character, Mrs. Rose nberg, a German Jew who suffers from an accident and believes that she is becoming black after a blood transfusion. After the transfusion, she learns from he r psychiatrist that the blood transfusion was given to her by her black West Indian chauffer, Joe War d. Subsequently, she has four dreams that
88 involve black people. In the first dream, th e Christ of Glgota is black (135). In the second dream, Mrs. Rosenberg goes to a chur ch where she hears blacks singing and sees them dancing (137). The third dream takes place in a fashion store where she sells African memorabilia, and when she speaks E nglish, she does it with a West Indian accent (139). In her last dream, she eats codfish, a typical West Indian dish, and discovers herself at a party where she ends up sleeping with Joe. Mrs. Rosenberg's dreams reveal her fear of blacks taking over. Unable to explain her dreams, she resorts to believing that Joe mu st have cast a spell on her. She says: Me di en imaginar que el Negro Joe poda ser un adepto a la magia negra o al rito del vud ¡Tena que ser as!...El era quien me estaba embrujando (143). Mrs. Rosenberg's fears stem from her being raised in Nazi Germany (1933-1936). In a session with her psychiatrist, she confesses her ha tred towards blacks and her fear of them assuming control: Luego, ms tarde, cuando me vine a Am rica, not la mezcolanza de razas que hay en el Istmo , la gran desproporci n del tipo blanco en relacin con los negros Y, debo confesarlo, sent la impr escindible necesidad de que triunfara el nuevo orden Haba que exterminar toda s las razas de extr accin inferior Y, sobre todo, a los negros Yo los he visto siempre en mi concepto como una raza esclava Por eso los detesto .Me producen cierto asco, cierta especie de repulsin (Sinn La boina 132-133) Mrs. Rosenberg hates not only blacks but also Jews, in other words, everyone who is not of the Aryan race. She detests blacks and is repulsed by them (132-33). Although she is repulsed by blacks, at the end of the stor y Mrs. Rosenberg finds Joe and has sexual
89 relations with him. Mrs. Rosenbergs actions demonstrate that she subconsciously feels a secret sexual attraction towards blacks. In the end, Sinn ex ploits Mrs. Rosenberg's fears by having her realize what she fears subconsci ously: a relationship with a black man. Sinn demonstrates the extent to which society's racism affects the human psyche; it has turned a Jew into an anti-Semite. A victim of racism herself, Mrs. Rosenberg adopts the same racist ideology that was inflicted upon her on the black. Sinn demonstrates the effect of racism and how it causes its victims to victimize others. Anti-colonialist Frantz Fanon explains the Jews behavi or as that of reactional phenomenon, meaning that in order to react against anti-Semitism, the Jew turns himself into an anti-Semite (183). Mrs. Rosenberg reacts negatively against Jews and other marginalized races such as the black in the same way that she was treated in Nazi Germany. In "La boina roja" (1953), Sinn presen ts another woman who has sexual relations with a black man. Dr. Paul Ecker goes to an island to study fish and is accompanied by his North American secretary Linda Olse n. For some unexplained reason, Linda transforms into a mermaid, becomes pregnant, and has a stillborn child. Linda disappears and it is never determined whether the baby is black, white, a monster, or a mermaid. Like Mrs. Rosenberg, Linda disdains blacks, yet at the same time f eels a deep attraction toward them. She explains: No he de negar que, aunque si ento repudio contra los negros, no prob desagrado sino ms bi en placer...Me causaban deleite las piruetas y las mil ocurrencias de Joe Ward...joven, fuerte, radiante, tena los dientes blancos y rea con un a risa atractiva...La atmsfera de la isla y la fragancia de la brisa yodada me lo hicieron mirar embellecido como un
90 Apolo negro...(Sinn La boina roja 27) In effect, Linda is attracted to blacks because of their exotic nature and mysteriousness. Both Linda's and Mrs. Rosenberg's attr action for blacks evoke the writings of Frantz Fanon, who argued in Black Skin, White Masks (published originally in French in 1952): "For the majority of white men the Negr o represents the sexual instinct (in its raw state). The Negro is the incarnation of a genital potency beyond all moralities and prohibitions. The women among the whites, ...view the Negro as the keeper of the impalpable gate that opens into the realm of orgies, of bacchanals, of delirious sexual sensations" (177). Thus, Sinn exposes the fears that whites have about blacks through the dreams of both Mrs. Rosenberg and Linda Olsen. These women' s fears control them to the extent that they can no longer function. Sinn reveal s the contradictory attitude that whites have about blacks. In "Todo un conflicto" and "La boina roja," blacks symbolize the biological. These women's comm ents reveal that they have espoused the racist ideology that has been promoted in their respective countries, Germany and the United States, but that they secretly possess an attraction to black men because they represent the sexual. The previously cite d assertion of Fanon illu strates that Mrs. Rosenberg's and Linda's attraction to black men stems from their respective countries' national rhetoric of racial in tolerance and exclusion that has equated non-whites with the sexual. In Plenilunio (1947), an example of social prot est literature, th ere is another relationship between a white woman and a black man. Plenilunio is a surrealist novel that transpires in the mind of the Author (without a name). Elena Cunha and Miguel Camargo (Mack Amargo, El Amargo) dialogue with the Author to discover which one
91 killed Elenas husband, Crispn. Ironically, at the end of the novel th e characters accuse the author of killing Crispn. Similar to Linda Olsen and Mrs. Rose nberg, Elena Cunha has sexual relations with a black man during a dream-like state. A lthough she is married to Crispn, Elena has sexual relations with Mack Amargo who is de scribed as moreno, casi prieto. Elena denies her relationship with him because it mo st likely occurred at night during the full moon when she could not contro l her sexual desires. Through the use of dreams, Sinn exposes the sexual desires of these Europ ean women who openly embrace the national rhetoric of black hatred, but secretly view black men as th e embodiment of the sexual. This contradiction is not onl y present in these white women, but also in the white negrista writers who demonstrate th eir sexual attraction towards black women through poetry but have contradictory negative at titudes towards blacks in general. In Plenilunio (1947), Sinn also criticizes the North American presence on the Isthmus and protests discrimination in the Canal Zone. North Americans are viewed as the enemy because they have transformed Pana ma into a brothel, much like in Korsis poem "Una visin de Panam." Although not central to the argum ent of this novel, Sinn digresses and alludes to racial discrimination and pr otests the unfair and unequal pay in the Canal Zone. According to Mack Amargo: Los gringos, ya t sabes, se desviven hablando de buena vecindad, de buen trato, new deal y otras cosas; pero, con todo y eso, nunca olvidan las discriminaciones raciales: Los blancos, por un lado; por el otro, los negros En eso no transigen Y los blancos son ellos; los dems somos negros, gente run, rol de plata (Sinn Plenilunio 38)
92 The racial discrimination is not only ag ainst blacks, but al so against non-black Panamanians. North Americans imposed thei r racial system on the Isthmus and viewed all Panamanians as black. While Sinn may reveal sexual myths that white women possess towards black men, he reinforces these stereotypes by not pr esenting a well-balanced picture of positive and negative images of blacks. Moreover, bl acks in Sinn's works are objects of white desire instead of subjects. By portraying such one-dimensional characters, Sinn strengthens these stereotypes instead of denouncing them. Mo re importantly, Sinn also supports the stereotype that racism does not exist in Pana ma. In these works, North Americans and other foreigners are racists and not the Panamanians. As Carlos Guillermo Wilson suggests: Los personajes racistas son forneos. En gran parte no se presenta la realidad panamea en cuanto a las injusticias que sufre el panameo Negro (Aspectos 158). Although he satirizes the behavior of Mrs. Ro senberg, Linda Olsen, and Elena Cunha for their racist behavior and secret attraction to black men, Sinn fails to recognize the prejudices by Panamanians agai nst Afro-Hispanics a nd Afro-Antilleans. His prose serves to reinforce the notion that racism is not a product of Panama but of the United States. By portraying foreigners as those who promote racism, Sinn absolves Panamanians from any responsibility for racism on the Isthmus. In turn, he reinforces the myth that Panama was a racial utopia before the United States arrived. Conclusions The image of the black in Panamanian li terature of the early twentieth century establishes many of the themes that will emer ge in Afro-Panamanian literature during the latter half of the twentieth century. Vctor M. Franceschi, Demetrio Korsi, and Rogelio
93 Sinn made an effort to portray blacks in their works. Although th eir representation of blacks demonstrates the myths that Pana manians had about them, including their sexuality, musical abilities, and animal instin cts, it does not recogni ze the social problems that blacks confronted during the early twenti eth century or their ability to respond to those very same problems rationally and act ively. Perhaps Franceschi's and Korsi's contributions include the recogni tion that black folklore constit utes an important part of Panamanian culture and should be reflected in its literature. The prose of Sinn surpasses the poetry of Franceschi and Korsi because it explores the effects of racism on the human psyche. However, his works do not acknowledge that the real problem lies on the Isthmus and not outside. Although it seeks to protest racism as evidenced by Mrs. Rosenberg, the lack of character development depicts blacks as purely biological. In general, black characters in the works of Franceschi, Ko rsi, and Sinn are objectified and viewed outside of an Afro-centered subjectivity. Thei r characterization, or l ack there of, resulted from stereotypical images of blacks during the period. Panamanian literature published after 1930 often protests the United States presence and has an increasing number of representations, both positive and negative, of the by-product of the Canal: the Panamanian of West Indian descent. These themes emerge in the social protes t literature and poe try of the 1930s and 1940s by non-blacks and foreshadow the novel of the canal that centers on the denoun cement of the United States and U.S. imperialism that will be analyzed in the next chapter.
94 Chapter three The Social Protest Novels of Joaqun Be leo Cedeo: A Study of the Inherent Conflicts and Contradictions of Anti-imper ialism and Negritude in the Canal Zone "Es ms bien el Canal, abierto gracias al ingenio del hombre, el que ha constituido hasta ahora el medio bsico de nuestra vida. La repblica naci por obra del Canal y ha venido derivando de esta obra de dominio de las fuerzas telricas, la razn de su existir. Ismael Garca ( Medio siglo 11) During the construction of the Canal, Pana manians hoped to liberate themselves from Colombia and open their borders to the modern world. The United States helped Panama gain its independence from Colombia in 1903 an d then took control of the Panama Canal while it brought approximat ely 40,000 West Indians to the Isthmus during the first decades of the twentieth century (Duncan Teora 61). As a result, Afro-Antillean immigration from the British and French We st Indies, coupled with the large United States presence on the Isthmus, destroyed Panama's hopes of becoming a mestizo nation devoid of any visible African heritage. Moreover, the Isthmus quickly discovered that it was being ruled by yet a nother hegemonic power. The United States not only took over c onstruction of the Canal, but also transformed all aspects of Zonian life. Furthermore the United States imposed a racial hierarchy that differed from the Latin Am erican model which categorized blacks according to appearance and not the presence of African blood. This proved to be problematic since nineteenth-century Panama was already a nation characterized by racial diversity where blacks repr esented a significant porti on of the population (Smart Central American 10). Not surprisingly, th e racism imposed by the United States was based on its polarized racial system, that is, black versus white, with no va riations in between.
95 Panama and the Jim Crow Legacy Many United States soldiers deployed in the Canal Zone were raised in the racially segregated South and were highly in fluenced by the racist climate of the period, one which was fueled by the implementation of what became known as Jim Crow laws in the mid-nineteenth century.15 The practice of Jim Crow le d to segregation laws that banned interracial marriages and called for separate public facilities for blacks and whites. Jim Crow laws deprived African-A mericans of their civil rights by defining blacks as inferior to whites as a result of a caste system of subordinate people. Sociologist Jesse Dees describes th e racial subjugation as follows: Sociologically, the words Jim Crow re fer to the concept of accommodation or process of adjustment by the inferio r Negro to the superior Caucasian (especially Nordic or Anglo-saxon) group . Jim Crow, therefore, describes the accommodation of the Negro to the above so cial pattern -an accommodation to a racial struggle that has existed over 300 y ears . In brief, it applies to the position of the Negro in American Society and the words Jim Crow are synonymous to the words -segregation and discrimination. (2) United States soldiers internalized this raci st mentality and, regardless of skin tone, everyone of African descent was c onsidered to be black and, above all, inferior to whites. 15 According to Davis,The term Jim Crow originated in a song performed by Daddy Rice, a white minstrel show entertainer in the 1830s. Rice covered his face w ith charcoal paste cork to resemble a black man, and then sang and danced a routine By the 1850s, this Jim Crow character, one of several stereotypical images of black inferiority in the nations popular culture, was a standard act in the minstrel shows of the day (1-2).
96 In effect, racial discrimination on the Isthmus was modeled after the United States racial paradigm of the "one drop rule16." Because the United States could not lega lly enforce Jim Crow laws in Panama, it created a pay system for Canal Zone workers that reflected Jim Crow practices of the South. The pay system classified workers as Gold Roll and Silver Roll employees. Those designated as Gold Roll employees were prim arily whites from the United States, and those on the Silver Roll were colored Pa namanians and black West Indians (Conniff 32-36).17 Gold Roll employees earned twice as much as Silver Roll employees for the same position. Black Panamanians and Afro-Antilleans were not only paid less, they were also not allowed to use the same facili ties as those used by United States soldiers (e.g., the commissary and the restrooms). Ther e were even separate schools designated for United States soldiers and Anglophone West Indians, even though their native language was the same. In effect, the Jim Crow system in Panama maintained an imperialistic society which reinforced racism (Conniff 35). The Jim Crow system failed to recognize the diversity of the racial and ethnic composition of Panama and, by extension, of La tin America. Because the strict racial paradigm in the United States did not allow for Panamas racial ambiguities, it relegated all people of color to rigid cat egories that oscillated between blanco and moreno As a result, a dual racial hierarchy formed in Pa nama during the early tw entieth century--i.e., the one found in the Canal Zone and the other in the regions of the interior. While the Canal Zones racial hierarchy was patterned after the binary model of the United States, 16 In the United States, if a person has one drop of African blood he/she is considered to be black. 17 I use the term "colored" here to desi gnate all non-white Panamanians including mestizos, mulatos, and blacks.
97 the one in the interior followed the Latin American mestizo model. Because Panamanians had always prided themselves on not being black, those who were now considered to be negro began to harbor deep resentment against the United States. Consisting primarily of white Panamanian elites, the Panamanian oligarchy manipulated the United States binary racial code to subordinate non-white Panamanians to the category of blacks. C onniff explains this as follows: White Panamanians, who had been awar e of American racism from the start, learned how to manipulate it for their own benefit .Since Panamanian prejudices were milder than American ones, the ne t effect was less disadvantageous to the native mestizos and blacks than to the West Indians, who had to contend with racism in the Canal Zone and chauvinism in Panama. Panamanians rarely admitted to race prejudice, and when they did, they could blame the Americans for having introduced it. (42-43) Obviously, racial discrimination in the Ca nal Zone did not stem solely from the prejudices of the United States soldiers. However, the r acist nature of imperialism provided Panamanians with an easy scape goat for their own racial prejudices. Threatened by the increasing number of black s on the Isthmus, the color-conscious upper-class Panamanians did not protest the unf air treatment of the Canal Zone; rather they blamed the United States for the social injustices (McColl ough 576). While white Panamanians manipulated the racist paradigm to their advantage which allowed them to maintain their status as minority elites, co lored Panamanians found ways to distinguish themselves from other blacks as well. In e ffect, Panamanians of co lor had already begun to internalize this racist paradigm which taught that people of color were second class
98 citizens. Because the United States categ orization did not racially distinguish Panamanians from Afro-Antilleans, Panamani ans and Afro-Panamanians expressed their racism by adopting a cultural discourse of superiority and exclusion. That is, they distinguished themselves from the West Indian population based on cultural and linguistic differences. Social Protest Literature Unequal conditions and treatment in the Canal Zone led to a literature that protested the racial, social, and economic inequ ities that resulted from the construction of the Canal. Dissatisfied with the United States disregard for their rights as an autonomous nation, Panamanian writers, like many througho ut Latin America, lashed out at the United States for imposing a neocolonial regime. In general, the novels of social prot est attained special importance in Latin America in the early 1900s when they directed attention to the social conditions of the native populations whose suffering was due to the exploitation by the terrateniente s or landowners. This interest in the social conditions of the rural areas led to the indigenista movement of the 1920s and 1930s and was concentrated in the Andean region. These novels demonstrated [the] mi streatment of Andean Indian s by well-off white landowners and the mestizos to whom they delegated power over their estates (Lindstrom 50). Similarly, Panama desired to return to its autochthonous roots as a means of contesting social abuses as well as all threats agains t its autonomy. Indee d, anti-imperialism had been a major theme in Latin American literatu re since the turn of the twentieth century and had motivated many intellectuals such as Jos Enrique Rod and Jos Mart to unite their respective countries ag ainst foreign domination.
99 The Uruguayan Jos Enrique Rod (1871-1917) in his seminal essay Ariel (1900) proposed that the hope of Latin America lied in its spirit uality that was based on an overarching appreciation of aes thetics and western classical traditions symbolized by the statue of Ariel. In effect, Ariel was the affirmation of th e superiority of Spanish Americas high Culture over the technical progr ess of the United States. Reminiscent of Shakespeare's play, The Tempest Rod argued through the figur es of Prospero, Ariel, and Caliban that Latin America, with its rich Greco-Roman heritage, was superior to the United States which had lost its cultural direction due to its utilitarianism and mercantilism. This material focus was symbolized by Caliban, portrayed as a slave to the utilitarianism of the modern world. The Cuban essayi st and poet, Jose Mart (18531895), was another Latin American intellect ual who opposed United States hegemony. However, unlike Rods idealist project, whic h emphasized the spiritual leisure of a gifted elite, Mart emphasized social equa lity across races and the creation of a new intellectual tradition rooted in Latin America and not Europe. In the essay Nuestra Amrica (1891), Mart proposed a unified Latin America based on the equality of races and recognized that imperialism was a threat to the countrys progr ess in the twentieth century. Latin America responded to United Stat es imperialism in several ways; many countries would find hope in communism and socialism, movements which prompted the establishment of labor unions, uprisings and revolts against the unfair working conditions and wages that affected the re gion's working poor (Alexander 5). In opposition to the United States, these movements led to agrarian, economic, and university reforms (Alba 116). Although the socialist movement was concentrated
100 primarily in countries with strong European immigration such as Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, other countries such as Per found th at socialism offered a solution to their economic problems (115). The major exponent of Peruvian socialism was Jos Maritegui (1894-1930), who argued that Pe r's foundation was based on the Incan communal system, the ayllu, and that socialism was the means to restore Pers foundation as an indigenous nation. With regard to Panama and the unfair working conditions in the Canal Zone, Panama's worki ng class was relatively small and those who had jobs feared reprisal from the United St ates government. Although socialism was not as strong in Panama as it was in other Latin American countries, its first communist and socialist parties were formed on the Is thmus in 1925 and 1933, respectively (Alexander 391; 392). In addition, the majority of workers in Panama affected by the unequal pay system and poor working conditions were immigrants. However, two of these immigrants from Barbados, William Preston Stoute and Samuel Inis, organized a labor strike and demanded a salary increase, benef its, and the implementation of an eight hour workday. After the strike, Stoute was exiled fr om Panama, but his efforts were not in vain; the strikes resulted in the establishment of a labor union for workers in 1924 (Szok La ltima 55). During the aftermath of World War II ( 1939-1944), a nationalist spirit resurfaced in Latin America and communism became incr easingly popular in Panama (Alexander 6, 393). In 1947, students from the Nationa l Institute carried Panamas flag in demonstrations opposing the Fils-Hines treaty an agreement between the United States
101 ambassador Frank Hines and the Panamani an Foreign Minister Francisco Fils.18 Consequently, while many writers such as Jos Isaac Fbrega (1900-1986) sought to return to Panama's interior in search of panameidad, as depicted in his novel Crisol (1936), others focused on the problems of th e urban sectors located in the cities of Panama and Coln. These writers protested anot her type of injustice, that of the United States. United States imperialism initially le d to a social protest literature rooted in Panamas interior that characterized Pana ma as a Hispanic nation free from foreign influence. However, the discrimination that ma rked life in the Canal Zone with its unfair social practices eventually contributed to the expansion of protest lite rature. That is, the novela del canal, or the novel of the Canal Zone in Panama, emerged from the abovementioned social protest tradition. Literary Antecedents of the novela del canal Since 1903, when the United States helped Panama achieve independence from Colombia and assumed control and occupied the Canal Zone, the Panama Canal has been a major theme in Panamanian literature. Moreover, the Canal Zone became a prevalent theme in Panamanian literature because Pa namanians grew increas ingly hostile to and resentful of United States occupation and domination. Because United States imperialism and the construction of the Canal influenced much of the writing during this period, the production of poetic negrism, an ar tistic movement associated with the Avantgarde movement, was hindered. Thus, poetic negrism did not flourish in Panama as it 18 The Fils-Hines treaty was negotiated to prolong Unite d States possession of the military bases. The deal was signed and announced on December 10, 1947 but it was reversed two weeks later (Len Jimnez 15).
102 had in other countries with similar large Af rican descendant populations such as Cuba and Puerto Rico because Panama, like the Do minican Republic, ignored its large African population and feared that the country would tu rn into another Haiti. This fear, coupled with United States occupation of the Canal, encouraged, instead, the development of the novel of the Canal. Unlike the romantic and modernista eras, when Panamanians used poetry to sing patriotic praises to the nation, the Canal Zone became a theme in many Panamanian novels during the first decades of the twentieth century. Write rs made references to the Canal Zone which directly or indirectly crit icized United States imperialism (Seplveda 16). These novels included Josefina (1903), Las noches de Babel (1913), Crisol (1936), and Plenilunio (1947) and established the literary precedent for a major genre, the novel of the Canal, which characterized Panamanian literat ure of the late nineteen forties, fifties, and sixties.19 As Panamanians became increasingly hostile to United States abuses and its occupation of the Canal Zone, more writers turned away from Panama's autochthonous interior and concentrated on urban Panama. Writers who focused on life in Panamas cities, especially Panama City and Co ln, were the first to recognize that panameidad existed not only in the countrys in terior, as Fbrega illustrated in Crisol (1936), but that 19See chapter two for discussion of Jos Isaac Fbregas (1900-1986) Crisol (1936) and Rogelio Sinns (1904-1992) Plenilunio (1947) Julio Ardilas (1865-1918) Josefina (1903) is a modernista novel that mentions several historical facts related to the Canal involving both the French and United States occupation (Seplveda 14). Ricardo Mirs (1883-1940) Las noches de Babel (1913), published one year before completion of the Canal, chronicles the adventur es of a romantic poet, Rafael Urmaa y Caldern, and depicts a society that is now af fected by the construction of th e Canal as well as United States imperialism (17-18). For more information on literary precedents of the novela del canal and other novels of the Canal, see Mlida Ruth Seplveda's El tema del canal en la novelstica panamea (1975) and Mirna M. Prez-Veneros thesis, Raza, color y prejuici os en la novelstica contempornea de tema canalero (1973).
103 Panama City and Coln were also a vital part of Panamanian culture. Panameidad no longer focused on Panama's interior in Co cl, Penonom, Veraguas, Herrera, and Los Santos; writers now viewed Panama City and Co ln as major sites of interest because of the construction of the Canal and its rapid growth. Therefor e, the novel of the Canal not only made references to United States impe rialism, but the entire action of the novels centered on the complexities of the Canal as a catalyst for so cial change and conflict in Panama. For the purposes of this study, the novel of the Canal will be defined according to Prez-Veneros explanation: Consideraremos como novelas canaleras aquellas que utilizan como fondo la Zona del Canal; las que tratan de las in fluencias de la Zona del Canal, y no solamente de los Estados Unidos en la vida panamea y las que refieren la historia de la construccin del canal y de la vi da y el trabajo de los americanos y panameos en la Zona durante varias pocas despus de la construccin del Canal. (Raza16) Unlike novels such as Crisol, which proclaimed a racial utopia, the novel of the Canal sought to demystify the national rhet oric of racial harm ony propagated during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and exposed racial discrimination on the Isthmus. Novels that follo wed this pattern include Rodol fo Aguilera Jr.s (1909-1989) 50 millas de heroicidad (1941), Renato Ozores(1910) Puente del mundo (1951), Gil Blas Tejeiras (1901-1975) Pueblos perdidos (1963), and Yolanda Camarano de Sucres (1915-2000) La doa del paz (1967).20 While these novels addressed the historical and 20 50 millas de heroicidad (1941) chronicles the construction of the Canal (Mir La literatura panamea 54). Renato Ozores (1910) Puente del mundo (1951) examines four generations of the Lander family who
104 economic aspects of the construction of the Panama Canal, the Canal Zone novels of Joaqun Beleo Cedeo concentrated on the ps ychological effects that the United States presence had on Panamanian and West Indian wo rkers. As a result, the interest in the urban areas of Panama City and Coln contri buted to a burgeoning literature that focused on the Canal Zone and served as a platform for Beleo to denounce United States racism, imperialism, and exploitation. Joaqun Beleo C. Joaqun Beleo Cedeo (1922-1988) was born in Panama City in the poor neighborhood of Santa Ana. Born to a Panama nian mother of black colonial descent and a Colombian father from Cartagena de las In dias, Beleo was not only a novelist, but also a prolific journalist who c ontributed to the newspapers La Hora, through his column Temas ridos, and to La Repblica (Strom 4). Beleo receiv ed his college degree in public and business administration from the Univer sity of Panama; he also participated in the student movement of 1940, and worked as a laborer in the Canal Zone where he kept a diary which served as a future resource for his Canal Zone trilogy (S trom 3; Padrn 15). Beleo published four novels, including the trilogy, which will be discussed below: Luna witness the construction of the Panamanian Railroad (1850-55), the French Canal (1880-1903), and the Panama Canal (1904-1914). As the title su ggests, the novel explores the effects of Panamas geographic position and the subsequent exploitation of it (Garca Historia 167). Pueblos perdidos (1963) reveals the destruction of towns located in areas that were expl oited economically to meet the needs of the Canal (Martnez Diccionario 138). Yolanda Camarano de Sucres La doa del paz (1967) focuses on historical aspects of the years prior to the construction of the Canal (Prez-Ve nero "Raza" 17). It should be remembered that writers outside of the Isthmus also focused on problems of the Canal Zone. The Ecuadorian writer Demetrio Aguilera Malta's (1900-1981) Canal Zone (1935) condemned United States imperialism and racial discrimination as it chronicled a youths (Pedro Coorsi) struggle to find his place during United States occupation of Panama. Colombia's Jos Manuel Restrepo's (1781-1863) Dinero para los peces (1945) described the effect of United States domination in Panama during the early twentieth century (Prez-Venero Raza 11). In effect, the Canal Zone not only attracted national attention, but it concerned writers from all over Latin America who c ondemned and protested United States imperialism in general.
105 verde (1951), Curund (1956) (written in 1946), and Gamboa Road Gang, also known as Los forzados de Gamboa (1961). Beleos last published novel was Flor de banana (1965) in which he condemned the United Fruit Company for its discriminatory practices.21 Beleos trilogy not only deals with probl ems of United States imperialism and discrimination in the Canal Z one, but it also presents char acters who until this period rarely appeared in Panamanian literature. Specifically, Beleo presents the AfroHispanic, that is, the moreno or mulato who is a descendant of colonial blacks, and the Afro-Antillean, a descendant of British or French West Indian immigrants. Beleo first became familiar with the West Indian populat ion on the Isthmus as a youngster growing up in Santa Ana and, then, as a Canal Zone worker in 1940. His characterization of both the Afro-Hispanic and the Afro-West Indian brings to light the issues of race and identity as they affect life in the Canal Zone on th e one hand, and his own racial identity on the other. While Ruth Melida Seplveda, Ian I. Smart, Diana L. Strom, and Mirna PrezVenero do not classify Beleo as either a bl ack writer or as a write r of African descent, the Panamanian writer Justo Arroyo is one of the few who considers hi m to be of African descent.22 He notes: Beleo, a Black writer, sh ows, as a 'colonial' Black, how the distrust and distancing produce a form of internal racism (158). Thomas Edison also recognizes Beleos origins, sta ting that his mother was a col onial black (317). To add to the uncertainty and ambiguity of his racial background, Beleo himself does not mention 21 Flor de banana deviates from the Canal Zone theme and treats the exploitation of the native populations in Chiriqu, a region located in Panamas interior. 22 In his seminal work Central American Writers of West Indian Origin Smart considers Beleo to be a non-West Indian precursor to Panamanian West Indian literature, but he does not mention Beleo's race.
106 any racial affiliation in his one page aut obiography published in 1960 in the Panamanian literary journal Revista Lotera Prez-Veneros intervie w with the author, however, provides some insight into his personal fee lings about race and disc riminatory practices against indigenous and colonial blacks on th e Isthmus: Por ejemplo, se refiere a las palabras negro y cholo que generalmen te, en Latinoamrica ti enen una connotacin cariosa; Beleo siente que en la Zona es tas palabras encierran slo un significado negativo que l ha llegado a sentir personalmente (Raza 106). Beleo's racial ambiguity highlights th e dilemma of the Afro-Hispanic writer in Panama who often feels pressu red to adopt a national ideo logy that proclaims "todos somos panameos," and therefore erases any ethnic or racial identification from the national imaginary. As discussed in chapte r one, this trend was also evident in the writings of Jos Dolores Urriola, Federico Escobar, Simn Rivas, and Gaspar Octavio Hernndez who, as poets writing during the nationalist project, were torn between representing their country or their race. Although it is difficult to determine Beleos own racial identity, these factors and the various classifications of his own racial background are important when examining his tr eatment of Zonian racial discrimination in the Canal Zone trilogy as well as his re presentations of Afro -Hispanics and AfroAntilleans. From Social Protest to Testimonial: Th e Trilogy as Novels in Transition As already mentioned, Luna verde (1951), Curund (1956), and Gamboa Road Gang (1961) are social protest novels that denounce United States imperialism. Consistent with many social protest novels whose message obscures their other narrative components, the trilogys characters are one -dimensional products of an essentialist
107 perspective where Beleo often exaggerates Unit ed States imperialism to prove his point. Moreover, these characters plight is contro lled by an environment over which they have no control. Notwithstanding th e texts essentialisms, Beleo overcomes the limitations of the social protest novel by problematizi ng the human condition, and his novels do not always point to simplistic explanations (Ru iloba 93-94). Basically the novels depicted are grounded on the reality of the Canal Zone, much of it witnessed by Beleo himself as a Canal Zone worker, and are testimonies of individual experiences of workers and prisoners. Finally, the trilogy uses na rrative techniques that characterize the contemporary novel (e.g., stream of conscious ness and interior monologue) which enable Beleo to surpass the traditional social protest novel form. The novelty of the trilogy is that each work possesses features of the social protest novel as well as those of the testimonial na rrative, a genre in Latin America that was recognized for the first time in 1970, when Cuba's Casa de las Americas created the literary prize for testimonial literature. Biografa de un cimarrn published in 1966 by the Cuban writer Miguel Barnet, was the first novel to receive this award in 1970. Other writers such as Elena Poniatowska also hel ped legitimate documentary writers artistic freedom to rework the material they had gather ed, resulting in a text that was the writers own (Lindstrom 210). Although there were ot her testimonial narratives written before Barnets, few received recognition in th e literary canon (Gugelberger 54). The trilogys approximation to the testimoni al is no surprise because testimonial literature involves the use of techniques bo rrowed from fiction to present narrative data taken from real-world events (Lindstrom 207). In addition, the s ituation of narration in testimonio has to involve an urgency to communicate a problem of repression, poverty,
108 subalternity, imprisonment, struggle for su rvival and so on Testimonial writing, as the word indicates promotes expression of persona l experience. The personal experience, of course, is the collective struggle agains t oppression from oligarchy, military, and transnational capital (Beverley 26;Ydice 54) Beleos trilogy shar es aspects of the testimonial narrative (e.g., co llective struggles and economic and racial oppression) and effectively communicates the impact of Un ited States imperialism on the Canal Zone. Because the characters are prim arily inventions of the author (even though they may be based on historical figures), they can not be considered true testimonials of the Canal Zone experience. As such, this study will refer to each novel as a novela-testimonio a term that Beverley uses to describe narra tive texts where an author in the conventional sense has either invented a testimonio-lik e story, or, extensively reworked, with explicitly literary goals (greater figurative de nsity, tighter narrative form, elimination of digressions and interruptions, and so on), a te stimonial account that is no longer present as such except in its simulacrum (38). Alt hough the texts are not tr ue testimonials, they do share such aspects of the genre as firstperson narration and hist orical authenticity. Thus, they constitute a transitional phase that links the social protest genre and the testimonio With the exception of Curund these novels stand out for their first-person narration. While they denounce, exaggerate, repeat and at times possess underdeveloped characters, there is a first-person narrator w ho shares the trials a nd tribulations of the other characters. The narrators stress that they are sharing their personal experiences with the reader based on memories, reco llections, and testimonies of the various protagonists who fill the text. This is im portant because one of the key features of
109 testimonial literature is that the narration i s told in the first person by a narrator who is also the real protagonist or witness of the events he or she recounts, and whose unit of narration is usually a life or a signi ficant life experience (Beverley 24). Before analyzing the three novels, some background information will be helpful. Luna verde is the personal diary of Ramn de Ro quebert, a Panamanian of French origin (non-West Indian), that tr anspires between 1942 and 1947. The story is told by two narrators, "un narrador extradiegtico que narra un plur al ficticio," and "un narrador intradiegtico23"(Ramn) (Villareal Castillo 44). Th e novel chronicles the migration of Ramn from rural Ro Hato to the urban area of Panama to work in the Canal Zone in Milla Cuatro As a Milla Cuatro worker, he has an accident, returns to his native Ro Hato and then goes back to Panama to work in the Canal Zone where he is killed during an anti-imperialist student de monstration in 1947. Ramn participates in a student demonstration against the si gning of the Fils-Hines trea ty (1947) which granted the United States permission to construct military bases outside the Canal Zone. The prologue emphasizes that the text is a diario dialogado, and the narrator/protagonist Ramn explains: Hago relato de todas las cosas que me van sucediendo con claro temor (88). On the one hand, Luna verde is una copia fiel de la realidad en sus diferentes dimensiones, and on the other, it is a testimonial in diary form of Ramns experiences while working in the Canal Zone (7). Ramn records his relationships with his relatives and fello w Canal Zone workers Rodrigo, Sandino, and Ren Conquista. 23 An extradiegetic narrator is one who relates the events of the story but does not participate in the action. An intradiegetic narrator is also a character in the novel.
110 Ramn confesses that he is an avid re ader of revolutionary books such as Huasipungo (1934), En las calles (1935), La vorgine (1924), Los de abajo (1916), Don Segundo Sombra (1926), La trepadora (1925), Doa Brbara (1929), Jubiab (1935), and Cacao (1933) (88-89). Like the writers of early twentieth-century Latin American literature, Ramn desires to denounce, attac k, and give a voice to subaltern populations. However, he is not exclusively defending th e native and rural popul ations as many of these novelists did. Instead, he champions the causes of the urban sectors, that is, the mestizo, the mulato, the negro, and the chombo populations which are discriminated against in the Canal Zone. Ramn notes the effect of this protest literature: He deseado con vehemencia la nzar como sus escritores, un grito ntimo contra la miseria, contra la explotaci n, contra el hambre; y heme aqu da y noche con los bolsillos repletos de dlar es, codendome con centenares de hombres que ganan dinero y sufren miseria. (89) The second novel in the trilogy, Curund (1956), fluctuates between the chronicle and the testimonial and documents the moral, spiritual, and physical decline of Rubn Galvn (Ruiloba 83). As an anti-bildungsro man novel, it chronicles the trials and tribulations of a youth who s earches for the meaning of lif e which ends in moral and spiritual decadence. The traditional Bildungsroman, or novela de aprendizaje, chronicles a youths hardships and usually ends in some positive way where the youth overcomes these struggles to assume his pla ce in society. The anti-bildungsroman defies this tradition and ends with the youths destru ction or inability to overcome adversity and to become a productive worker of the a dult world. Although Francoise Pers does not characterize the text as an anti-bildungsroma n, she notes that it does not share the same
111 characteristics of the traditional one: Sin embargo y contrariamente a la tradicin europea del Bildungsroman, no constituye propiame nte la reconstruccin de la trayectoria evolutiva de una conciencia individual en el proceso de su apropiacin del mundo natural y social (35). As in Luna verde the principal prota gonist, Rubn, forms relationships with other Canal Zone workers including the Panamania n, Lobo Guerrero, and the West Indians, Red Box, Tamtam, Liequ, and Salvador Brow n, who are all Silver Roll employees. Rubn engages in premarital sex at the age of eleven, and lured by the high wages of the Canal Zone, he spends his holidays working in Fort Clayton at the age of sixteen. Ultimately, Rubn dies after being attacked in a church by United States soldiers. Written before Luna verde in 1946, Curund transpires at the beginning of World War II and was conceived during the summer of 1940 when Beleo worked at the Canal Zones Clayton military base. Curund describes the psychologi cal effects that arise when one culture imposes its way of life on another, and as an a dolescent, Rubn has no effective way of dealing with this domination. The follo wing passage suggests the psychological impact that the neocolonial re gime had on Rubn: Por encima de Rubn Galvn existe un pas agresivo que ha elabor ado el concepto abst racto de la palabra democracia que no expresa ninguna idea clara en la mentalidad indisciplinada de un adolescente, en conflicto con su propia trag edia (157). The phrase por encima, which is used frequently throughout the text, reinfo rces the idea that Rubn, who dies at the end, has no control over his environment, and by ex tension, falls prey to the hegemonic sociopolitical order that has destroye d everything native in Panama.
112 While Luna verde and Curund treat the problems of imperialism and religious intolerance, Gamboa Road Gang (1961) protests both the racial discrimination of the Canal Zone and United States imperialism at the same time it examines the search for identity of a black West-Indian Panamanian. This final novel in the trilogy documents the story of Arthur Ryams, or At, who is sent enced to fifty years in prison for the rape of a United States Zonian, Annabelle. Beleos examples of the social injustice of the latifundio zoneita, or Canal Zone, and racial discrimi nation demonstrate that his primary objective in writing Gamboa is to attack United States im perialism as a disruptive force that has exacerbated past racisms while, at th e same time, it has created social conditions that have transformed Panama and its nationa l imaginary. The narrator explains: Esta tambin es la historia de mi patria compe ndiada, pens. Todo el continente crey que sucumbiramos atropellados por la civilizac in saxo-americana .Odian a los gringos, porque no se apoderan de nosotro s y nos liquidan (39). Gamboa is based on the real life story of Lester Len Greaves, who was accused of raping a white woman and sentenced to fi fty years in prison. Hi storically, the text resulted in Greaves liberation from prison in 1962 (Strom 5). It is Gamboas historical veracity and denouncement of United States ra cism that position it between the social protest novel and the novela-testimonio In effect, Gamboa approximates the novelatestimonio because its narrator is a victim of unfair treatment in the Canal Zone. The narrator is an accountant sentenced to three years in prison for embezzling money from the Canal Zone. Identified as prisoner 33, and known as chief by the other inmates, the narrator shares the hopelessness and desperati on of the prisoners. His narration becomes a personal testimony of his e xperiences as well as those of the other
113 prisoners. For this reason he asserts: Est as son mis confesiones y lo que diga de los dems puede ser aceptado o rechazado (Beleo Gamboa 180). Prisoner 33 is not the typical omniscient na rrator of the novels of social protest who portrays the adversities of a marginal ized group. He becomes a part of this marginalized group because as he states: por lo menos, en la prisin, todos ramos iguales, todos convictos y todos amargados(20). It is in prison that these characters from different racial and so cio-economic groups achieve a fo rm of equality through their shared experiences and hopes for liberation. Like Luna verde and Curund Gamboa Road Gang is a transitional novel. While it pr otests and denounces United States imperialism, it provides a first person narrative of the injustices committed in the Canal Zone as represented by the inca rceration of six men, that of At, prisoner 33 (narrator), Franklin Delano Owen, Belisario Porras, Nicanor Miranda, and August Mildred. Our analysis of Luna verde (1951), Curund (1956) and Gamboa Road Gang (1961) will focus on four defining themes: de scriptive exoticism, anti-imperialism, antiWest Indian sentiment, and the emergence of the new Panamanian, the West Indian. Although each of the works does not develop a ll four themes, the latter are overarching concerns that characterize twentieth-century Panamanian literature and can be traced from the representation of blacks during the negrista period discussed in chapter two. Moreover, the themes are interrelated and illuminate the difficulty of an emerging Panamanian identity and the countrys con tinued struggle to be recognized as an autonomous nation.
114 Luna verde and Foreign Intolerance in the Canal Zone Luna verde illustrates the complexities of Panamanian identity through its characterizations of the gringa and the mulato, both products of the Canal. Although Beleo attempts to bring to light the ne w ethnic compositions that now characterize Panama, his descriptions often lead to one -dimensional characterizations. As a result, Luna verde is typical of much of the social prot est literature of the 1920s and 1930s in its one-dimensional characterizations and repeti tions, especially when it pertains to denouncing the United States. These simplis tic descriptions exist in Panamanian literature, albeit to a lesser extent than in the literature of the Hispanic Caribbean. Although the trilogy denounces im perialism and United States treatment of marginalized groups on the Isthmus, the texts often exa ggerate or stereotype the West Indian population on the Isthmus. In Luna verde these characterizations lead to essentialist descriptions of the two primar y figures mentioned above: the gringa and the mulato White women are attracted to black men in Luna verde and therefore exist primarily to satisfy the male sexual appe tite and serve as vehicles to denounce imperialism. In negrista literature, black women were t ypically portrayed as seductive temptresses who destroyed their victims (Williams 69). Beleo substitutes this negative image of the black woman with that of the gringa His descriptions of the gringa possess the same sexual attributes that negrista writers used to characterize the mulata, mestiza, and negra Thus, the descriptions of the gringa mirror those of the mulata who dates back to nineteenth-century Spanish American literature. In Luna verde, Ramns description of a white woman is reminiscent of the negrista period when mulatas negras, and zambas were described as a kind of forbidden fruit.
115 Te amo, gringa-gringuita de piel sin car otn y xantofila; blanca de ausencia de mi sol, intocada de mi raza. ¡Oh fiesta de la raza de mi cuerpo y el tuyo! [ ] Djame olerte a gringa-gringa, djame re r en tu boca, locamente, hasta que mi raza contagie tu raza, tu mandbula ponderosa de sajona dominante (139) In negrista literature, exotic and sens ual descriptions of the mulata provided folklore and primarily served to satisfy the male's sexual appetite. However, the sexual description of the gringa in this text serves a different purpose: to obtain revenge against the United States. The passage strongly suggests revenge against the gringa a revenge that no doubt stems from Ramn's anger against the Unite d States. In effect, Ramn desires to dominate the white race (contag ie tu raza) by darkening it, a nd it is evident that he uses the gringa as his only weapon to fight against imperialism. As evidenced by the above description of the gringa Beleos characterization serves to criticize United States imperialism and illustrates the injust ice that United States soldiers brought to the Isthmus. Bele os texts denounce unfair wages paid under the Silver Roll and the Gold Roll, and they cr iticize treatment of Panamanian and AfroAntillean women by the United States. Ramns grandfather, Don Porfirio de Roquebert, abhors the United States arrogance, as we ll as the soldiers abuse of women on the Isthmus (224, 226). The lasciviousness of the United States soldiers who sexually take advantage of Panamanian women disturbs him the most. Consumed with hatred, he kills the North American who was in love with his daughter. Porfirio describes to his grandson, Ramn, what incites his hatred: Odio a los gringos porque ellos tratan de humillar a todo cuanto ayudan. Ellos saben rer y saben dominar. Entonces se hacen dueos de todo cuanto quieren.
116 Yo he visto morir a los hombres como a rrieras en Culebra Ellos dicen que el canal es de ellos. Pero mienten porque all trabajamos todos los hombres de la tierra; vinimos de Europa, de Africa, de Asia y de Amrica Pero los gringos se han apoderado de esa obra y ellos excl usivamente pretende n ser los dueos absolutos. Y fue por eso por lo que lo mat. (226-27) In effect, the relationship that Don Porfirio 's daughter had with a United States soldier symbolizes both the rape of the Isthmus and that of the Panamanian woman. Thus, the invention of the female stereotype of bl ack sexuality and promiscuity on the one hand, and the purity and chastity of the white woman on the other, emerges as an expansion of negrista literature in the 1920s. Interestingly enough, Beleos text s do not merely idealize the gringa or mulata, but also idealize the mulato The mestizo mulato, and chombo of mixed racial ancestry are now described as exotic creatures. Be leo appropriates this ro mantic discourse and applies it to the male West I ndian, Sandino, who is half East Indian and half West Indian: Sandino era uno de esos hombres raros y primitivos, producto de un fecundo cruce de razas exticas (166). This combination incites women, especially the gringa to seek him out. Yo conoc a Sandino. Era un muchacho cruza do de hindostano y antillana. Tena el cabello liso y negro. Sus rasgos eran del tipo caucsico; pero deformado por la imperceptible pelcula de movimiento que siempre imprime la raza negra. Delgado, alto y muy elegante. (165-66) This description enlightens the reader to the contradictions inherent in social protest literature and in literature that examines unde rrepresented populations such as blacks and
117 indigenous peoples. While the passage admire s Sandinos height, physical stature, and appearance, it demeans his blackness. The re ference to deformado creates a negative tone that stems from racial pr ejudice based on percei ved biological and so cial inferiority. While Sandinos European features are accen tuated (cabello liso), his blackness is viewed as a detriment to his physical app earance as well as to his character. The description inevitably values the white aesthetic and demeans and devalues the black one. Sandino represents the various cultures th at now characterize Panama. The United States presence brought such unwanted populations to the Isthmus as the West Indian. As a result, Panamanians struggled to deal w ith the West Indianness that is an integral part of Panamanian culture. The prejudice was not only racial, but also cultural as natives dealt with a country that culturally a nd linguistically approxi mated the Caribbean. Ramn discovers that he is unable to accept the antillanidad of a country that resembles the Caribbean instead of South America (206). He reaches the conclusion that, Quiz estemos ms cerca de las Antillas que de Colombia y de all la confusin de nuestras almas (266). In effect, he finds himsel f caught between two worlds, two cultures, and two languages. While he feels compelled to accept the antillanidad in Panamanian culture, he fears that this will signify a loss of panameidad and, therefore, hispanidad.24 West Indians are repeatedly viewed as allies to North American interests, particularly since they shar e the language of the new colonizer. Ramns friend, Rodrigo, expresses this distru st: Millones de dlares, mile s de antillanos que piensan y 24 One should bear in mind that in 1902, the overall population of Panama was 80,000 and by 1940, 13,000 Antilleans remained in the Canal Zone and 20,000 in the rest of the republic (Duncan Teora 61). Therefore, by the early twentie th century, the West Indian population almost doubled that of the overall Panamanian population.
118 sienten con las ideas y los sentimientos de la s revistas norteamericanas que leen (240). Ramn concurs, asserting: gringos [que] pref ieren el jamaicano porque su lengua inglesa no sirve para contestar, que no para la protesta (41). The West Indians success was attributed to their perceived submissiveness and indifference to racial inequities as illustrated in Luna verde (122). However, Panamanian West Indian writers demonstrate that this is not the case in their postcolonial works. Moreover, Luna verde represents the inherent conf licts and contradictions of social protest literature. The novel tragica lly ends with the death of Ramn who fights against United States imperialism. Beleo recognizes that Ramn and other workers are victims of imperialism, but th e text still demonstrates am biguity towards new populations that have resulted from United Stat es dominance. As Sandino and the gringa are repeatedly admired for their exoticism, and fo r their marginalized status in the case of Sandino, they are also viewed with contempt due to the cultural and economic changes that they brought with them. Curund and Religious Intolerance in the Canal Zone While Luna verde deals with the cultural and economic impact of neoimperialism, Curund looks closely at the religious differences between Rubn Galvn and Salvador Brown. That is, the novel expl ores religious differen ces between the AfroHispanic and Afro-West Indian populations The negative comments about the AfroAntillean population in Curund most often refer to the population's religious convictions. For example, the narrator compar es a line to the prayers of a West Indian: la fila es larga como la reverencia de un antillano viejo (12). This commentary undoubtedly results from the relig ious convictions of the West Indian population and its
119 belief in Protestantism instead of Catholicism. However, it is the protagonist's relationship with West Indian Salvador Br own that proves to be most problematic. Rubn Galvn and Salvador Brown meet coincidentally when signing up to work in the Canal Zone. Rubn and Salvador cont rast spiritually, phys ically, racially, and culturally. When describing himself, Rubn Ga lvn proudly writes that he is moreno and not negro or black (19). As Mario Andino observes: Rubn Galvn vive una contradiccin: es oscuro, mo reno, sin llegar a ser negro (86). Rubn Galvn[d]esde muy nio haba aprendido que los chombos y los manutos le quitan los trabajos a la gente como a su pap que tienen que trabajar en construccin (221).25 Rubn has problems with all blacks stemming from his paternal grandmothers prejudices. His grandmother, who had always prided herself on being Hi spanic, hated her son for marrying a black woman, a morena from Portobelo (80). As opposed to Rubn, Salavador is moreno, azafranado, cabeza amplia, rasurada al rap y boca redonda y sensual (23). Although Beleo describes Salvador as moreno he notes physical distinctions that identify the protagonist more with hi s African roots than with his Spanish or European heritage. His boca redonda y sensual, a characteristic of African descendants, distinguishes hi m from Rubns more Europ ean features, even though the latter may be just as dark. West Indian Salv ador Brown is portrayed as a religious zealot and is derogatorily referred to as Kid Salv a Cuatro, a pejorative te rm used to designate all Christians who are not Catholic (25). A ppropriately named Salvador or Saviour, the West Indian is repeatedly characterized as a religious fanatic who is not in touch with the social reality of the Canal Zone. 25 Manutos are campesinos or countrymen.
120 The religious dialogue between Salvador and Rubn demystifies some of the prejudices that both groups harbor against each other's religion. When speaking to Rubn and a group of workers, Salvador reminds the group that: En nombre de tu bonita religin catlica, mataron a los indios y traj eron a los negros para esclavizarlos (191). But Rubn reminds Salvador of the racial a nd ecclesiastical segregation in the United States churches that preven t blacks and whites from worshi ping together (192). Lobo Guerrero retorts: Mentira, ustedes no creen en Cristo, slo los catlicos creemos en Cristo, en la virgen y en su s iglesias Dnde has visto t alguna vez en tu vida, una iglesia protestante mejor que una iglesia cat lica? (187). The characters' youth and lack of knowledge of other cultures and religions lead them to such narrow conclusions. Beleo opposes the myths and religious intole rance between both groups and attempts to generate discussion between them. Although Beleo succeeds in exposing the myths that both groups have about each others religion, he fails in his analysis by portraying Salvador as a marginalized and flawed character. In addition, in his contra st between Rubn and Salvador, Beleo often exaggerates the latters religious convictions. For example, Brown is such a religious zealot, that he relates learning English to learning about God (148). Even as Rubn searches to find true meaning in religion, he ends by returning to Catholicism, the national religion of Panama. Salvador, no doubt, will continue trying to convert others to Protestantism, a religion that Panamanians associate with West Indians and United States foreign invaders of the Isthmus.
121 Anti-West Indian Sentiment Protestantism in opposition to Catholicis m contributed to the anti-West Indian sentiment in Panama. Religion, however, was no t the only divisive factor that caused hatred towards the group. The Afro-Antillean who migrated from the British West Indies to work on the North American Canal could sp eak English and often received preferential jobs and treatment in the Zone (Biesanz Cultural 773). Thus, West Indians were viewed as outsiders by Panamanians. The ne w Panamanian of West Indian descent who emerges in Beleos works is one of mixed heritage, half-West In dian and half-North American, but not yet Panamanian. These characters are in search of their identity and fight to be recognized as gringos. Curunds Red Box is a gringo-chombo, but he imagines himself as something different (167) Born to a North American father and a West Indian mother in Panama, Red Box stri ves to prove his whiteness in a Zone that classifies anyone of color as black, regardless of skin tone. More disturbingly, Red Box sees nothing but his whiteness and disdains everything associated with black people. According to the text: Quizs por eso no gustaba de ver su rost ro en un espejo porque su faz rubicunda, esmaltada de pecas, no se conformaba armoniosamente lo que l mismo se imaginaba ser. Sus rasgos negroides, pronunciadamente belicosa su porte rubicundo, siempre le ofendieron de la mi sma manera que sus apretados cabellos duros; duros y rojizos que l acariciaba intilmente, con un movimiento nervioso de sus manos, en un afn, de ondularlos con su contemplacin. (167-68) Red Boxs self-image fails to correspond to what he imagines it to be, and his selfhatred reminds us of Fanon's assertion that the negro who is a victim of colonization
122 "[...]is overwhelmed to such a degree by the wish to be white, it is because he lives in a society that makes his inferiorit y complex possible, in a societ y that derives its stability from the perpetuation of this complex26 (100). Red Boxs self-image is challenged when he tries to enter a church for whites on ly, in order to clean up after the incident (199, 206). Red Box refuses to see himself for who he really is, and the priest does not allow him to enter the church because no lo mi ran a usted como blanco (206). Red Box attempts to assert his authority as a fore man, which he believes he deserves, not only because of his position in the Canal Z one, but also due to his Anglo American roots. Furious over not receiving a cold glass of water, he berates his subordinate Julio Quintano for not responding to him with su ch phrases as Yes Sir or No Sir."27 Red Box responds to Quintanos lack of respect and obliviousness to Reds status as a gringo by venting: I am an American citizen My name, Red Red Box The Killer and you negars (en ingls). Por eso tienen que obedecerme. Yo soy gringo (174). Red Box does not recognize that he too is a chombo or a negar (nigger) in the eyes of White Americans and to some Panamanians as we ll. Again, it is useful at this point to return to Fanon who argued that racial oppr ession often made blacks turn against themselves and appropriate the racial discour se of the colonizer (192). In effect, the black utilizes the discourse of the colonizer against his own people, and by extension, 26 In this respect, Red Box evokes the West Indian Ch arles McForbes, a character in the Afro-Costa Rican Quince Duncans Los cuatro espejos (1973), who is in search of his identity and whose mirror image does not correspond to what he imagines it to be. Like Charles, Red Box refuses to acknowledge his blackness, but unlike him, he does not reconn ect with his African roots. 27During the Jim Crow era, blacks in the United Stat es had to address whites using the word Sir to demonstrate the proper respect due to a white man b ecause of the latters superiority to the black.
123 himself. While Red Box identifies others as chombos, he refuses to see himself as one of them. After receiving his paycheck, Red Box deci des that he wants to celebrate in a whites-only bar, the Clubhouse de Balboa. When Rubn and others warn him not to go, he ignores them thinking that he will be allowed to enter because he is a gringo. When he enters the bar, a black West Indian waitress refuses to seat him for fear of reprisal from the other patrons; Rubn become s enraged and gets in to a fight with the white patrons. As a result, he, Rubn, and Tamtam are fined for that weeks earnings. Anti-West Indian Sentiment and Language Curund not only explores religious and cultural tensions between AfroHispanics and Afro-Antilleans, it also examines the linguistic distinctions that separate them. Language is a fundamental part of this trilogy and is esp ecially examined in Curund While the characters often express di sdain for West Indians because of their ability to speak English, they secretly admi re them and wish they too could communicate in the language of the new colonizer (Beleo Curund 147). In addition, Beleo makes a concerted effort to reproduce the English dialects (English-base d Creole and North American English) in the Canal Zone.28 One of the innovations of Beleos texts is the reproduction of West Indian speech produced by first generation West Indian characters 28 Throughout this study, English-based Creole and En glish will be used interchangeably to identify the language spoken by the West Indian population. However, it is important to recognize that the English referred to is an English-based Creole. In Dictionary of Panamanian English Leticia C. Thomas Brereton acknowledges: The language spoken by the Caribbean people who immigrated to Panama, their descendants and by others who have learned it from them is an English-based Creole. Creoles are languages with multi-lingual roots and are primarily lexified by one language but show influences of one or more other languages in their lexicon, syntax and phonology. Throughout the city of Panama the language of Antillean Panamanians is commonly known as English (v-vi).
124 as well as the Panamanians who attempt to sp eak English as laborers. Many of the terms are glossed at the end of the texts or incl uded in footnotes. For example, the phrase mfander is the Spanish pr onunciation of the English phrase move from there (123). Beleo transcribes the language of the Canal Zo ne, which is what th e narrator describes as an unharmonious mixture of Spanish a nd English (136). The following language exchange between two West Indian Cana l Zone workers, Tamtam and Liequ, demonstrates Beleos ability to reproduce the effect of migration and linguistic hybridity in Panama. As the narrator acknowledges, the language of Tamtam and Liequ is, un nuevo idioma, hasta cierto punto, mezcla y al eacin de ingls y castellano (135). Tamtam begins: T ve Liequ, el vaciln es as, spar ¡El vaciln! Si tu te pones tof, t te encuentras tu mama y tu pap en la calle. Y esa boai! Tu sae bien a nosotro no guta vacil aqu y ram, ahuecamo pa onde otro pedazo de gallina que le guste el vaciln. T ve el vaciln ? (Liequ afirma en silencio). (135-36) The language exchange between Tamtam a nd Liequ demonstrates the linguistic hybridity inherent on the Isthmus that is repr esentative of the cultu ral differences that typify hybrid cultures. Despite Panamas resistance to change and unwillingness to accept West Indians as a legitimate part of their country, these changes have already taken place linguistically. The dialogue is composed of panameismos words that are characteristic of Panamanian speech such as "vaciln" (joke) and West Indian speech such as "spar" and "tof" (Padrn 18). R ealizing that the reader will not understand
125 certain words, Beleo glosses the terms "spar" and "tof" which he translates respectively as friend and tough." This exchange stems from Beleos personal experiences growing up with West Indians in Santa Ana and as a Canal Zone worker in Clayton. However, as Ian Smart notes, Beleo's unde rstanding of West Indian culture and language is limited. While he recognizes that "spar" is not Panamanian and resembles the English word "spark" and is used contextually to mean "friend," he doe s not realize that it comes directly from Jamaican Creole and is derived from the expression sparring partner ( Central American 37, 127). Like other well-in tentioned Panamanians during this period, Beleo is an outside r to the West Indian culture. Be that as it may, the important point to make here is that Beleo reproduces the linguistic transformation, and West Indians are viewed as outsiders who have corrupted the Spanish language. As a re sult, they are further margin alized which contributes to their image as intruders who are incapable or unwilling to assimilate into Panamanian society. After the interchange between Tamtam and Liequ, the narrator of Curund reflects on the cultural significance that thes e new people and their language bring to the country: Era la Mosca de Oro de la corrupci n que transitaba desde el bajo fondo de una antillanidad envilecida y de un yanquism o degenerante del idioma que ascenda corrompiendo las formas de expresin (139). West Indian speech, just as the population itself, is viewed contradictorily. They are admired for their exoticism and as an economic asset to the country, yet they are also viewed with disdain for the cultural, racial, and linguistic implications that th ey have on the Isthmus.
126 Gamboa Road Gang and the Double Consciousness of At Like Curund, Gamboa Road Gang examines racial conflicts between West Indians and Panamanians. The introduction to Gamboa confirms the novels antiimperialistic sentiment when the narrator-protagonist says: Los yanquis siguen explotando, a costa nuestra y del mundo entero, la industria canalera y nuestra estratgica posicin mundial, a nombre del mito de la De mocracia (81). Similar to Don Porfirio, the narrator reinforces that Panama was e xploited because of its geographic location. The most overt denouncement of United Stat es imperialism can be seen when Gamboa s narrator compares the Canal Zone to a latifundio which he describes as un latifundio vital y estratgico de los Estados Uni dos en la Amrica Latina (81). His latifundio is the Canal Zone and the terratenientes are represented by the United States government. Coupled with the anger against the United St ates was the Panamanians' distrust of the West Indian population; Panamanians view ed West Indians as new citizens of the country who were not totally committed to the national project. Gamboa s Nicanor Miranda suggests: Ustedes son panameos cuando les conviene y cuando no, ingleses (149). Panamanians wanted the West Indian population to give up their cultural ties and patriotic allegiances to th eir homeland. The Afro-Panaman ian critic Juan Materno Vsquez reinforces this sentiment with the following comment: Conviven con los zonians, un importante grupo nacion al, los antillanos, de piel oscura, costumbres raras de idioma ingls, para quienes Panam an slo es la tierra que pisan (131). Although Gamboa attempts to expose discriminatory practices against Panamanians as well as West Indians, it of ten ends up contributing to the very same racial stereotypes that it in tends to condemn. In fact, Bele o was criticized for his novels
127 derogatory remarks against West Indians. The Panamanian West Indian writer, Carlos Guillermo Wilson (discussed in chapter four), as well as the Panamanian writer Justo Arroyo, have both noted the anti-West Indian sentiment in Beleos works (BirminghamPokorny Interview16; Arroyo 158). For exam ple, when describing Nellys children, the narrator compares their blackness with cordones elctricos (55). This statement objectifies their blackness and does not possess r acial sensitivities. Also, when describing the homes in a West Indian neighborhood, Gamboas narrator states that contrary to what one may believe, the neighborhood is clean. According to the text: Contrario a lo que pueda pensar de un barrio de antillanos, los patios son muy limpios y los cuartos amueblados con es timulante invitacin orden y al buen gusto ingls. La gente se baa diaria mente, aunque a veces se baen con agua de muertos, rito antihiginico que su ele practicarse cuando muere algn vecino. Pero eso es para tener buena suerte. En t odas partes la gente bacea en la regadera, se limpia los dientes y huele a ser humano higienzado. (54) Notwithstanding Beleos attempts to disp el myths about the Af ro-Antillean population, his discussion results in a reinforcing of th ese very stereotypes. Beleos description is telegraphic and lacks an inside rs perspective, that is, fr om within the West Indian culture. He reflects the racist stereotype s of the national imaginary and echoes the Panamanian national rhetoric. His tone is nega tive and it is evident that he is an outsider to the population when viewing their bathing ritu als as superstitious instead of as a vital part of their culture. It is no surprise, then, that Carlos Wilson cites this passage as one that infuriates him the most because it demeans the Afro-Antillean population (Birmingham-Pokorny Interview 16-17).
128 Beleos texts make disparaging remarks that had been typically ascribed to blacks in the literature of the nineteen th century as well as that of the negrista period. Blacks are continuously describe d uniformly as sensual and sexual beings who dance. Annabelle Rodney, the alle ged rape victim of Gamboas At, wrote a thesis entitled, La contribucin folklrica del ne gro americano en la cultura de los Estados Unidos, and observes that for whites in both Panama a nd the United States, blacks epitomize the anthropological (151). Annabe lle's thesis supports the noti on that her relationship with At was superficial and cultivated by curiosity and folkloric interest. In Gamboa inmate August Mildred affirms: La mujer blanca que est tocada por un negro, nunca se olvida de l (173). This remark points to sexual my ths ascribed to black men as well as the attraction of white women to them. As Fanon commented some time ago: A white woman who has had a Negro lover finds it di fficult to return to white men (171). The idea of a relationship between a bl ack man and a white woman leads the narrator to ponder the motives of Annabelle's interest in At. He alludes to this when referring to the possible existence of a rela tionship between Annabelle and At: Sera cierta la existencia de una ciudadana norteamericana, cuyos horribles dolores de cabeza no tienen explicacin cientfica a menos que no sea la nocin errada de un extravo sexual, realizado plenamente al influjo del alcohol carnavalesco y el calypso nocturnal? (114). This stereotype echoes the charact erization of Elena Cunha in Sinn's Plenilunio. Not only are white women sexually promiscuous but their relationship with a black man can only be explained by the influence of outsi de factors such as al cohol in a dim setting. At night, influenced by alcohol a nd the West Indian calypsos, the gringa has no control over her behavior, and her actions are dismissed as sexual whims. In addition, blacks
129 symbolize the biological for whites. Both the narrator and the in mate (August Mildred) reduce the relationship between Annabelle and At to a sexual adventure based on Annabelle's sexual curiosity simply because At is black. Despite Beleos diatribe against white women, he is outraged by the negative perception that United States soldiers have towards Panamanian women. The soldiers view black women as sexual objects. The narrator of Gamboa admonishes the soldiers for these negative perceptions: Para un gri ngo, pens, una mujer chomba o una mujer panamea es slo un artefacto un poco raro saciarse. Luego le hace un hijo y se larga del pas (26). Ironically, the prot agonists do not question the de sires of Panamanians to be with white women, yet evoke a sense of hatred when it comes to the sexual violation of Panamanian women. An example of this se xual violation includes the rape of Perla, At's girlfriend, who is gang raped by Bobby Rodney (Annabelles brother) and his friends who are seeking a black woman to ave nge Annabelles rape. The description of Perlas rape and its aftermath is one of Beleos most poignant and artistic representations of Zonian crime and violence. Reproduced here in its entirety, the passage demonstrates violence as well as racial a nd gender inequities in the Canal Zone. El cuerpo doliente y ardiendo en sus muslos. Las muecas, los brazos y los pies, amoratados. Las uas blancas se dibujaron clavadas en su carne barbadiense, color de t. La boca rota y la cara ara ada. Como fue arrastrada sobre el llano, su traje de dacrn qued entre zarzas y cad illos. Sus interiores rasgados por manos rubias que tiraron de ella igual que si arrancasen pellejos de una res muerta. A su pelo aplanchado estaba n adheridas briznas secas del camino. Apestaba a gringos borrachos. Y le dola el sexo por dent ro. Cayeron ondulando
130 sobre ella como buitres blancos sobre la morrina. Apretaron sus senos hasta arrancarle gritos de dolor en su larga pesadilla. Haba muerto y muerto bajo los machos de manos rudas que corcovearon s obre su cuerpo de calipso. Entonces la dejaron abandonada Y sobre su cuerpo hela do, roto y pegajoso descendieron los mosquitos La retreta de los mosquitos zumb sobre su cuerpo exnime. Haba perdido el conocimiento. Se defendi hasta lo ltimo. Pero sucumbi rebelde y se entreg a la tierra. Los gringos cayer on sobre su cuerpo mientras tuvo fuerzas. Le cayeron encima, unos sostenindole la s manos y otros los pies, como los condenados a descuartizamiento. Ella se rebel y pate, enardeciendo ms a Bobby Cuando abri los ojos haba salido el sol y todo hallbase bajo la penumbra sombreada de la maana. Estaba desnuda, inmvil. (132-33) Like the corpse of an animal, Perla's body is accosted by mosquitos. Raped and almost beaten to death, Perla is re scued by two other Panamanians and encouraged to go to the police. However, after a conve rsation about the social and r acial inequities in the Canal Zone, she decides to return hom e and not report the incident. Perlas rescuer tells her, Gamboa se hizo para los negros y no para lo s blancos...La justicia no se ha hecho en la Zona para los blancos sino para los negros (137). Her rescuers statements make it clear that even if Perla were to go to the police, this heinous crime would go unpunished because of racial inequities in the so cial justice system in the Canal Zone In addition, Perlas gender prevents her from reporting the crime and underlines the double dilemma of a black female victim. Clearly, if Perl a were white like At s alleged victim, she would not fear reporting th e crime. As a black woma n, she is doubly marginalized because of her race and gender and is unable to achieve justice.
131 At's Double Consciousness Like Curund s Red Box, Gamboas Arthur Ryams exemplifies the new Panamanian. At is a mestizo -born to a mother from Barbados and a North American father (Beleo Gamboa 67). Although he represents the 1st generation of children born to West Indian immigrants and blends elemen ts of the West Indies, the United States, and Panama, it is his chombo heritage that proves to be problematic in the Zone (Conniff 68). At is described as: un muchacho de cabe llos rojos y atrasados, de piel rubicunda y manchada de pecas. La primera impresin es la de un negro al bino, pero observndolo con familiaridad se descubre enseguida que su madre es una lgitima negra y su padre, un sajn de pura cepa (Beleo Gamboa 43). However, At is simply black to the other prisoners. Perhaps as a reflection of the Unite d States perception of race, his prison mate, Franklin Delano Owen notes: Todo el que te nga madre negra, es negro, aunque sea gringo (43). However, At is also a gringo-chombo, chombo-b ruto..gringo-pobre, chombo malluln y chombo-blanco, who wishes to be only gringo (67). At attempts to blanquearse by straightening his hair daily with Pomada Cuba and by having a relationship with a white woman, Annabelle, be cause una gringa vale cien aos (42). From his viewpoint, he deserves to be with Annabelle because [e]lla (Annabelle) es gringa y yo tambin soy gringo (41). At refuses to accept his West Indian heritage and demeans the other AfroAntillean inmates just as other Panamanians and North Americans did before him. Speaking of the West Indian inmate Wallai, At exclaims: ¡Ponlo en su lugar! Ninguno de estos chombos son gente. Yo los conozco. En su casa comen como puercos, con la mano. Aqu es donde vienen a ser gente y a comer con tenedor y cuchillo (22). Ats
132 own self-image is distorted to the extent th at he does not recognize himself as a member of this group that he so vehemently abhor s. Furthermore, he has appropriated and internalized the national disc ourse that views West Indian s as second class citizens. Because of his self-hatred, At is despised by other West Indian prisoners. Wallai, a West Indian who obviously views At as a trai tor to his own race, mocks his attempt to be white and to distinguish himself from othe r prisoners because he received a fifty-year sentence for having been with a blue-eyed queen. The message of Wallais mockery is evident. At has alienated himself from his West Indian ancestry and does not know his true identity. In prison, At comes to this self-realization, and finally identifies himself as black. In prison, At distances himself from the other black prisoners and demeans them because they remind him of his blackness. Having internalized the racism, the black becomes negrophobic and turns against hims elf and other blacks (Fanon 190-195). At has internalized this inferiority complex and evokes a self-hatred and self-loathing due to the colonizers image of him. Like Red Box, At reflects Fanon's notion of a black inferiority complex: Since in all periods the Negro has been an inferior, he attempts to react with a superiority complex It is because the Negro belongs to an inferior race that he seeks to be like the superior race (213, 215) At is a victim because society has made him inferior and left him with no other option than to abhor his blackness and seek status as a white man. Within the confines of the Canal Zone, the only thing that matters is Ata's blackness or whiteness. There is no room to be either Panamanian or West Indian. Although it may seem to be a simplification to classify the problem of At's identity by
133 utilizing the binary black-wh ite paradigm (i.e., West Indi an/Anglo-American), he does not strive to be Panamanian or West Indian. Only At' s Anglo-American ancestry and ability to pass or to be recognized as a gringo is valued. At emphasizes the chombogringos marginal status: Los amigos mos que son negros no son panameos, porque ustedes no los quieren y los desprecian. No son gringos, porque aqu en la Z ona no los aceptan. No son ingleses, porque la nacionalidad de sus padres no significa nada para ellos. Somos judos. No tenemos patria. So mos lo que somos: gente que respiramos. Por eso yo quiero ser alguien. Quiero ser gringo. Soy negro. Soy gringo. T ves mi piel (147) Clearly, Beleo demonstrates the effect th at migration and displacement have on an individual through the figure of At. As Ian Smart notes in Central American Writers of West Indian Origin : His [At] chombo blood inspires in him too a psychotic hatred for the only group that is willing and eager to accept him. Th is hatred is symptomatic of a presumed chombo inferiority and an equally unscien tifically posited Yankee superiority. Like all of Beleos chombos he tends to be servile, and this is reinforced in his case by an absolute contempt for himself and his people. (18) Beleo identifies the ramifications of th is polarized racial system by relating the historical account of Lester Len Greaves through the problematic character of At. Throughout the novel, At receives letters from Annabelle and secre tly hopes that she will prove his innocence by going to the Zonian police. After receiv ing Annabelles last letter and discovering through the Zonian news paper that she plans to wed, At finally
134 realizes that Annabelle will never tell the tr uth, and more importantly, that his dream of liberation has come to an end. When she marries a Captain in the United States, his hopes are destroyed and he ba sically commits suicide by attempting to escape from prison. The prison guards have no other choice bu t to kill him when he crosses the line. Annabelle was not only un smbolo de su libertad, but a symbol of his desire to become a gringo (119). His relationship with he r (re)affirmed his status as a gringo because a white woman would never date a black man. Unable to deal with this realization, and still disillusi oned about his identity, At yells while escaping: Yo soy At. Yo soy blanco. Yo soy gringo Yo tengo un padre rubio y una novia azucena (170). Ironically, it is when At is close to committing suicide that he acknowledges for the first time that he is black, privately te lling the narrator: Anna belle y yo somos dos lneas paralelas. Negro y blanco (139). Th e two parallel lines, one black and the other white, is a metaphor for the relationship be tween At and Annabelle. Like these two lines, they will never complete their union. Ev entually, At is unable to deal with the reality of his blackness and escapes so cietys racism by fleeing to his death. The conflict of Gamboas At and of Curund s Red Box, both of North American and Anglophone Caribbean ancestr y, evokes the African-American scholar W.E.B. Du Bois concept of double consciousness. It is worthwhile to return to Du Boiss seminal essay The Souls of Black Folk written in 1903, wher e he describes the problem of the twentieth century as th at of the color line. He states: It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, th is sense of always looking at ones self through the eyes of others, of measuring one s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt a nd pity. One ever feels his twoness, an
135 American, a negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconc iled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogge d strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. (5) Gamboa's At and Curund's Red Box are also plagued by this twoness, which has led them to deny their negritude in hope of acceptance and social status. They do not know how to simultaneously embrace their West I ndian and North American roots because society only values their whiteness. T hus, in the Canal Zone, they are both gringo and chombo searching for an identity. Ashamed of thei r West Indian heritage, they seek status as gringos This generation of West Indians, the first generation to be born on the Isthmus, has not yet begun to accept or explore their panameidad Due to racial tensions on the Isthmus, caused by problems stemming from the colonial period as well as those brought by the United States, they stru ggle primarily as black subjects in a world that values whiteness. This is not unlike the future genera tions who still struggle with this racial paradigm; however the genera tion of At and Red Box has only begun to explore one facet of it. Gamboa Road Gang is one of the most studied Panamanian novels inside and outside of the Isthmus because for the fi rst time a Panamanian author successfully portrays a man (At) struggling with himself and with his environment to belong to a human and social group whic h rejects him (Smart Central American 13). At represents a contradiction. He is a chombo-gringo, and as a result, tiene patria y no tiene patria (Beleo Gamboa 26). The struggle does not end with At; his girlfriend Perla has just given birth to another child, ironically father ed by her white rapist, Bobby. As Beleo
136 warns us of the cyclical nature of history, the baby will inevitably be otro At, soando con otra Annabelle (162). The Canal Zone is a meeting place, a geographical point of union and disunion that symbolizes the conjunction and disjuncti on of various cultures and ethnicities. The Canal Zone trilogy is a metaphor for the cultural, racial, a nd linguistic plurality that characterized Panama during this era and cont inues to characterize the Isthmus. These various characters represent Panama's cultu ral plurality characterized by people of African, indigenous, and Hispanic descent. This plurality is most apparent in Gamboa Road Gang where the characters from diverse backgrounds unite in prison, a place similar to the Canal Zone that symbolizes an imposed order. Each of these characters strives to obtain an identity but fails. In turn, the Canal Zone is a reflection of this plurality as a place of trans it where various cultures, countries, and peoples constantly intersect and encounter. It is also a contradiction that re presents economic promise and hope as well as geographical exploitation a nd (neo)imperialism. While it gave Panama economic independence, it also subordinated the country to a hegemonic regime that further transformed the national foundation of the Isthmus. Conclusions The Canal Zone symbolizes the cultural, li nguistic, and racial c onflicts inherent in Panamanian society. The lives of the prota gonists in the aforem entioned trilogy end in destruction caused by internal and external conflicts, those of Panama and the United States. Long before the United States began construction of the Canal in 1904 and assumed occupation of the Zone, there were racial problems in Panama. However, the United States presence exacerbated these raci al problems by imposing a polarized racial
137 construction on Panama that resembled the racial paradigm of the Southern United States. In effect, the Canal Zone has emerged as a microcosm of Panama wh ere racial conflicts and tensions affect relationships among Anglo-Americans and Panamanians, West Indians, Afro-Hispanics, latinos and indigenous communities. The Canal Zone trilogy chronicles the pe rsonal quests of Ramn de Roquebert, Rubn Galvn, and Arthur Ryams (At) who all perish tragically wh ile struggling to find the meaning of life and their place in early twentieth-century Panama. Despite other Panamanian literary critics and writers view s of the significance of the Canal, and by extension, Panamas non-white populations, Be leo created a space for his characters (Rubn, Ramn and At) who constitute an inte gral part of Panama nian culture. Beleo portrays brown Panama, and for this reas on, the notable Panamanian literary critic Rodrigo Mir has criticized his characters as being of "discutible panameidad" ( La literatura panamea 193). Mir was obviously referring to the recent immigrants, the West Indian diggers, w ho to him did not symbolize panameidad For him, the Canal Zone was una parte mnima de la realidad de Panam (193). Mir reflects the early twentiethcentury Panamanian rhetoric that focused on Panamas Spanish roots, which for him and others was not reflected in Col n and Panama City, two cities with a large number of immigrants and Afro-Hispanics. Rather, panameidad was symbolized by a white minority of elites, and the Canal Zone revealed the darker populations of the Isthmus that did not fit into the countrys homogeneous image. For this reason, Beleos texts are more relevant because they lift the veil of populations who up until this period were either denigrated and/or unexplored in Panamanian literature.
138 Beleos novels succeed in presenting the effects of racial discrimination in the neocolonial and neoimperialist regime imposed by the United States. They also succeed in presenting the plight of the chombo, even though these texts, most apparently Gamboa often reduce the latters plight to essentialis ms that inadvertently marginalize the West Indian characters. Moreover, Beleo's works show the effect that racial discrimination and classification have had on the Panamanian mestizo as depicted in Luna verde and Curund Luna verde sees the hope in the mestizo as part of the solution to United States imperialism: Sern los mulatos y mestizos enrubecidos que segui rn combinando esta ciudad que ya no tiene colores, sino un color: el del futuro (185). Beleos focus on the mestizo moreno, and mulato illuminates once again the question of his own racial identity, and reminds us how he was affect ed emotionally by the racial system that relegated non-black Panamanians to the category of negro. Beleo views discrimination as a by-product of the Canal Zone, but fails to recognize how Panamanians of non-West Indian descent were affected by the countrys own racial problems and stigmas stemming from centuries of mestizaje as well as the national rhetoric that resulted from it. In effect, Beleo has internalized the racism, the discourse of mestizaje, and assimilation, and therefore, does not see himself as a propone nt of this racist discourse. His works constantly emphasize that Panamanians were not the problem; rather he reinforces the notion that the United States was the problem. That is to say, while his trilogy protests racial discrimination, it does not view the racism perpetuated by Panamanians against West Indians as part of the problem. Indeed, the West Indian is por trayed as a conflicted character and is viewed as an outsider by Afro-Hispanics and other Panamanians.
139 Panamanian racism reflects the neocol onial regime and not the problems that stemmed from the colonial period. Beleos trilogy and presentation of the West Indian, and his initiation of the Afro-H ispanic/Afro-Antillean polemic, prefigure the writings of contemporary Panamanian West Indian writers on the Isthmus, which will be explored in the remaining chapters. As will become ev ident, Beleo's characterization has been discussed and challenged by new writers of African and West Indian descent.
140 Chapter four The Afro-Caribbean Works of Carlos "C ubena" Guillermo Wilson and his (Re) Vision of Panamanian History Escribo para dejar constancia del aporte de los africanos y sus descendientes latinoamericanos a las historias, las culturas y a las identidades en las Amricas, porque en los textos oficiales brillan por su ausencia." Carlos Guillermo Wilson29 During the 1950s, as the Isthmus of Panama experienced an economic decline, fewer laborers were needed in the Canal Zone. In fact, as the demand for labor weakened, the Panamanian oligarchy sought ways to rid the country of the West Indian population. One must bear in mind that because Panamanians grew tired of the cultural, linguistic, and economic dominance of the West Indians in the Canal Zone, West Indian laborers were expelled from the Canal Zone to allow mo re Panamanians to obtain jobs (Priestley Etnia 40). Also, even though the 1955 Remn-Eisenhower treaty ended the dual pay system (Gold Roll/Silver Roll) for workers in the Canal Zone, it too resulted in the expulsion of many West Indian and Panama nian workers. However, the RemnEisenhower Treaty disproportio nately affected West Indians, a population whose economic, political, and familial base was tied to the Canal Zone. Thus, many Silver Roll West Indian workers repatriated to thei r British and French homelands while others migrated to the United States in search of better opportunitie s (Edison 279; Barrow Piel oscura 212). 29 Seales Soley, LaVerne Marie. Entrevist a con Carlos Guillermo Cubena Wilson. Afro Hispanic Review (1998): 68.
141 National Project of Assimilation (1940-1960) Before West Indians repatriated to th e Caribbean, the Panamanian oligarchy promoted assimilation or the absorption of an individual or a people into another culture and encouraged West Indians to give up their linguistic and cultural ties to their respective Caribbean countries (Morner 5) Although Law 13 (1926) and Law 26 (1941) prevented West Indians from entering the c ountry and made citizenship contingent on speaking Spanish, West Indians finally ach ieved full citizenship in 1946 under the new Constitution (Herzfeld 151). However, as Law 26 had previously mandated in 1941, the 1946 Constitution promoted cultural assim ilation since many feared that Anglophone West Indian's Protestant re ligion and native English language would alter the official racial, linguistic, and cultural paradigm in Panama. Clearly, West Indians posed a triple threat to the nation because of their racial, religious, and linguistic differences. Therefore, many West Indian leaders believed that the success of the West Indian in Panama rested solely on his/her ability to assimilate and adopt the major tenets of Panamanian nati onality: language, culture, and religion. The prominent Panamanian West Indian journa list, sociologist, and diplomat George Washington Westerman (1910-1988), for exam ple, encouraged West Indians to assimilate in order to succeed, and he cel ebrated the Afro-Antilleans intellect and economic contributions to the Isthmus. West erman encouraged West Indians to obtain an education, and called attention to unfair practices in the Cana l Zone as evidenced in his works: Un grupo minoritario en Panam (1950), The West Indian Worker on the Canal Zone (1951), Urban Housing in Panama and Some of its Problems (1955), and Los inmigrantes antillanos en Panam (1980). Much like the Ci vil Rights leaders of the
142 1950s and 1960s in the Southern United Stat es, Westerman fought for equal access and fair treatment and sought ways to integrate the West Indian population into Panamanian society. Panamanian West Indians identified with the Civil Rights Movement because of their marginalized situation in Panama, th eir ability to speak English, and because discrimination in the Canal Zone was based on a polarized racial system modeled after the United States. Like George Westerman, ma ny other West Indian leaders in Panama were inspired by the Civil Rights Movement's quest for racial equa lity and its goal to integrate blacks into society. Not surpri singly, Westerman did not focus on cultural differences between West Indians and Panama nians; instead, he promoted West Indian assimilation. Despite Westermans hopes fo r the West Indian population in Panama, the harsh reality was that Panamanians reject ed the group not only because they spoke a different language, but becau se they were black. Of course, Panamanian intellectuals had promoted the myth that West Indians posed a problem because of cultural distinctions instead of racial ones. After all, the Afro-Hispanic population was fully integrated and there were "no racial problems in Panama." Biesanz noted the cu ltural problem that West Indi ans posed to the nation. He wrote: It is not simply visibi lity that marks out the chombos, but biological visibility in combination with cultural differences, the chief of which is language (Cultural 776). While West Indians were discriminated agains t because they were culturally different from Panamanians, Biesanz failed to recognize that the discrimination also stemmed from racial prejudice. That is, although Biesanz vi ewed racial discrimination exclusively as a cultural issue, the cultural differences created the impetus for Panamanians to racially
143 discriminate against West Indians. Biesan zs assertion was common. It was believed that colonial blacks low economic status was due to class distinctions th at were independent of racial problems, and that discriminati on against West Indians stemmed from their cultural and national incompatibility (Barrow Piel oscura 187). Although he was an integrationist, Westerman did undserstand th at the problem of the West Indian was principally one of color ( Un grupo 26). Other groups on the Isthmus, such as the Afro-Hispanics, adopted the discourse of cultural incompatibility and accepted a national paradigm defined strictly in terms of Spanish language, Hispanicism, and Catholicism. It is not coincide ntal that many AfroHispanics distanced themselves from Afro -Antilleans because, as discussed in the preceding chapters, they often identified themselves as mulato or moreno categories that carried a weaker racial stigma than negro. As a result, Afro-Hispanics were able to conceal their blackness with their cultural comp atibility because the "[h]ispanicity of the 'colonial blacks' tends to outweigh their blackness. Only the blacks of Anglophone Caribbean background are considered 'niggers' in the thoroughly negative sense of this term" (Smart "The West Indian Presence" 122). In effect, Panamas lack of acceptance of the group created a fragmented society wh ich not only divided Panamanians against Afro-Antilleans, but also Afro-Panamanians against Afro-Antilleans Discrimination of the West Indian in the Canal Zone and throughout Panama gave rise to a literature that protested the unequal treatment of West Indians. While literature of the Canal Zone denounced the United States for imposing its binary racial hierarchy on the Isthmus and for discriminating against a ll Panamanians of color, including West Indians, contemporary literature has focused primarily on the discriminatory practices of
144 Panamanians against West Indians and aims to tell the unofficial story rarely documented in Panamanian textbooks. Joaqun Bele o Cedeo (1922-1988), whose works were analyzed in the previous chapter, was an example of one Panamanian writer who portrayed the United States as the enemy, yet failed to view Panamanians as contributors to racial discrimination against West Indians. Instead, he champi oned the causes of the mestizo the mulato, and the moreno in opposition to Yankee imperialism. Unlike his predecessors, Beleo attempted to problemati ze the situation of th e West Indian and especially the one of mixed ra cial heritage, that is, of Anglo-American and Caribbean descent. However, Beleo only possessed an outsiders perspective and failed to understand the complexities of race as experi enced by Afro-Antilleans who were forced to negotiate an identity shaped by cultural, linguistic, and religious ties to Africa, the Caribbean, and Panama. He viewed West I ndians outside of the African and Caribbean discourse and was unable to fully capture thei r experiences as new citizens in Panama. Unlike Beleo, the Panamanian West Indian writer and critic Carlos Guillermo Wilson (1941) portrays the West Indian subculture in Panama from an insider's perspective, since he has experienced the pr ejudice as a member of this marginalized group. Consequently, he captures the comple xities of race in Panama, and by extension of Latin America, while describing and rela ting the history of discrimination of the Panamanian West Indian population. Carlos Cubena Guillermo Wilson Born in Panama City in 1941, Carlos Guillermo Wilson is a third generation Panamanian West Indian who was denied ci tizenship because three of his grandparents were immigrants of African descent whose native language was not Spanish
145 (Birmingham-Pokorny Interview 18-19). Like many Panamanian West Indians who experienced economic exclusion, Wilson emig rated to the United States during the 1950s. In 1959, Wilson went to Mississippi a nd he relocated to California in 1964 where he enrolled in the graduate program in Span ish at the University of California at Los Angeles and obtained a Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy in Hispanic Languages and Literatures in 1970 and 1975. Wilson wrote his dissertation on Panamanian literature, and in the third ch apter he traced the representa tion of blacks in Panamanian literature from the colonial period to the pr esent. As early as the 1970s, then, Wilson demonstrated a concern for the literary re presentation of Afro-descendants in Panama. It was Wilsons interest in his African heritage that compelled him to adopt the penname Cubena, the Hispanicized version of Kwabena, which is the Twi word for Tuesday in the Asante culture of Ghana. Born on a Tuesday, Wilson assumed the name Cubena because the Ashanti people of the Twi language have the custom of naming the male child according to the name of the da y on which he is born. At the beginning of each of his literary works, the shield, "E scudo Cubena," appears containing a seven-link chain, seven stars, a bee on t op of a turtle, and a book, all followed by an explanation of their significance. Wilson explains that the seven link chain represents the African cultures that were enslaved in the Americas; the seven stars represen t regions where most Africans were enslaved, including Brazil, Cuba and Puerto Rico, Jamaica and Martinique, Panama, Per and Ecuador, Do minican Republic and Haiti, and Venezuela and Colombia; the bee represents the chains, lashings, injustices and insults that Afrodescended populations have suffered since 1492; the turtle symbolizes the type of
146 character that Africans have developed during their odys sey throughout the Americas, and the book is a symbol of th e principal tool used to comb at mental slavery: education. This shield is extremely important becau se it connects the author and his works to other displaced cultures of the African dias pora. Wilson does not limit his experiences of exile and displacement to the Caribbean or to Panama, and he understands that it is one shared by other diaspora figures who are vic tims of dispersion and fragmentation caused by (neo)colonialism. In other words, Wils on demonstrates a dias pora consciousness that characterizes displaced peoples [who] feel (maintain, receiv e, invent) a connection with a prior home (Clifford 310). Wilsons id entification with th e diaspora resists Westermans assimilation thesis because he remains connected to not only his British homeland but also to Africa. Whether real or imaginary, his ties to Africa can be easily interpreted as anti-nationalist. However, while he resides in the United States, Wilson maintains his multiple allegiances to the Caribbean, Africa, and Panama. Wilsons focus on the diaspora has contribu ted to his broad reception as a writer and critic. Currently, he is the most wi dely studied Afro-Panamanian writer among literary scholars. However, most of these studies are done outside of his native homeland of Panama. To date, he has published five books, Cuentos del negro Cubena: Pensamiento Afro-Panameo (1977), Pensamientos del negro Cubena: Pensamiento Afro-Panameo (1977), Chombo (1981), Los nietos de Felicidad Dolores (1991), and Los mosquitos de orix Chang (2002) as well as numerous articles on the African diaspora. Although his works are widely read within Af ro-Hispanic literary circles in the United States, in Panama much of his work has b een branded as anti-nationalist for exposing Panamanian racism and, as a result, it has been censored. Among the numerous articles,
147 dissertations, and manuscripts that have been written on Cubena, the scholarship of such Afro-Hispanic critics as Elba BirminghamPokorny, Richard Jackson, Ian I. Smart and Haakayoo Zoggyie, constitutes the most comp rehensive analysis of his literary repertoire.30 In summary, these critics identify his texts as West Indian and compare them to other West Indian writers (Smart); they categ orize his texts as Afro-Hispanic and analyze them in relation to other writers of the diaspora (Jackson, Zoggyie); they analyze the aspects of parody, humor, and satire in his works (Zoggyie); and they read his texts as novels of denouncement or social protest (B irmingham-Pokorny, Jackson). While all of these critics have analyzed important asp ects of Cubena's works, they have not incorporated them into the Afro-Panamanian r acial continuum, that is, within the context of Panamanian and Afro-Panamanian literature. Cubenas works respond and react to the cultural, historical, and linguistic specifici ties of the Isthmus and challenge the three tenets of panameidad (language, culture, and reli gion) by lifting the veil of a discriminated population. Cubena and Joaqun Beleo C. Cubena's efforts to create a positive imag e of West Indians stem partly from the negative representations that have portrayed the group in Panamanian literature. I 30 Richard Jackson analyzed the elements of humanism in Cubena's works and categorized his poetry and short stories as social protest literature. Elba Birmingham-Pokorny examined his works as novels of denouncement and identifies the new Afro-Hispanic woman in his texts, noting that Wilson has changed the traditional image of the Afro-Hispanic woman by portraying her as a strong black woman. Ian I. Smart described Cubena's short stories as having elements of tremendismo negrista a coined termed by the AfroEcuadorian writer Adalberto Ortiz (1914) to describe the elements of the grotesque in Cubena's prose. Smart also characterized Cubena's novels as We st Indian comparing them to other Hispanophone Caribbean writers such as Costa Rica's Quince Duncan (1940) and Panama's Gerardo Maloney (1945). Finally, Haakayoo Zoggyie has analyzed the elements of satire, humor and parody in Cubena's works.
148 discussed these representations in the previ ous chapter which analyzed Joaqun Beleo's Canal Zone trilogy ( Luna verde Curund and Gamboa Road Gang ). Beleo, a champion of Panama's anti-imperialism crusad e, vacillated in his characterization of West Indians presenting the marg inalized group as both victim a nd victimizer. It is worth noting that Beleo's Gamboa Road Gang (1961) deeply disturbs Wilson since it is required reading in Panamanian schools. In th e article, "The image of the chombitas in Joaqun Beleo's Gamboa Road Gang ," Wilson summarizes five stereotypical images of West Indian women found in Gamboa According to Wilson, wo men of African descent in Gamboa are portrayed as exotic, spiritually misguided, uncouth, negligent, and too Africanized ("Proceedings" 77) These negative representa tions anger Wilson and have inspired many of his works which highlight positive attributes of West Indians in Panamanian society. The following passage exemplifies Wilson's perspective on Beleo's characterizations of the West Indian population: Joaqun Beleo has influenced me very much. Every time I read any of his trilogies, I become so angry because of the way he has portrayed chombosAfro-Hispanics in his works. I am part icularly angered by a ll the negative images and stereotypes he has presented in his wo rks. As a result, I have tried to write and to present a more balanced and a mo re fair portrayal of chombos and AfroHispanics. (Birmingham-Pokorny Interview 16) Wilson is also angered by Beleos treatme nt of Afro-Hispanics. In the passage cited above, Wilsons interchangeable use of the terms Afro-Hispanic and chombo is quite evident. This usage illustrates that he considers Afro-Antilleans to be equally Panamanian and West Indian. Moreover, Wilsons use of both terms indicates that
149 chombos, or Afro-Antilleans, and Afro-Hispanics are more similar than different, which is one of the writers principal messages in his works. The different representations of the We st Indian produced by Beleo and Wilson illustrate what the Afrocentric critic Molefe Asante defines as an etic and emic approach to criticism. According to Asante: Etic appr oaches to criticism ar e those methods that are from outside the discourse perspectiv e, whereas emic approaches view the perspective from within the same culture as the discourse (188). It is precisely Beleo's outsider perspective that has led Ian Smart to classify his trilogy as a precursor to the West Indian literature of Panamas Wilson and Gerardo Maloney and Costa Ricass Quince Duncan, and not as Central American West Indian lite rature, despite the numerous West Indian characters th at populate his trilogy. Beleo's negative representations of West Indi ans illustrate the degree to which he internalized the discourse of mestizaje and Catholicism. Contrary to Beleo, Wilson affirms a West Indian culture and heritage and aims to educate Panamanians about the contribu tions that West Indians have made and continue to make on the Isthmus. Instead of his works being anti-imperialistic or antiWest Indian, they are prolatino pro-West Indian, and pro-afro-Panamanian. Furthermore, Wilson recognizes the importance of his African heritage by connecting his works to the African diaspora. As Thomas Wayne Edison notes: Both of Cubenas novels without a doubt display Af ro-Antillean subcultures in a more authentic light and reverse Beleos perspective, thus re-def ining the Antillean black population through his literature (234).
150 Clearly, Beleo and Wilson expose discrimi nation from different perspectives. As a mestizo Beleo is concerned primarily w ith denouncing the United States and revealing the countrys ill trea tment of the Panamanian of non-West Indian descent. However, Wilson argues that the United States is not the only enemy since Panamanians and Afro-Panamanians have equally discrimina ted against the West Indian population. In effect, Wilson champions this point of view in both his poetry and prose as he redefines the image and perception of the Panamanian West Indian. His texts elevate blackness above whiteness and, by extens ion, Afro-West Indianness above Panamanianness. Thus, because he reverses the invisibility of blackness and black-thought by presenting positive images of black West Indians, he also reverses the anti-West Indian sentiment prevalent in early twentieth-century Panamanian literature. Because West Indians were denigrated and portrayed negatively in Panamanian literature, Wilson's primary objective has been to redeem the literary image of the West Indian who was excluded from the Panamani an nation-building project. Wilson is committed to telling the untold story, revising history, and changing the perception of the West Indian that has been presented in Pa namanian literature. Thus, he challenges national myths propagated during early twentie th-century Panama by presenting the West Indian as the central protagonist and, in turn, re-signifies th e national myth of a Hispanic, Catholic, Spanish-speaking Panama. In short, Wilsons work is a call to recognize, or at least acknowledge, the Caribbea nness that now constitutes the Isthmus. Cubena's texts are a conscious effort to incorporate the Caribbean and the Afri can Diaspora into Panamanian literature and to blend naturally elem ents of all three regi ons, that is, Africa, the West Indies, and Panama.
151 In the second and third chapters of this study, it was pointed out that the exemplary elements of early twentieth-centu ry Panamanian literature (1900-1950) were descriptive exoticism, anti-imperialism, anti-West Indian sentiment and the emergence of the new Panamanian, the West Indian. Whethe r the texts of this period were written by Afro-Hispanics or Panamanian s of non-African descent, th e Afro-Antillean remained a subject examined outside Ca ribbean and African discourse However, in the literature of Carlos Guillermo Wilson, and that of ot her contemporary Panamanian West Indian writers, the Afro-Antillean is no longer a subject who is vilified, exoticized, or analyzed by outsiders to the West Indian culture. In fact, Carlos Gu illermo Wilson reverses this trend in Panamanian literature by protesti ng against injustices inflicted upon West Indians and by positioning the West Indian as a central figure in all of his works. From Social Protes t to Afro-realism Carlos Guillermo Wilson's didactic em phasis and criticism of discrimination has led many to analyze the elements of social protest in his works. His works possess elements of social realism which flourishe d in Latin America during the first three decades of the twentieth century. Spanish American realism gave the impression of representing, with as little distortion as possible, the real ities of human life"(Lindstrom 34). Wilson's works represent the reality of th e West Indian in Panama especially as it pertained to the injustices experienced in the Canal Zone. However, unlike Spanish American realism, or the social protest genre of the 1930s and 1940s, where many white and mestizo Latin American writers protested the in justices of minority groups including indigenous and African populations, Wilson write s as a West Indian. Furthermore, his works are not merely social protests but ar e informed by afrocentricism which analyzes
152 works from the perspective of being black. In fact, his works possess elements of "Afrorealism, a term coined by the contemporary Afro-Costa Rican writer Quince Duncan to describe the realities of Afro-Latin Am erica from an insider's perspective: Afro-realism has its roots in the African and Caribbean griot of oral tradition. Therefore, it is a sonorous cry. That is, it announces things with intense musicality...But it does not announce just anything. Afro-realism is the lived word, which means that it is based on experience. It is a construction and reconstruction of reality, without ceasi ng to be fiction, without losing the fantasy that makes us take delight in readi ng...On the other hand, Afro-realism carries within itself the ancestral word, everyt hing that happened long ago and that still affects us. Those things that have trav eled from mouth to mouth and that form our tradition, that which gives us an iden tity, that which legitimizes our survival. Through those twice-told stories we know that we are part of a fragmented community. Our culture was broken up by 500 years of oppression. Afro-realism announces and proclaims the ti dbits of reality that we ar e left with, the remains of first covenants. But it is not limited to showing that the African consciousness is broken; instead it is preoccupied with rebu ilding it. Therefore, Afro-realism is the dream of the reconstructed worl d. (cited in Martin-Ogunsola 16). Although Cubena refuses to place his works in any particular literary category, an afro perspective is inherent in hi s novels, short stories, and poetr y as he aims to reconstruct Afro-Caribbean communities within the sociohistorical context of Panama. Of course, Afro-realism is not exemplar y of all literature writte n by Afro-descended populations; rather, it prevails in those literatures that de sire a restitution of black thought, culture, and
153 tradition. More importantly, according to Duncan, Afro-r ealism does not conform to a European mentality and possesses si x key characteristics: it is not negrista literature; it is a restitution of an African voi ce; it revives African symbo lic memory; it uses African historical memory based on research; it is a reaffirmation of ancestral community, and there is an effort to build an intra-narrative perspective, that is, an insiders perspective. While Panamanian literature during the first half of the twentieth century aimed at restoring Panama's autochthonous Spanish roots and denounced the United States occupation of the Canal Zone, after the 1970s Panamanian literature was influenced by the signing of the 1977 Carter -Torrijos Treaty and the 1989 United States invasion of Panama to overthrow dictator Manuel Noriega.31 Unlike the earlier literature, contemporary Panamanian literature is ch aracterized by subver sion of chronological order; fragmentation; experimentation with na rrative structure; and a great number of symbolic elements, all of which characterized boom literature and/or the new Latin American narrative that emerged in the 1960s Wilson's works possess many of these innovations including the replacement of the om niscient narrator with multiple narrators and heteroglossia or the use of various types of speech. These stylistic innovations enrich the reading of Wilson's works as well as his denouncement of racism on the Isthmus. 31 In 1977, the Carter-Torrijos Treaty arranged for the return of the Panama Canal to Panama by December 31, 1999. Manuel Noriega is one of Panamas former military dictators who was accused by the United States government of drug-trafficking and selling United States secrets to Cuba. In 1988, the United States urged him to step down; when he refused the United States invaded Panama in 1989, captured Noriega, and sentenced him to forty years of prison.
154 Decolonization through Education Unlike contemporary Latin American and Panamanian writers, Wilson is less subtle with his message and he aims to educate readers by revisiting Panamanian history and re-signifying it. In the epigra ph to this chapter, C ubena reinforces the importance of education and the lack of in formation in Panamas textbooks on the West Indian's contribution to the Isthmus. In a ddition, the book, which forms part of his shield, symbolizes education and knowledge and is the principal tool to combat mental slavery. In the Post-Colonial Studies Reader Ashcroft notes the impo rtance of education in challenging colonial powe r(s) and discourse(s): Education is perhaps the most insidious and in some ways the most cryptic of colonialist survivals, older systems no w passing, sometimes imperceptibly, into neo-colonialist configurations Education t hus remains one of the most powerful discourses within the complex of coloni alism and neo-colonialism. A powerful technology of social control, it also offers one of th e most potentially fruitful routes to a dis/mantling of th at old authority. (425-427) Consequently, education is an effective way to induce change and thinking, especially with regard to the Panamanian people of African and non-African de scent who have been taught that West Indians are an ti-national, and as a result, incompatible with Panamanian nationalism. Cubenas goal to dismantle the old author ity is best seen in his unfinished trilogy, Chombo (1981) and Los nietos de Felicidad Dolores (1991), two diaspora novels that trace the Panamanian West Indian experi ence from Africa to the present. Both Chombo and Los nietos become official textbooks of the Panamanian West Indian experience
155 contesting falsehoods (e.g., West Indian anti -nationalism and cultural and linguistic incompatibility) propagated during the nation-building project (1880-1920). The following discussion will examine Chombo Los nietos de Felicidad Dolores, and some representative examples from his poetry and short stories as an expression of diaspora literature. Specifically, we will anal yze how Wilson uses literature to construct an African identity, challenge mestizaje as an ideology, and develop an AfroHispanic/Afro-Antillean polemic initiated by Joaqun Beleo. Chombo (1981) With regard to Chombo, the entire action of the novel takes place in the background of the formal signing of th e Carter-Torrijos Treaty in 1977. Chombo narrates the history of the arrival of James Duglin (Pap James) and Nenn to Panama from Barbados and Jamaica, and it is told by an om niscient narrator, the family members, and the ancestors. The story begins with the main character Lit (Nicols), a descendant of black West Indians who has recently returned to Panama from the United States, and who enters a poignant discussion about race with a blind man (Don Justo). The signing of the treaty leads Lit and his mother to recall the history and the struggles of West Indians in Panama. Their narrative focuses on a story abou t the three gold bracelets that they trace to the arrival of West Indians to Panama a nd which the narrator compares to the Middle Passage. The bracelets appear and reappear throughout and they evoke the history of Pap James and Nenn, Lit's grandparent s who worked on the construction of the Panama Canal. Nenn dies at the end of th e novel ironically before her voyage back to Jamaica. Finally, the characters discover that the three gold bracelets, which can only be
156 inherited by female descendants of Nenn, have followed these generations of AfroPanamanians from Africa to the West Indies to Panama. The title of the novel, Chombo whose origin is unknown, is a term of disrespect used against West Indians in Panama that evokes years of degradation and personal suffering (Birmingham-Pokorny Proceedings 48). Similar to other terms used against West Indians, such as jumeco derived from Jamaican, the term can also carry positive connotations depending on the message and th e messenger. Although the usage of the term by non-West Indian Panamanians is overwhelmingly negative, Wilson appropriates the negative image by naming his text Chombo Chombos are now the center of the action, and as a chombo himself, Wilson takes ownership of the term and utilizes it to illustrate that West Indians in Panama are not ignorant, lazy, promiscuous, or uncouth. Instead, he shows that they ar e descendants of kings and queen s who originated in Africa, survived slavery, and constructed the Railroad and Canal. Los nietos de Felicidad Dolores (1991) The action of this novel commences in a United States airport in 1999 (the future) where West Indian descendants are reunited to return to Panama. For their pilgrimage, the families board a plane, and the narrator reminisces about Africa and reconstructs the arrival of blacks to Spain and the New Worl d. Ironically, these Africans in Spain are related to the same West Indian diggers who constructed the Panama Canal, and thus, they bring into question the extent to whic h West Indians are culturally different from Afro-Hispanics in Panama. The action of the novel advances to 1850, the year when the Panama Railroad was constructed, and deals with the prejudices of two Panamanian families, that of Juan Moreno and John Brown, who are Afro-Hispanic and Afro-
157 Antillean, respectively. The subsequent sections deal with these families prejudices toward one another, particularly thos e of Moreno, which are passed on to their descendants and prevent a romantic relations hip between their children. The action then moves to 1941, the year when thousands of West Indians were asked to adopt the native language of Panama or leave. Throughout th e novel, the character s attempt to discover the meaning of the word sodinu which is unidos ("united") in Spanish spelled backwards. Because of the cultural fragmenta tion of the characters, they are unable to decipher the meaning of the word. Instead, W ilson, the author, inserts himself in the text and explains the meaning in a letter where he relates that Afro-La tin Americans are now unidos and, in fact, have always be en since the beginning of time. Los nietos begins appropriately in an airport, a symbol of travel, flight, and voyage that characterizes a microcosm of soci ety. Indeed, Wilson takes the reader on a voyage, albeit a symbolic one through time. Th e airport is a meeting place where various cultures, ethnicities, and races encounter a nd intersect. In add ition, the airport often represents chaos, and in this case it is a metaphor for colonialism and neocolonialism which forced the voluntary and involuntary in tegration of distinct cultures, tribes, and racial groups. As the narrato r explains: La primera escena rene a todos los personajes en el aeropuerto--todos descendientes de lo s trabajadores del canal de Panam para un vuelo histrico a Panam como una expresin de gran orgullo familiar y racial (8). This is a historical flight as well as a r eaffirmation of African heritage and identity. Despite these characters differences, they al l share one common origin--their relation to the workers of the Panama Canal. They are all West Indian desce ndants residing in the United States who are returning to their Span ish roots. While the plane ride is real,
158 metaphorically it represents a trip of discovery of past origins that have been obfuscated by the national imaginary. Language Language is an important aspect of Wilsons novels whic h are polyphonic texts that present multiple protagonists from va rious backgrounds who tell the Panamanian story that is absent fr om official Panamanian national discourse. In Chombo Wilson integrates Spanish, French, English, and Twi words, phrases, and sayings to demonstrate the linguistic hybridity that char acterizes the Isthmus. Although the text is written in the official language of the country, Wilson does not lose sight of his subjects who not only converse in Spanish but also in various other languages and di alects. For example, when Fulabuta reprimands Luisa who wants to become a teacher, one reads: Luisa, pour cu t no cocinar like petit sist Aidita? Quiero ser maestro. Pour cu t no coser like otra sist Rosa? Quiero ser maestra. Dotipaa no wan chombo maestra. Si t bonop wat cu t guain do wid arroz wit gungu peas? (Wilson Chombo 52) Not only does Fulabuta believe that educat ing women is a waste of time, but any education that involves West I ndians is regarded as meaningless. The first line of the dialogue demonstrates the coexistence of Fren ch Creole, English Creo le, and Spanish. In fact, some of these words have become a part of Panamanian culture and have been identified as Panamanian English or Englis h Creole. The term Panamanian English is
159 used here synonymously with English base d-Creole because among Panamanian Creole English users, the term Creole or patois is reserved for language spoken by Antillean Panamanians of Franco-Caribbean descent (B rereton vi). One of these words includes gungu peas, peas from the Cajanus cajan th at are also known as guand (45). Clearly, language is an important aspect of this text since the West Indian community communicates in various languages and dialects Wilson effectively demonstrates this hybridity without losing his pr imary Spanish audience. In Los nietos Wilson also reproduces the variou s levels of speech which are an amalgam of Spanish, French Creole, and E nglish Creole. The following scene takes place in the airport. S, pero rass man coo t sae esa gial ej la oganizada de ejte viaje y toava not yet here at aeropueto-dijo ladrando at ropelladamente. Nato Pataperro, interrumpiendo a Marcelina Westerman. Y como rfagas de una metralleta continu-: Mira, rass man look el boncha o de gente aqu como sardina enlatao. (15) This passage not only demonstrates the various types of speech present in the text, but also privileges the spoken word over the written one. This is obviously not the official language of Panama. By including it, Wilson privileges or aligns th e importance of this speech with that of Spanish and English and th e written word with the spoken word. This contrasts with the linguistic re presentations of West Indian speech in Beleos trilogy which were often artificial or not linguistically accurate. Also, while the narrators in Beleo's texts comment negatively on the various types of speech, Wilson naturally
160 integrates the speech into the text demonstrati ng that it is a legitimate part of Panamanian culture. Wilson demonstrates the complexities of multiple discourses where populations displaced from their country of origin are fo rced to understand one another for survival. Nenn and Tidam French from Jamaica and Haiti overcome their linguistic differences and communicate with one anothe r. The narrator explains: Al tercer da de conocerse, la com unicacin entre Nenn, expresndose mediante su ingls jamaicano, y Tidam French, expresndose mediante su francs haitano, ambas lenguas salpicadas con africanismos, lleg a su punto culminante cuando Nenn no pudo dejar de llorar al enterars e de que Dessalines, el padre de las dos muchachitas con quienes hizo buenas migas Abena Mansa Adesimbo, era amigo y compaero de trabajo de Cuffee. (Wilson Chombo 45) By allowing the two women to communicate, Wilson reinforces their common African origin and experiences as exiled figures Unlike Beleos narrators who viewed nonstandard language negatively and considered it a threat to Panamanian culture, in Wilsons novel, language is valued for its differences. Although Wilson is concerned with pres erving the West Indian heritage, he recognizes that this can not be accomplishe d exclusively through language. Rather, it must be accomplished through education, especially among younger generations of West Indian descendants who do not speak st andard French, English, or Spanish.32 The following passage alludes to this linguist ic hybridity: Cerca de los obreros dormidos estaban sentadas tres mujeres luciendo elegante ropa dominical. La ms anciana hablaba 32 I use the term standard here to reflect that it is not a written language but most likely an oral version.
161 en ingls jamaicano, la otra mezclaba el ingls y el espaol, y, la ms joven se expresaba en espaol (Wilson Chombo 94). This passage strengthens Wilsons decision to write his text in the language of the country and not that of his ancestors. In turn, Wilson aims to reach all three generations in his text a nd chooses the language (S panish) that they all share. Construction of an African Identity It is Wilsons construction of an Afro-Panamanian identity that originates in Africa, traverses the Caribbean, and ends in Panama that evokes a diaspora consciousness. Wilson constructs an African identity in his novels through a non-linear structure which defies European chronologica l time, the construction of a matrilineal heritage originating in Africa, and the use of tremendismo negrista to relate the horrors of slavery and the exiles experiences of disp lacement. This construction of an African identity is not only present in his novels, but it is also apparent in his poetry and short stories. The following poem from Pensamientos del Negro Cubena Cabanga Africana, captures the nostalgia that Wils on feels for his African homeland. Me arrebataste de mi QUERIDA AFRICA con un diluvio de latigazos por un puado de monedas y ahora una extraa cultura es mi triste realidad. Miserable culpable un abrazo de muerte
162 es lo que anhelo darte. (11) In Cabanga Africana or African nostalgia, the poet expresses the pain and suffering of African-descended populations, a pain that has resulted in the impossi ble return for these exiled figures. The poet al so directs his anger toward s a t who is no doubt a composite marker for the colonizers who abducted, beat, and enslaved him. As indicated earlier, Wilson constructs an African identity in Chombo by incorporating the three gold bracelets into the storyline, which represent the African heritage in Panama. This origin begins w ith the woman, and must continue with her as the bracelets are passed on from generation to generation. The bracelets can be traced back to members of the African tribe On tefos who were enslaved; years later the bracelets reappeared in the Great River in Ja maica, and three centuries later they emerged in Panama having arrived with the West Indian Canal Zone workers. Francis Wilson is a Jamaican descendant of the Ontefo tribe who in herits the bracelets, but dies in childbirth en route to Panama. These bracelets, as we ll as the baby, are first discovered by Nenn and are passed on to her female descendant s. Abena Mansa Adesimbo (Nenn and Pap James daughter) is the first of Nenns des cendants to inherit them. In effect, these bracelets represent the African he ritage that was lost due to sl avery. As a result, the three gold bracelets become a floating signifier that links all the generations together. Wilson possesses an afrocentric perspective, a nd the structure of the novel reflects this perspective. In a letter that precedes the first chapter of Chombo Wilson urges the reader to fight discrimination. He informs the reader: En la lect ura que usted est a punto de iniciar, encontrar las razones por las cuales es menester y, sobre todo, URGENTE combatir la perniciosa discrminacin racial y las otras in justicias (7).
163 The novel is divided into seve n chapters and each one co rresponds to a different day of the week. The novel begins on the day that Cubena was born, a Tuesday, and the names of the days of week are given in th e Twi language of Ghana. Furthermore, an epigraph of a different Afro-Hispanic writer pre cedes each chapter. In the order that they appear in the novel, they in clude: Spains Juan Latino, Ecua dors Nelson Estupin Bass, Cubas Nicols Guilln, Uruguays Virginia Br indis de Salas, Ecuadors Adalberto Ortiz, Pers Nicomedes Santa Cruz, and Colombias Edelma Zapata Olivella. With the exception of Brindis de Salas, each of thes e writers comes from a country where most Africans were enslaved. These Afro-Hispani c writers prepare the reader for a voyage back in time. Not only do they encompass va rious countries of the African diaspora, but they also represent different time periods ranging from the sixteenth century to the present. Wilsons inclusion of these Afro-His panic writers demonstrates his awareness of other writers of the African diaspora and his desire to e ducate others about them. As in Chombo, form and content complement each other in Los nietos The structure of the novel is cyclical and it counters European chr onological perception of time. There are eight sections in the nove l that correspond to important Panamanian national historical events: the 1999 ownershi p of the Canal, the Middle Passage, the construction of the Panama Railroad, the ye ar (1941) when West Indians were denied citizenship, and the present. Los nietos is concerned with rest oring Panama's African heritage, and the non-linear time frame reflects this objective. As Luisa Howell suggests: the lack of uniformity and or structure, is a metaphor for sl avery and the black experience (Popular Speech 41). Clearly, this novels non-linear structure reflects the black experience and that of sl avery; similar to slavery, th e organization of the novel is
164 chaotic and moves non-linearly from one era to another. In addition to the main characters previously cited, there are numer ous others that color the novel. However, Cubena illustrates that like the numerous slav es scattered throughout the diaspora, these characters are related not only through fa milial ties, but also through diasporic ones because they share a common Afri can heritage. Thus, despit e the apparent chaos present in the novel, Cubena illustra tes that there is unity among these Afro-descendants. The title of the novel, Los nietos de Felicidad Dolores points to the origin of Afro-descended populations in this text. A ll of the characters are descendants of Felicidad Dolores. Throughout the novel, she watches over her ancest ors,whether she is alive (she dies 4 times) or dead, and hopes fo r the unity of all of her descendants. Felicidad Dolores represents Mother Africa, and she is the thread that connects all of the generations present in the novel. As Birmingham-Pokorny suggests: Indeed, there is no doubt that Felicidad Do lores is the bridge that connects the entire history of the African race, linki ng the beginning in Africa to the beginning in America, and that as such, she is the future that holds the key that will ensure the future survival of the people of Af rican descendants. (The Afro-Hispanic 122) Because the four deaths of Felicidad Dolo res do not occur chronologically, they reflect the African perception of death. She dies in 1968, 1926, 1955, and 1977. Her deaths correspond to pivotal moments in African Ameri can history: the deat h of Martin Luther King, Jr., the signing of Law 13 which prevente d West Indians from entering the country, the signing of the Remn-Eisenhower treaty which resulted in West Indian expulsion from the Canal Zone, and the signing of the Cart er-Torrijos Treaty which caused her final
165 death. Each of these events had a profound impact on the West Indian community in Panama. Wilsons inclusion of Martin Luth er King, Jr. symbolizes his awareness of other members of the African diaspora as well as the influence of the Civil Rights movement on the West Indian community a nd Wilsons own experiences in the United States during the sixties. In addition, many West Indians fe ared that the Carter-Torrijos Treaty would contribute to the loss of jobs of many West Indians in the Canal Zone as did the passing of the 1955 Remn-Eisenhower treaty. Birmingham-Pokorny was correct when she asserted that Wilson has created a new Afro-Hispanic woman in his works. In fact, Wilson re-signifies the image of the black woman in Spanish American literature through the figure of Felicidad Dolores. She represents the hope and pa in that African-descended populations have suffered and experienced. In addition, she symbolizes the common origin of Afro-Hispanics and Afro-Antilleans. Instead of being described as Afro-Hispanic or Afro-Antillean, she is portrayed as African and as such, Felicidad Dolores is a reminder that colonization has hindered the progress and unification of African-des cended populations. In Desarraigado from Pensamientos del Negro Cubena, Wilson also expresses the uncertainty and the uprooting of an exiled figure. Abuelita Africana, no me reconoces? Mi lengua es gongrica. Mi letana es nazarena. Mi danza es flamenca. Abuelita Africana,
166 por qu no me reconoces? (9) The cultural and ethnic distance from his ances tors distresses the poet who laments that Mother Africa does not recognize him. The poets culture, langua ge, and religion are Hispanic, that is to say, Panamanian, which distance him from his African roots. This poem makes the reading of both of Cubenas novels much richer when considering its quest to construct an African identity. Wilson utilizes tremendismo negrista to describe the atrocities that Africans experienced during their voyage to the New World. In Chombo, one reads: En la oscura, ftida e inundada entra a del navo negrero, un ejrcito de ratas blancas nadaron con destreza olmpi ca entre la abundante sangre, vmito y excremento de los encadenados. Las ra tas blancas saciaron su voraz apetito con las lenguas y los ojos de los negros muertos; y adems, de los cadavricos estmagos africanos, las ratas blancas entraron y salieron, en un vaivn de desesperado frenes, buscando hgado u ot ro vital rgano de los esclavos. (17) Tremendismo negrista permits the narrator to express the degradation and pain that Africans suffered as a result of slavery. Th e images of slavery mirror that of the grotesque. Wilson describes the rats as white animals that satiate themselves on the slaves cadavers, and in the process, he subve rts the negative stereo types associated with blackness by making the rats white. Mestizaje Cubena challenges the national myth of racial harmony and the mestizaje ideology that was propagated during the ninet eenth and early twentieth centuries. While Lit acknowledges that the Canal Zone is the "corazn de la discri minacin," he rejects
167 the idea that racial discrimination came with the United States (Wilson Chombo 28). As Lit observes: "Pero mam--dijo el hijo--c on o sin gringo aqu ha y mucha discriminacin racial (28)." The protagonist, Don Justo rein forces the discriminati on of West Indians in the following statement: "Vuelvo y repito, t odos somos como hermanos y hasta queremos al chombo negro antillano"(14). Don Justo s attempt to display racial harmony fails in the second part of his statement wh ere he declares that Panamanians even love chombos Also, the use of the first person plural, nosot ros, demonstrates an us versus them mentality as well as a non-inclusive one. In turn, we, or Panamanians, is juxtaposed against they, or West Indians, who ar e excluded from the national imaginary. Don Justos repetition of the questio n, Es usted espaol de cepa pura?, reinforces the importance of hispanidad, a tenet embraced during the nation-building project of the late nineteen th and early twentieth century (15). Don Justos physical blindness is a metaphor for his blindness to hi s own racial identity and demonstrates the extent to which he has internaliz ed the all inclusive ideology of mestizaje. After all, he is "ato, moreno, y de pelo encrespado" (15). In effect, he serves as a metaphor for Panamanians and Latin Americans of African descent who refuse to see their African features and do not identify themselves as peopl e of color. As Barbara Miller informs us: The Blind mans real handicap is his denial of his people, and of the very existence of racism in Panama (82). Cubena also possesses strong views on mestizaje and equates it with ethnic cleansing. The narrator of Chombo ridicules Afro-Hispanic Karafula Barrescoba for her attempts to blanquearse For example, she bathes daily with five cartons of milk, straightens her hair, and pins her nose with a clothespin. Cubena utilizes humor to
168 demonstrate the absurdity of her behavior. Bu t the implications are not humorous at all because they show the measures that so me African-descended persons will take to achieve whiteness and acceptance. Similar to her character in Chombo Karafula Barrescoba reappears in Los nietos and is consumed by the same hatred for blacks. She opposes the relationship between Chela and Fuf o, and urges Chela to look for a marido blanco para mejorar la raza (Wilson Los nietos 75). Karafula resembles the young black boy in Cubena's short story, "El nio de hari na," who pours flour over himself to erase his blackness. The effect of mestizaje is clear. It has caused African-descended peoples to hate themselves and everything that symbolizes blackness. Chombos Fulabuta Simequez is another char acter who has internalized the national discourse of mestizaje Known as "la quemacorcho" for burning cork to lighten herself, she frequently sings anti-chombo songs and is described as a fanatic of a conservative patriotic party of Panama whos e campaign slogan was "blanquear es hacer patria" (Wilson Chombo 51; 50). More surprisingly: Fulabuta, como su hermano tracallero--Arnulfo Simequez--el jefe de lo s patriotistas, no poda ver a negros ni en pintura, es ms, ella senta un profundo odio es pecial hacia las negras antillanas (50). To this end, she tells French West Indian Tidam French to encourage her daughters to marry blue-eyed gringos to mejorar la raza (53). Ra biaprieta, another character in Los nietos, seeks to whiten the black race by havi ng babies with white men (75). While waiting in the airport terminal in the Unite d States for her voyage back to Panama, Rabiaprieta brags about the blue-eyed fathers of her five children and seeks others in order to give birth to light children. Wils on plays with the use of names by naming her Rabiaprieta which is a linguist ic alteration of the term rabiblancos "the white tales" that
169 refers to the aristocrats or ruling elites in Panama. Thus, initiated readers will identify Rabiaprieta with these same whites who denigrate the black race. Karafula, Fulabuta, and Rabiaprieta, who represent the past and the present, demonstrate the effects of the mestizaje ideology that continue to plague the present. These characters' obsession with whiteness leads them to hate Afro-West Indians and by extension, themselves. In effect, Karabula and Fulabuta have both assimilated the racial discourse of the colonizer and it is evident that society's preo ccupation with whiteness and the desire to be accepted have inspired self-hatred. Although Wilson portrays Karafula and Fulabuta as obnoxious, he reveals the dire conseque nces of the national rhetoric of mestizaje on the black psyche. Women are not the only ones who have a dopted the anti-West Indian discourse. In Chombo Arnulfo Simequez notes: "Cuando yo s ea presidente, lo primero que voy a hacer es deportar a todos los chombos de este pas" (27). The name and characterization evoke Arnulfo Arias, former president of Panama who implemented the 1941 West Indian repatriation act. Not only does the name resemble that of Arias but also his antiWest Indian attitude. Wilson contests the mestizaje ideology by asserting that the only way to improve the race is through educ ation, and not through blanqueamiento as these characters believe. According to the na rrator: La tercera meta que se plantearon los nietos de Nenn tena ms obstculos que un dificultoso laberinto construido por un diablico genio blanco: el anhelo de mejorar la r aza negra por medio de la educacin--la nica manera--y no por el racista e irracional mestizaje como aconsejaba Fulabuta
170 Simequez (Wilson Chombo 76). This is one of W ilson's goals in writing this trilogy: to educate. The Afro-Hispanic/Afro-West Indian Polemic One of Cubena's most compelling argu ments and additions to Panamanian and Afro-Panamanian literature is his problema tization of the Afro-Hispanic/Afro-Antillean polemic. Chombo's Karafula Barrescoba is the major exponent of Afro-Hispanic prejudice, and she feels superior to Afro -Antilleans because "su lengua materna era el castellano, su religin catlica, y sobre todo por que el mestizaje le haba robado algo de su africanidad" (65). She decide s to hide her blackness so as not to be confused with an Afro-Antillean, one of the worst offenses in Panama. Her superiority stems from her ability to trace her lineage to the more Span ish elements of Panama. For example, she raves about being a descendant of blacks w ho witnessed the decapitation of Vasco Nez de Balboa (1475-1519), the Spanish conquistador of Panama. Moreover, she stresses that she is morena and not negra and not an inferior bl ack West Indian like Nenn. Karabula abhors her own brother appropriate ly named Carbn for having nappy hair like the chombos Fearing that his hair will cause others to mistake him for a West Indian, he proclaims in the Santa Ana plaza that he is moreno and not chombo (67). Wilson's exposure of Afro-Hispanic prej udice towards Afro-Antilleans rejects the myth of racial solidarity among African-des cended populations and il lustrates the effect of migration and displacement. As Zoggyie not es: "By portraying this group as allies of the traditional villains, whites, Carlos W ilson not only exposes the magnitude of the problem of race in Panama; he also heightens the victim image he has assigned to the
171 West Indian population" ("Subve rsive tales..." 200). For th is reason, Wilson goes to great lengths to trace the lineage of Af rican descended populations. As in Chombo Los nietos aims to unite Afro-Hispanics and Afro-Antilleans and brings to light the absurdity of their hatred toward one anot her. This is evidenced by the familial feud between Juan Moreno, an Afro -Hispanic, and John Brown, a West Indian. Juan Moreno and John Brown are neighbors se parated by a room inhabited by Felicidad Dolores. Their names, which are mere Spanis h and English translations of one another, represent their similarities in spite of th eir own perceived cultural and linguistic differences. A fruit salesman, Juan More no tries to distinguis h himself from AfroAntilleans based on physical appearance. The feud forces Salvadora Brown, John Brown's daughter, to have a cl andestine relationship with Anbal Moreno, Juan Moreno's son. In the second section of Los nietos we discover that West Indians were descendants of Blacks in Spain emphasizing their connect ion to Afro-Hispanics in Panama. Wilson acknowledges the irrationality of the disintegration because these groups of blacks share the common origin of Africa and some distan t experiences rooted in a Spanish heritage. The feud between Juan Moreno and John Brow n is ironic because of their similar physical appearance and almost mirror image of one another. I ndeed, their physical likeness astonishes both men de spite their mutual hatred. Pero el da que Juan Moreno se enco ntr, cara a cara, con John Brown, como quien se espanta de su propia sombra (adems del parecido f'sico y los mismos gestos y ademanes, ambos tenan pant aln remendado con parches de tela de diferentes colores y, curiosamente, del mismo estilo de costura), en un abrir y cerrar de ojos abandon la. (Wilson Los nietos 120-21)
172 Upon their encounter, it is evident that not only is there a physical connection between the two, but also a cultural one. These characters are obviously bonded by their common racial heritage. However, society has forced them to be rivals because John Brown is supposedly culturally incompatible with th e Panamanian nation and does not reflect hispanidad. These cultural differences have inspired feuds between the two families and have prevented romantic relationships. For exampl e, Lesbiaquina Petrabla nche de las Nieves de Monte Monarca Moreno opposes the relatio nship between her niece Candelaria and West Indian Guacayarima because it would be "una tremenda vergenza para la familia morena" (171). She echoes the beliefs of the female characters in Chombo Karabula and Fulabuta. In a conversation with her brother Anbal More no, Lesbiaquina displays her prejudice against the We st Indian community. Nada de gente y mucho menos tan gente. Los chombos son brutos y estpidos. Como son bembones no pueden leer bien ni pronunciar palabras castellanas y por eso celebran las nuevas leyes que los es tpidos no captan que son leyes para deportarlos. S, como tienen el pelo cu zc y bien duro, la inteligencia no puede entrar en sus cabezas y por eso son brutos... (Wilson Los nietos 163) Lesbiaquina articulates all the myths and prejud ices of West Indians: their inability to speak fluent Spanish, their lack of intelligen ce, and their African features. When Anbal pursues a job and writes on his application that he can speak English, Lesbiaquina is so concerned that others are goi ng to think that he is a chombo because he speaks English, that she can not celebrate his accomplishmen t. She has adopted the national discourse which describes West Indians and blacks as infe rior. Lesbiaquina fails to see that she is
173 denigrating herself when she makes these comments because she, too, is of African descent. The Afro-West Indian population contrast s dramatically with the color conscious Afro-Hispanics. Nenn and Pap James are West Indian descendants from Jamaica and Barbados who have survived working on the Canal and confront racism in Panama. Wilson's favorable presentation of the West Indians has sparked much criticism as his texts most often present Afro-Hispanics as vi llains who help propagate the national antiWest Indian sentiment and racial oppression. However, he does not seek disintegration, but rather integrati on of these two opposing factions. Thus, the novel ends by rejecting the division among blacks in Panama and seek s integration within the black community. Conclusions In his article, "The Role of the Af ro-Latino Writer in the Quincentenary (14921992)," Carlos Guillermo Wilson as serts that there are three major themes that plague Latin Americans of African descent: the quest for identity, justice, and cultural awareness. This same quest is central to all of Cubenas works. At the same time that he challenges the national myth of a latino Spanish-speaking Panama, Cubena affirms a Caribbean heritage in Panama and urges bl acks to unite. Although Wilson is at times excessive in his passion to uplift the bl ack community and implement change, his message is compelling and helps revise Panamanian history. The message of Wilsons second novel, Los nietos is that the future will be better. In 2002, Wilson receive d two national awards in his native Panama: the first was the Condecoracin Nacional de la Orden Va sco Nez de Balboa en el Grado de Caballero, presented by President Mireya Mo scoso in recognition of his national and
174 international merit as an educator; and th e second was awarded by the Comit Nacional del Centenario presented by the Panamanian Chancellor Jos Miguel Alemn. These awards and recognition remain important for a writer who for many years was not acknowledged in Panama. Perhaps the future will improve.
175 Chapter five Race, Language, and Nation in the Works of Three Contemporary Panamanian West Indian Writers: Gerardo Maloney, Melva Lowe de Goodin, and Carlos E. Russell In the introduction to this study it was not ed that Panamanian and Afro-Panamanian identity is characterized by hybridity, divers ity, and difference. Paul Gilroys metaphor of the black Atlantic illustrates the complex ities of the African di aspora and Afro-Panama which is comprised of colonial blacks and bl ack West Indians. It was also pointed out that this diversity makes the articulation of black Panamanian and Panamanian identity problematic within the national discourse because Panama, like the Dominican Republic, desired to distance itself from the black nati on of Haiti and constructed a national myth of a homogeneous nation devoid of visible African heritage. As a result, the national discourse promoted assimilation and exclude d blackness which resulted in a national anti-West Indian sentiment. Therefore, ra cial differences have been obfuscated by the national imaginary that proclaimed Panama to be a mestizo nation with little African heritage. This national rhetoric has disp roportionately affected the Afro-Antillean population which did not coincide with th e national imaginary. As a result, the Panamanian nation-state was conceived as homogeneous and failed to recognize its racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. The articulation of race, language, and na tion is problematic within Panamanian discourse because it is tied to a national imaginary that emphasizes panameidad and, by extension, hispanidad The following contemporary Pana manian writers are of West
176 Indian descent and illustrate the diversity, complexity, and the difficulty in expressing a single Panamanian and/or Afro-Panamania n identity. Melva Lowe de Goodin (1945), Gerardo Maloney (1945), and Carlos Russell (1934) demonstrate in their postcolonial works the importance of race, language, and nation as they pertain to both Afro-Antillean and Afro-Hispanic communities. In addition, they participated in or witnessed the establishment of the political, social, and cultural reforms that aimed to unite the black community in Panama. While Gerardo Maloney and Melva Lowe de Goodin currently reside in Panama, and Carlos E. Russell re sides in the United States, each strives to articulate an Afro-Panamanian identity. Al though these writers tr eat race, language, and nation differently, they are equally con cerned with rescuing and maintaining the Caribbean and African heritage in present day Panama. While Gerardo Maloney evokes a diaspora consciousness in his poe try by discussing the plight of the West Indian and other diaspora populations, Melva Lowe de Goodin and Carlos E. Russell focus primarily on the Panamanian West Indian and are concer ned with recapturing his/her experience. Specifically, while poet Gerardo Malone y treats West Indianness as both an integral part of Afro-Panaman ian identity and a central facet of the African diaspora, poet and essayist Carlos E. Russell analyzes We st Indianness as a separate expression of Panamanian identity and argues for a post-national Panama that would view Panamanian heritage beyond the boundaries of the nation-state. Residi ng on the Isthmus, dramatist Melva Lowe de Goodin recognizes the importa nce of English and other West Indian customs and tries to recapture these e xperiences through shared recollections.
177 Although many nations embrace multicultar ism and ethnic diversity, there are common claims about nationhood where citi zens are still expected to speak a common national language, share a common nati onal identity, feel loyalty to national institutions, and share a commitment to mainta ining the nation as a single, self-governing community into the indefinite future (Kym licka 236). Maloney, Lowe de Goodin, and Russell evoke different conceptions of Pana manian nationhood and the incorporation of the West Indian into it. However, each one's works question Panamanian nationhood and the incorporation, or lack there of, of the West Indian into the national paradigm. No longer forced to hide their blackness as the Afro-Hispanic writers of the nation-building project, contemporary writers do not only assert thei r negritude, but they also proclaim a national, patriotic, and cultural allegiance to Africa, the Caribbean, and Panama. It is no surprise, then, that many Pana manians of West Indian descent were responsible for spearheading or ganizations in Panama that aimed to discuss the problem of the negro in the late 1970s and 1980s. De spite their interest in all blacks and the possibility of the unification of Afro-desce ndants in Panama, many of the issues that arose centered primarily on problems that be seiged the West Indian community. These organizations included: Accin Reivindicadora del Negro Panameo (ARENEP); Unin Nacional del Negro Panameo (UNNEP); Asociacin de Negros Profesionales (APODAN); El Centro de Estudios Afro-Panameos (CEDEAP); and Sociedad de Amigos del Museo Afroantillano (SAMAAP). Much like the Civil Rights Movement of the United States during the 1960s, these organiza tions were political in nature and aimed to unite the Afro-Panamanian community and to examine concerns that affected the population such as inequality, discrimination, and unemployment. For example,
178 ARENEP sought to eliminate racism in Panama (Maloney El movimiento 151). However, Afro-Panamanians were not only c oncerned with national problems; they also participated in and organized forums to tr eat problems that othe r diaspora populations faced. For example, CEDEAP organized the Second Congress of Black Cultures of the Americas which took place in Panama in 1980. In 1981, Afro-Panamanians organized the Primer Congreso del Negro Panameo a conference devoted to studying black contributions to Panama, the black's role in socio-political struggles, Canal Zone worker problems, Afro-Panamanian-Panamanian relatio ns, and Afro-West Indian immigration to the United States (Maloney "El movimiento" 155). Among other topics that arose during thes e meetings was the use of the term Afro-Panamanian or Afro-Antillean to desc ribe Afro-descended populations in Panama. Many Panamanians of West Indian descent f ound Afro-Panamanian to be an adequate term to describe them, but others felt that it promoted integration and assimilation and did not reflect their Caribbean heritage (Barrow Piel oscura 215). Furthermore, many West Indians in Panama and the United States reject ed the term because they felt that it did not promote black West Indian nationalism. Mal oney advocated the use of the term because it is useful when contrasting Panama with other Afro-Latin dias pora populations, i.e. Afro-Colombia, Afro-Ecuador ian, etc. (221) Others such as Wilson and Russell preferred the term Afro-Antillean to describe the West Indian experience in Panama. Notwithstanding Wilsons preferred use of th e term Afro-Antillean, he seeks unification among all Afro-descendant populations in Pana ma because of their connection with the greater diaspora.
179 These differing views of the articulation of lo afro in Panama reinforce why it is necessary to view Panamanian West Indian id entity in the context of Panama, Africa, and the Caribbean. The experiences of Panamani an West Indians are a large part of the African diaspora, and particularly that of the Caribbean Basin. However, as Ian Smart reminds us, it is important to remember that the Afro-Caribbean people of Panama and Central America had become native speakers of Spanish, the official language and that the language of West I ndian literature is es sentially Spanish ( Central American 40). In effect, Maloney, Lowe de Goodin, and Russell are of West Indian descent and their works reflect the problematic of race, la nguage, and nation in contemporary Panama. Gerardo Maloney: Instilling Black Pride and Solidarity Born in Panama City, Panama, Ge rardo Maloney (1945) is a prominent Panamanian West Indian poet, essayist, film maker, and sociologist. Maloney earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from the prestigious Universidad Nacional Autnoma de Mxico and his Master of Arts in Sociology from the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales in Quito. He has served as president of the second Congress of Black Cultures of the Americas, director of the department of Sociology at the University of Panama in Panama City, and honorary president of the Black Panamanian Congress. From 1994-99, he served as general director of channel 11, Panamas educational radio and television station. He also directed the film Calypso in 1991 which documented Panamanian music and included a panel discussion on Afro-Panam anian music and literature. In addition, he has published numerous articles and essa ys about the problems faced by blacks in Panama, Ecuador, the United States, Costa Rica, and Brazil. Needless to say, Maloney is not only a scholar of Afro-Panama, but also of the Americas. Like Carlos Wilson,
180 Maloney also possesses a diaspora consciousne ss and portrays the realities of AfroPanama and the African Diaspora in general. Ian Smart has published several articles on the poetry of Gerardo Maloney and in cludes him in his groundbreaking work, Central American Writers of West Indian Origin (1984) along with Carlos Wilson who was studied in the previous chapter. Maloney examines the experiences of the diaspora incisively in his poetry which includes Juega vivo (1984), Latidos: Los personajes y los hechos (1991), and En tiempo de crisis (1991). Indeed, Maloney has made great efforts to recover the Afro-Panamanian's forgotten past and his many contributions to the Isthmus which are reflected in his poetry a nd essays. Selected poems from the abovementioned volumes will be analyzed, especially with regard to nationalism, patriotism, afrocentrism, and the diaspora. En tiempo de crisis (1991) is a collection of poems written between 1982 and 1991 that reflects an era of nati onal turmoil including the deat h of Omar Torrijos, and the U.S. invasion of Panama to oust military dictator Manuel Noriega in 1989. Several national events occurred in Panama during this period that would shape the political, economic, and cultural atmosphere of the Isth mus. For example, the president of the Republic, General Omar Torrijos Herrera (19291981), died in a mysterious plane crash in 1981 which led many to believe that he was assassinated because of his progressive reforms for underrepresented se ctors of the population. In 1979, Torrijos established the Partido Revolucionario Democrtico (PRD) and initiated the signing of the CarterTorrijos treaty in 1977 which would give complete control of the Canal to the Panamanian people by December 31, 1999. Becau se Torrijos represented the masses and not the rabiblancos (i.e., the white minority of elit es whom the government represented
181 prior to Torrijos' assuming power), he excluded the traditional el ites from political power and secured political support from the rural provinces of Panama. Torrijos' regime and support for the masses coincided with reform s made in the Afro-Panamanian community. For this reason, many West Indians such as Maloney believed that his death would negatively effect the black community. In th is collection, Maloney treats such diverse national and international issues as th e means of communication, the economy, and United States imperialism. Unlike his other poetry, this collection treats more national themes and is more patriotic. However, in contrast to the Afro-Hispanic poets of the nation-building project discussed in the firs t chapter who felt torn between writing for their country and their race, Maloney feels at ease doing both. Written one year after the United States invasion of Panama which t ook place in 1989, the patriotic poem Vivir para amar expresses the poet's patriotic love for Panama. Vivir para amarte cada veinte de diciembre, cuando tus hijos pred ilectos se acuerden de tus entraas ultraja Vivir para amarte con esa irona que te confiere tu suerte, recostada sobre un istmo con tu forma de S Panam Querida.. Soar despierto cada vez que te vea dando tumbos, ante mandamases rubios y prepotentes que no sienten tu dolor ni entienden tus quejas
182 ......................................................................... (81) Vivir is the last poem of the collection a nd reflects a nationalistic allegiance despite Panamas problems with dictatorship and fo reign intervention. Ma loney describes his country as a place that he loves and for which he desires peace and justice. Describing North Americans as mandamases rubios, a coll oquial phrase that refe rs to United States imperialism and power, the poet claims that th ey will never understand the countrys pain or suffering and, most importa ntly, they do not belong. While En tiempo de crisis treats such national issues as the U.S. invasion of Panama, Latidos: los personajes y los hechos (1991) recaptures important local, national, and international figures that represent th e African diaspora. Maloney pays equal homage to ordinary people such as el portero Afro-Panamanian scholars such as Armando Fortune (Fortune), and international figures such as Per's Nicomedes Santa Cruz (Nicomedes) and Jamaica's Marcus Garvey (Garvey). On the one hand, he applauds Armando Fortune for his efforts to help all black Panamanians, and on the other, he admonishes blacks for not following Garveys dream to return to Africa. Thus, in Latidos Maloney not only gives testimony of th e personajes y los hechos, but he also demonstrates a diaspora consciousness. For example, in "Negro ecuatoriano," he expresses black solidarity and identifies w ith the situation of AfroEcuadorians who, according to him, have been denied the expr ession of their blackness. Written in 1982, the verses of the first stanza indicate that the situation of blacks in Ecuador is similar to that found in Maloney's native Panama. Maloney begins in medias res in a dialogue with his fellow black Ecuadorian brother. He begi ns: Queda claro que tambin aqu tampoco
183 te han querido" (67). The poet continues and insists that blacks sh are "un pasado comn" and "[una] herencia compartida" (67). Like Wilson, Maloney recognizes that the Panamanian experience must be understood wi thin the broader context of the African diaspora. As Richard Jackson observes, Maloney is a poet of change and renewal and promotes black awareness ( Black Writers and Latin 153). This is ev ident in his first collection of poetry, Juega vivo translated loosely by th e author as "Get Hip." Juega vivo reflects the author's black consciousness, the problems that blacks have endured, and the ones they must confront in the future. Fo r example, in "Negros civilizados," Maloney ironically points to the fact that blacks, w ho are now civilized, have exchanged wisdom for selfishness, goodness for arrogance, gene rosity for a smile, friendship for a box of molasses, and bravery for a simple aphorism. Ironically, whites say that blacks are now civilized because of colonization and slaver y (44). Over time, blacks have lost the positive aspects of their culture and traded them for such trivial items as molasses and aphorisms. Through the use of irony and hum or, Maloney demeans the colonizers for imposing their culture and value system on black s, and he blames them for the African's subsequent loss of pride and self-worth. The title of the poem is both sarcastic and ironical because according to the poet, blacks are anything but civilized if their behavior is measured by the present value system. In the end, he denounces a Eurocentric culture for having imposed its value system on blacks, a system that lacks civility according to Maloney.
184 The title Juega vivo reflects thematically and lin guistically his connection with the people, that is, the Panamanian West In dian. The poem, "Cogindolo suave," reflects the poets use of colloquial West Indian sp eech as well as his black consciousness. Ayer... Hey! T Chombo...Jumecan Quin? Yo... Me, westindian panamanian nacer aqu, gustar aqu, aunque recordar con sabor los tambores de mi madre patria... Hoy... y a pesar de todo ¡Negro! t na t en naa, la gente te est liquidando con una sonrisa falsa y t, como siempre riendo y bailando cogindolo suave. (49)
185 The poet points out that he is West Indian but that he is al so content with his Panamanian heritage because that is what constitutes his identity, that is, his West Indianness and panameidad. The poet also remembers his mother country, referenced as "la madre patria," which symbolizes his African heritage. He uses colloquial speech such as the apocopation of estar, "t" and the use of the infini tives "nacer" and "gustar" to reflect the first person. By doing so, Maloney elevates colloquial speech to the level of formal speech, and the oral language to that of the written word. These forms represent the speech of second, third, and fourth gene ration Panamanian West Indians who blend elements of Spanish and English into thei r speech. The entire poem is not harmonious, and Maloney ends by criticizing the West Indian community. The last verses of the poem criticize Panamanian West Indians who are de scribed as laughing, dancing and, above all, playing it cool. In a light tone, the poet makes fun of the blacks passion for not taking things seriously even when there are serious problems. In fact, Maloney does not solely blame whites for the ills suffered by the black ra ce. As an insider of this group, Maloney subtly points to the West Indian community's destruction. While "Cogiendolo suave" possesses a lig ht tone, "Nuevos nmadas" recreates the black experience of slavery and exile. En el pasado engaados nuestros antepasados nos vieron encarcelar y marcar frente a un enorme espejo. Llegamos fatigados y temblorosos despus de largas horas de sol, silencio y ltigo,
186 a extraer con nuestras manos el oro teido con el l timo aliento del indgena, el oro que revivi el continente blanco oro que sirvi para inventar nuevos nombres. .......................................................... Terminada la faena nuevamente nos enviaron a la deriva Y nos arremolinamos en cuartos pequeos de madera rondando el reino del fantasma esperando ansioso su llamada Pero escuchamos la dureza de su voz Only White. -Gold Roll-Silver Linne imponiendo color a todas las cosas color al enfermo, color a los rezos, color a la risa, a la madre, a los hijos, al mundo, a cada uno de nuestros pasos los mismos pasos, en silencio, lentos, sonmbulos, noctmbulos, ......................................................... Hoy sentimos un ritmo Nuevo, vigor que confunde los pasos cansados, los pasos perdidos con las conciencias decididas. (Maloney Juega vivo 66-68)
187 According to Ian Smart, "Nuevos nmadas" bri ngs together various f acets of the diaspora experience: feelings of exile, displacement scatteration, and r ootlessness. The term "nmada" reflects the diaspora experience becau se it is one of displacement, exile, and homelessness. Similar to a nomad, the dias pora figure is in search of his home and identity. This nomadic experience is not one confined to the indivi dual; the first part of the poem describes the collective African experience as a nomadic one undoubtedly shaped by nostalgia, despair, and colonialism. Maloney returns to Africa, the origin of all blacks, and describes the ini tial colonization of the Panama nian West Indian. Based on deception and greed, blacks were forced into slavery and transplanted to unknown regions. But for many West Indians, this colonization did not end. The shared experience of slavery categorizes all dias pora persons as evidenced by the use of nosotros. This reinforces the collective experience of slavery and points to the lack of specificity. From the common experience of slavery, Maloney moves to the particular experience of the Panamanian West Indian whose experience is more complex having undergone two stages of colonization, one in the West Indies and the other in Panama. West Indians migrated to Panama in search of more opportunities only to find a new type of slavery and injustice where wo rkers were separated by class, color, and complexion, and were distinguished by the Gold Roll and Silver Roll. Instead of freedom and economic prosperity, they encountered unf air treatment by "nuevos dueos," "nuevos amos," in "nuevas tierras." The repetition of "nuevos" reinforces the feeling of exile, rootlessness, and displacement that thes e blacks continuously endured. The poem's multiple references to the nomadic experien ce and to slavery make it a symbol not only of the Panamanian West Indian experience but also of the diaspora experience.
188 While Nuevos nmadas references sl avery, in Amo a mi raza Maloney demonstrates black pride and awareness. Amo a mi raza porque ha sido odiada de siglos en siglos bajo la rotacin misma de todos los signos y sistemas. ......................................... Amo a mi raza negra, fuerte y vigorosa que lleva entrecejas el misterio silencio de un triunfo que se viene. Amo a mi raza porque t quieres que la olvide que la reniegue que la ignore que acepte que ni siquiera debe pertenecerme Amo a mi raza porque ustedes aman a la suya y la portan a toda honra como prueba de vergenza y de grandeza
189 civilizacin e historia. .................................................. Diferente sobre todo por eso amo a mi raza. (75-76) In "Amo a mi raza," Maloney pays homage to his race and makes no apologies for his black pride and heritage. He loves his race because t quieres que la olvide. Maloney directs his anger towards a "t, a composite marker for those who hate the black race. The poet continues his defense by stating that "u stedes" also love your race. The "t" and "ustedes" refer to white Panamanians and ot her groups who criticize or do not understand the black's racial pride. However, Malone y no longer describes the black experience by utilizing black/white dichotomies or imager y. He describes the black experience through historical experiences that pe rtain to blacks as well as the imagery that best describes them. Finally, it is the poet's love for his race that will create a better future. Moreover, Maloney values his race for its difference. Maloney is not only concerned with rela ting the contributions that West Indians have made to the Isthmus, but also with portraying black culture in Pana ma of West Indians and non-West Indians. That is to say, his poetry does not privilege one group over the other since his poetry is about Afro-Panama. Gerardo Maloney does not question his identity or that of other blacks. Rather, he is more concerned with reaffirming his identity as a black Panamanian because it has been denied in Panama for so long. As previously stated, Maloney prefers to use the term Afro-Panamanian to describe blacks in Panama of Caribbean and non-Ca ribbean ancestry because the term is an
190 inclusive one that describes the collective black Panamanian experience. This does not mean that Maloney is not proud of his West Indian heritage or not concerned with preserving it as evidenced in "Nuevos nmadas." He is equally concerned with rescuing and recapturing the West Indianness in Panama as evidenced by his documentary on calypso music, his essays, and poetry that in clude references to West Indian culture through language and people. However, West Indians and the Caribbean constitute a central part of Panamanian and Afro-Panam anian identity. Poems such as "Nuevos nmadas," among others which are dedicate d to West Indians in Panama, not only illustrate Maloney's West Indian consciousness, but they also evoke the collective black experience of slavery and exile. Clearly, Mal oney integrates all voices of Afro-Panama into his poetry and demonstrates that it is possible to preserve th e West Indianness in Panamanian society without marginalizing blacks of non-West Indian descent. Melva Lowe de Goodin and the Use of Language in De/From Barbados a/to Panam As one of Panama's West Indian fema le writers, the dramatist Melva Lowe de Goodin (1945) not only fills a void in the fiel d of Afro-Panamanian literature, but also one in the field of literature written by Afra-Panamanian women. However, Lowe de Goodin is not merely concerned about re presenting women of African descent in Panama; rather, she explores the lives of all Panamanian West Indians. Having earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at Connecticut College and her Ma ster of Arts at the University of Wisconsin in English, Lowe de Goodin is currently head of the English department at the University of Panama and is credited fo r establishing the Eng lish Language Program at Florida State University's Panama Canal Branch. Lowe de Goodin is also the founder of SAMAAP (the Society of Friends of th e Afro-Antillean Museum in Panama), an
191 organization founded in 1981 that is dedicate d to the preservati on of Afro-Antillean cultural and literary heritage on the Isthmus. She has also served twice (1981-1984 and 1998-2000) as president of the organization, and she currently serves as the organization's Treasurer. To date she has one published work, the drama De/From Barbados a/to Panam (1999) which recounts the histori cal experience of blac k West Indians arriving in Panama. De/From Barbados a/to Panam Melva Lowe de Goodin's historical drama De/From Barbados a/to Panam (1999) addresses the problem of language (E nglish-based Creole) in a Spanish colonized territory. Written in English and Spanish, De/From Barbados a/to Panam not only problematizes the use of language, but also de nounces the years when West Indians were denied the right to speak their native la nguage. Lowe de Goodin's fluency in both languages and ability to move between both cultures, that is, the Panamanian and the West Indian one, enables her to reconstruct linguistically and cultu rally the arrival of Afro-Antilleans to the Isthmus. Through th e use of English and Spanish, Lowe de Goodin creates an ethnic memory that reaches several audiences, covers various spaces, and moves between the past and the present. Her work is concerned with preserving heritage, that is, West Indian culture, a nd emphasizes the importance of language in a bilingual (Spanish/English-bas ed Creole) community in which immigrants search for an identity in their new homeland. De/From Barbados a/to Panam reconstructs the migra tion of West Indian immigrants in 1909 to the Isthmus during the co nstruction of the Panama Canal. Lowe de Goodin resurrects the forgotten st ory of West Indian Canal wo rkers that is absent from
192 Panamanian national history. A relatively sh ort drama consisting of fifty-eight pages, seventeen scenes (including a prol ogue and an epilogue) and one act, De Barbados is filled with a lifetime of memo ries. This play, which was first performed in 1985, and again in 1997 and published in 1999, promotes ethnic awareness and pride for a people once denigrated for their incompati bility with the Hispanic nation. The drama begins in the present with Ma nuelita Martin, a student descended from West Indians who is assigned to write an essa y on the Panama Canal in celebration of its anniversary. Unlike her peers who will pr obably write an essay on John Stevens or George Goethals, the engineers of the Canal, she decides to write a report on the West Indian diggers. Her mother is elated a nd suggests that she wr ite about Manuelitas paternal great-grandparents, Abuela Leah and Abuelo Samuel, who her husband Jorge has invited to spend the weekend with them. Through the memories of Abuelo Samuel and Abuela Leah, De Barbados tells the story of three friends-Samuel, James, and George-and their decision to leave their native home of Barbados in 1909 for economic prosperity in Panama. James and George both die while working on the Canal, leaving Samuel and Leah to share memories with Manuelita. Lowe de Goodins drama is didactic and ai ms to fill a void in Panamanian history books which often cite the French and/or Nort h American influence when discussing the Panama Canal, but rarely mention the contri butions of West Indian s. This omission has motivated some Panamanian West Indian writ ers, such as Goodin and Carlos Wilson, to write and bring awareness of their ancestors co ntributions to the Isthmus. In effect, Lowe de Goodin weaves historical events into the drama by revisiting the past. As Larson and Vargas note, this use of history is typical in the works of contemporary Latin
193 American female dramatists. They assert: late twentieth-century writers who use historical events as a point of departure in their works generally do so with the purpose of revising historiography by ch allenging past interpretati ons, providing alternative readings, or restoring serious omissions (xvii). Lowe de Goodin does precisely this by challenging past interpretations and dispelling national myths of the Panamanian West Indian population. One of the myths that Lowe de Goodin de bunks is that all West Indians are from Jamaica. Beginning with the title of the pl ay, she claims Barbados as an ancestral homeland. During Manuelita's presentation, her teacher reveals her ignorance of the West Indian population on several occasi ons. Acknowledging her astonishment over Manuelitas great-grandparents being from Barbados and not from Jamaica, the teacher confesses: Yo pens que casi todos haban venido de Jamaica porque como en Panam le decimos jamaicanos o jamaiquinos a todos los afroantillanos (1.5.27). The second myth that the text dispels is the apparent ability of West Indians to resist illness and death. The teacher sa ys: Pero yo siempre tena entendido que el antillano fue el nico grupo que resisti las enfermedades (1.7.33). This myth is challenged when James perishes in a dynamite explosion and George from a fever. As the text demonstrates, many West Indians died of yellow fever and malaria. Because so many Jamaicans died during the French proj ect, immigrants from Barbados were recruited for the North American project. Lo we de Goodin emphasizes the importance of her story by commenting that the transmitters of knowledge are often not equipped with relating the correct information.
194 In addition, De Barbados challenges the assumption that all West Indians in Panama are of Anglophone Caribbean ancestr y. The West Indian population in Panama not only consists of immigrants from Jamai ca and Barbados, but there is also a small number of immigrants from the French-speak ing islands of Guadal upe and Martinique. Lowe de Goodins choice of Abuela Leah fr om Martinique reinforces that the West Indian population is a heteroge neous ethnic group with cultur al and linguistic differences amongst themselves. This diversity arises when George expresses disbelief over Samuels decision to marry Lea h, a Martinican washerwoman. GEORGE. You really going to marry that French Girl? SAMUEL. Yeah, Man. I tired of this kind of life. I want to be able to go home to a woman after a hard days work. I want to have somebody to cook my food, wash my clothes, and rub up my head when the night come. GEORGE. But what you think you mother going to say when she come? You know these Bajan women dont like no small island French Girl? SAMUEL. Look George. Things change. We is in Panama now. How many Bajan girls you see round the place? Wh en Mama come she will see the situation here and she will understand. I not like you. I don't have nobody in Barbados waiting for me. (1.12.46-47) George makes clear that despite their co mmon Caribbean heritage, Barbadians have prejudices against Martinicans. However, Sa muels mother, who even tually joins her son in Panama, accepts Leah and their marriage de spite her Francophone Caribbean ancestry. While Panamanians commonly refer to this gr oup as West Indians, suggesting a unified
195 and homogeneous community, Lowe de Goodin' s play is one more reminder of the cultural complexities that make up Pana ma and the entire Caribbean Basin. Preserving the West Indian Heritage through Memory Lowe de Goodin challenges past interpre tations and reconstruc ts the past through the use of memory. In her seminal study, "The Art of Memory in Panamanian West Indian Discourse: Melva Lowe de Goodins De/From Barbados a/to Panama," Ifeoma Nwankwo analyzed the reconstruction of co mmon memory in Lowe de Goodins drama and found that language, music, and orality co ntributed to the dram a's creation of ethnic memory. Manuelita uses the memories of her great-grandparents to reconstruct their arrival of several decades ago. Through the dramatic representation of the characters memories, Lowe de Goodin tells and shows the present generation where they come from. Memory and the act of remembering are an integral part of this historical drama. It is only through memory th at the exiled figure can main tain contact with his/her displaced culture. Thus, the memories of Abuelo Samuel and Abuela Leah take the reader and themselves back to the past. Abuelo Samuel and Abuela Leah share their memories with Manuelita, and Lowe de Goodi n reconstructs them for the audience and the reader in dramatic form. Transmitted orally, these memories demonstrate the importance of oral traditions in African descended communities/cultures and show first hand how legends, stories, and histories are passed down from generati on to generation. Through memory these characters maintain their cultu ral, historical, and linguistic ties to the Caribbean. In addition, their memories enable present gene rations to share a connection with their ancestral homeland. As Ifeoma Nwankwo s uggests, what distinguishes Lowe de
196 Goodins play is that both the form and the content evoke and create memory (5). It is the language that the content is written in that produces an authentic ethnic memory. Preserving the West Indian Heritage through Language The fact that Lowe de Goodin writes he r text in English-based Creole and in Spanish, she simultaneously protests the years th at West Indians were denied the right to speak their native language and affirms an Anglophone Caribbean heritage and identity. While De/From Barbados a/to Panam uses memory to remind the present generation of Panamanians of their origins, it is the language that this drama is written and performed in that makes visible the Panamanian West I ndian heritage. Lowe de Goodins bilingual use of language remains important because as Ashcroft has observed: Language is a fundamental site of str uggles for post-colonial discourse because the colonial process itself begins in language. The control over language by the imperial centre-whether achieved by di splacing native langua ges, by installing itself as a standard against other variants which are constituted as 'impurities,' or by planting the language of empire in a new placeremains the most potent instrument of cultural control. Langua ge provides the terms by which reality may be constituted; it provides the names by which the world may be 'known.' Its system of values-its suppositions, it s geography, its concept of history, of difference, its myriad gradations of distinction--becomes the system upon which social, economic and political discourses are grounded. (283) Language becomes a crucial factor in pr eserving and recuperating this ethnic memory as Lowe de Goodin preserves the West Indian heritage by wr iting this piece in the unofficial language of the country. In he r essay, El idioma ingls y la integracin
197 social de los panameos de origin afro-a ntillano al carcter nacional panameo, Lowe de Goodin reproduces a speech by a high rankin g Panamanian government official that indicates how language contribut ed to the anti-West Indian sentiment on the Isthmus. Los jamaiquinos son anti-nacionales, anti -panameos. Ellos son aliados de los gringos contra las aspiraciones del pueblo panameo en ejercer su soberana sobre la Zona del Canal. No se preocupan por aprender a expresarse bien en el idioma nacional. Yo, personalmente, no gusto a ellos...Y no es por discriminacin contra su raza negra. Yo voy a Pacura, a Chepo a cualquiera hora y me siento muy bien acomodado entre los negros de esas regiones. Pero los Chombos.... (Lowe de Ocran 24-25) As discussed in previous chapters, West Indi ans were viewed as traitors to the national cause and as allies to North Americans con centrated in the Canal Zone. The government official emphasizes that West Indians were viewed as incompatible with the Hispanic nation because of their use of English. Th e message is clear; unlike Afro-Hispanics, Afro-Antilleans were culturally and linguistically different from other Panamanians and did not reflect hispanidad. In addition, the government official describes the Afro-Antilleans as chombos a pejorative term used against the West Indian population. It is not a coincidence that the use of chombo by one of Manuelitas classmates shows that discrimination against Panamanians of West Indian descent con tinues: Profesora, en Panam no hay jamaicanos ni barbadienses. Todos son Ch ombos (1.5.27). During a subsequent reading of her story, another student exclaims: Pro fesor, queremos que Manuelita siga leyendo su novela sobre sus abuelos chombos (1.9.39). Lowe de Goodin demo nstrates that the
198 present generation of Panamanians has been in fluenced by the national rhetoric that has denigrated the Afro-Antillean population. For that reason, she strives to educate nonWest Indian Panamanians about the cultural legacy that West Indians have left and continue to leave on the Isthmus. Much like Wilsons novel Chombo De Barbados focuses on redeeming the national and literary im age of the West Indian on the Isthmus. Lowe de Goodin is conscious of the linguistic differences among the various ethnic groups on the Isthmus and the problems that these differences cause. To this end, she writes the majority of this piece in English-based Creole para mantener una fidelidad histrica a la realidad lingstica del grupo antillano en Panam alrededor del ao 1909 (v). The title of the drama, De/From Barbados a/to Panam reflects the linguistic hybridity on the Isthmus by not pr ivileging one language or culture over the other. Furthermore, the bilingual title of th e drama is representative of the Panamanian West Indian who over time has incorporated both languages and cu ltures into his/her own. The story moves historically between th e past and the presen t, and geographically between Barbados and Panama. Both the a udience and the reader are reminded of these temporal and spatial changes principally by the characters use of language. De/From Barbados a/to Panam is a bilingual text that appeals to its native audience of Spanish-speaking Panamanians and English-based Creole-speaking West Indians. Lowe de Goodin is cognizant of her national audience of readers and spectators and provides them with opportunities to unders tand the scenes from the past that are written and performed entirely in English. Be fore each scene, Manuelita, who is telling the story to her Spanish-speaking classmates reads portions of her essay in Spanish. Lowe de Goodin bridges the li nguistic gap between the performance and the audience (or
199 reader) and breaks down cultural barriers that have traditionally separated the various ethnic groups in Panama. In addition, Lowe de Goodin inserts di alectical reminders to reproduce the authentic speech of the characters. She in serts in parentheses reminders for the performers and reader of the different pronunciations of words such as Bajan (pronunciation: Bei-jan) or baby (West Indian pronunciation bei-bi) (1.10.43, 1.2.16). Consequently, this drama is just as mu ch about language as it is about culture. These dialectal reminders emphasize that one can not reclaim the West Indian culture without recapturing the language. Lowe de G oodin could have written the entire text in Spanish to reach the majority of her nationa l audience, but she chose to write bilingually to give linguistic and, therefore, cult ural authenticity to her characters. The characters themselves stress the im portance of speaking Spanish during the early twentieth century and how this impor tance was transmitted to their children. Abuelo Samuel says: Te acuerdas Leah cuando t y yo hablbamos con Jorge en ingls cuando era joven, l nos deca No, no! Somo s panameos. Tenemos que hablar espaol (8). The message was clear: to be Panama nian meant to speak Spanish. Manuelita's mother reminds her that because of the negati ve connotations that we re often associated with the English-speaking Afro-Antilleans, many of them se disfrazaron de latinos, meaning that they spoke Spanish at all tim es and converted to Catholicism (7). Unlike her Panamanian West Indian great -grandparents, Manuelita speaks almost exclusively in Spanish. The following conve rsation demonstrates the linguistic gap between Manuelita's generation and that of her great-grandparents.
200 MANUELITA. Hola Abuelita. ¡Abuelito, que pas! Long time no see. (Habla el ingls con acento espaol.) ABUELO SAMUEL. ¡Hola Mamita! Leah, l ook at how big this child getting-is a long time we ain't see she. ABUELA LEAH. ¡WOW! 'Tas grande ahor a Manuelita. En qu grado ests? (Habla espaol con fuerte acento antillano). MANUELITA. "Ao," Abuelita. Ahora estoy en quinto ao de la escuela secundaria. En ingls se dice "eleventh grade," right? Pero en espaol se dice grado solamente en la escuela primaria. ABUELA LEAH. I will never get this Span ish right. El otro da vinieron tus primos con tu ta Ruth y ninguno de esos muchachos entenda ni una palabra en ingls. Si viera como tu abuelo y yo machacamos el espaol para hablar con ellos. What a thing, eh, Sam? (8) Manuelita, who can not speak fluent English, tries to speak English with her greatgrandparents when she greets them. In her greeting, she inserts an English phrase but quickly reverts back to Spanish for the re mainder of the conversation. Her lack of fluency demonstrates not only a generation gap, but also a linguistic gap between her great-grandparents and herself. Her mo ther, who speaks both English and Spanish, bridges the gap between the two generations. The use of Spanish by Manuelita at school, contrasts with the use of English by her great-grandparents at home. Manuelita demonstrates that children of the present gene ration (the play was first performed in the early 1980s) are both culturally removed fr om their West Indian heritage and linguistically removed.
201 Manuelitas fluency in Spanish and inabil ity to speak English demonstrates how West Indians have integrated into Panamanian culture. Many of the previous generations feared that the use of Spanish denoted a loss of culture and therefore a lack of Caribbeanness. Panamanian West Indians face the dilemma that many exiled figures must confront. On the one hand, there is a struggle to be recognized as Panamanians while, on the other hand, there remains a strong desire to preserve cultural and linguistic ties to the Caribbean. However, becoming Af ro-Panamanian does not have to result in the loss of Caribbeanness. This is one of the goals of Lowe de Goodins play: to preserve the West Indian heritage so that all generati ons will not forget their origins. As Ifeoma Nwankwo suggests: Throughout the play, Lowe de Goodin argues that there is no choice to be made between embracing West India nness and embracing Panamanianness. The recognition and remembering of the Caribb eanness within West Indian Panamanian history and culture can coexist with a firm connection/claim to being Panamanian (15). The use of English and Spanish not only becomes a cultural and a generational marker, but also a temporal one that contrasts the past and the present. The scenes that take place in Barbados, or in early twentieth-century Panama are expressed primarily in English-based Creole. The reader and member s of the audience be gin to associate the scenes that are exclusively in English-based Cr eole with West Indian s and with the past. During the present, West Indians continue to speak English but it is mixed with Spanish which illustrates the cultural and linguisti c transformation of their identity. While speaking to Manuelita and remembering her fri end James, Abuela Leah says: Lo que es ms, me cuenta tu abuelo que l demor en conseguir trabajo cuando lleg a Panam
202 because he was too choosy. He didnt want to do this, He didnt want to do that (12).33 This linguistic change contrasts with the dr amatic scenes from the past where West Indians speak exclusively in an English-based Creole. Furthe rmore, this illustrates the coexistence of both languages and cultures that now characterize the generation of Abuela Leah and Abuelo Samuel. The multiple languages that (co)exist in this text are not only inherent in Panamanian West Indian identity, but furthe r illustrate the diaspora experience. The present day characters represen t four generations of West Indian descendants. Abuelo Samuel and Abuela Leah comprise the firs t generation, Violeta and Jorge comprise the third generation, and Manuelita represents the fourth.34 Violeta and Jorge represent the bridge between the disparate generations of Samuel and Manuelita because they can navigate linguistically and cu lturally between both generations All of these characters share cultural, ancestral, and historical ties to Africa, the Caribbean, and now to Panama. These different generations demonstrate the process of becoming (Afro)Panamanian as they constantly (re)negotiate their identit y. Each generation demonstrates how this identity is dynamic and is constantly (re)n egotiated over time. Lowe de Goodin's text presents how this identity begins to emer ge once Samuel migrates from Barbados to Panama in 1909. 33 It should be noted that Lowe de Goodin does not maintain linguistic authenticity with Abuela Leah who is from Martinique and would most likely speak patois or French and not be fluent in the English-based Creole. However, for the purposes of the discussion, it is evident that there has been some language change with Leah. I feel that Lowe de Goodin wanted to appeal to her national audience of Spanish and Englishbased Creole speakers and did not want to add another language to further complicate the dramas reception. 34 The second generation, the parents of Jorge and Violeta, is not represented in this drama.
203 On his wedding day, Samuel decides that his home is that of Panama and not the one he left behind in Barbados, demons trating the initial stage of becoming (Afro)Panamanian. He says: Today I thank God that he has sent me L eah, this lovely Martinican woman that I married today. From now on we only goi ng to think about making it here in Panama. We are living in Panama now. Our children are going to be born in this place. (1.15.55) Barbados is now a distant homeland that can only be recaptured through their memories. Thus, the process of becoming (Afro) Panamanian is demonstrated by the immigrants' interchangeable use of Spanish a nd English. Present day Abuelo Samuel and Abuela Leah contrast dramatically with the young West Indians who came in 1909 and only conversed in their native languages. Although Abuela L eah stresses that it pains her to speak Spanish with her grandchildren, she is able to communicate in Spanish. This is important because there remain s a correlation between language use and national identity. As Frantz Fanon reminds us: "To speak means to be in a position to use a certain syntax, to grasp the morphology of this or that la nguage, but it means above all to assume a culture, to support the weight of a civilization" (17-18). The characters bilingual use of English-based Creole and Spanish demons trates the process of becoming AfroPanamanian through language. Lowe de Goodin provides a way for the present generation of West Indian descendants (Manuelita) to pres erve a heritage that may be linguistically different from their own, but remains a constitutive part of th eir cultural identity. This historical drama, originating in Barbados and ending in Pana ma, takes the reader and audience through
204 several spaces during different time periods to demonstrate the multiethnic, multicultural, and multilingual nation that composes Panama today. Beyond the Nation-State: Carlos E. Russells Quest to Preserve the Caribbean in Panama Carlos E. Russell (1934) is a professor, essayist, playwrig ht, producer, and poet who lives in the United States. A Panamanian of West Indian descent, he is Professor Emeritus of the City University of New Yo rk-Brooklyn College, has taught classes in Latin American and African culture and polit ics, and African-American literature, and has served as Dean of the School of Contemporary Studies of Brooklyn College, a program which he designed and established. Russell is also a community activist and in 1969 he founded and organized "Black Solidar ity Day" in Brooklyn, New York, which is celebrated the first Monday of every November On this day, blacks from New York City refrain from participation in the social political, and economic a ffairs of the city. Russell has also served as act ing director of the Division of International and Urban Affairs at Medgar Evers College, the City University of New York, and has been associate editor at the Amsterdam Ne ws and the Liberator magazine. Although he resides in the United States, Russell has dedicated his life to the preservation of Panamanian Caribbean culture, language, and heritage through his literature and activism. Similar to Lowe de Goodin, Russell writes bi lingually in Spanish and English in order to maintain the Caribb ean culture in Panama. His collection of poetry includes Miss Anna's Son Remembers (1976), An Old Woman Remembers (1995),
205 and Remembranzas y lgrimas (2001).35 Remembranzas y lgrimas is a compilation of poems in Spanish and English, many of them reproduced from his 1976 collection Miss Anna's Son Remembers Both Miss Annas Son Remembers (1976) and Remembranzas y lgrimas (2001) are bilingual tributes to Pana manians of West Indian ancestry. Moreover, Russells poetry deals with the question of identity and the reconciliation of the Panamanian West Indians cultural, linguistic, and ethnic ties to Africa, the Caribbean, and Panama. Most recently, Russell published a book-leng th essay entitled The Last Buffalo: "Are Panamanians of Caribbean Ancestry an Endangered Species?" (2003) which treats the problema tic of an Anglophone Caribbean heritage in a Spanish, colonized territory. For Russell and other contemporary Panamanian writers of West Indian descent, the Caribbean is not that of Cuba, Puerto Rico, or the Dominican Republic, but instead, that of the British coloni es, Jamaica, Barbados, and/or Trinidad. In his poetry and prose, Russell attempts to r econcile his Anglophone Caribbean heritage with that of his Panamanian one. In Silenciosamente, published in Panamas cultural journal Revista Cultural with the title, Cuatro poetas o nueve poemas, Russell allude s to the Panamanian West Indian's tri-ethnicity and to the complexity of the Panamanian Caribbean experience. En silencio Y no tan silenciosos Nosotros expatriados tras una mirada de risas escondemos nuestras penas 35 For the purposes of this study, only Russe lls poetry written in Spanish will be analyzed.
206 Quines somos? Quines somos? Suspiramos Uniendo dos mundos quiz tres Un poquito de todo todo de nada. Cantamos Lloramos en silencio Nos escondemos tras una mscara pero no tan silenciosos. (Cuatro poetas 110) "Silenciosamente" demonstrates that identity is elusive and often indefinable. This is especially true when dealing with the West Indian population, a group that possesses multiple heritages, cultures, and languages, and is forced to articulate its identity by means of a national paradigm that characteri zes everyone as Hispanic and devoid of an African heritage. In Russell's case, the articu lation of this identity is even more complex because he resides in the United States and is black, West Indian, and Panamanian. In addition, he sees himself as an exile, an "expatriado," removed from his native Panama. Although Russell's poem reminds us that the exile's experience is one of silence, isolation, and loneliness, the last verses of the poem point to the West Indian's resiliency and ability to challenge the national paradigm. While "Silenciosamente" focuses on the collective identity of the diaspora, "Quin soy?" reflects the individual's search for identity. Perhaps Quin soy? best
207 reflects Russell's questioning of id entity and the complexity of the black experience in the Americas, and in particular Panama, where many blacks possess a tri-cultural heritage. Published originally in Miss Anna's Son Remembers in 1976, and republished in Russell's latest volume of poetry Remembranzas y lgrimas in 2001, the poem remains pertinent to the reader and the author today for its unresolved issues of identity. Chombo Mestizo Latino o Criollo. Quin soy? Hablo espaol pues me cri en Panam Pero tambin conozco a Mistah Can a Mistah Burke Arnulfo no gust de mi y hoy no hablo ingls. Materno nos dijo que ese idioma no se habla en Panam Me llamo Jones y no hablo ingls. ¡Dicky Arias habla ingls!
208 Quin soy? Chombo...Mestizo...Criollo... Dime t...Dime t... Quin soy? ( Remembranzas 8) The terms, chombo mestizo latino, and criollo reflect the poet's hybrid identity. However, these terms alone fail to adequate ly describe the Panamanian West Indian. Each term only reaches the plurality and multiplicity of the poet's identity. Moreover, they possess multiple meanings and reflect the difficulty of articulating a single identity. For example, while chombo is a derogatory word used to refer to West Indians in Panama, it can also be used in a positive way put an example of positive use of chombo here. Furthermore, the term is universal and may be used to refer to West Indians from the Francophone or Anglophone Caribbean. Although the term has been traditionally identified with blackness, it does not refl ect the diversity among the West Indian population. The other terms pose the sa me dilemma. For example, while mestizo, latino, and criollo refer to the poet's hybrid cultural iden tity as a Hispanic, these terms do not necessarily define him as a Panamanian of African descent. Indivi dually, these terms do not adequately describe his multiplicity. In effect, the poet is all of these things, but he has difficulty reconciling this multiplicity because the national rhetoric has not allowed him to celebrate his Africanness along with his panameidad Russell's plural identity engenders th e problem that many diaspora populations face. His poem "Quin soy?" demonstrates how in some instances a national discourse of hybridity reinforces an image of homogeneity. The terms, mestizo latino and criollo symbolize hybridity, heterogeneity, and divers ity yet within the Panamanian national
209 discourse, they reinforce homogeneity. Sh alini Puri explains this phenomenon as follows: "...discourses of hybridity have been implicated in managing racial politicseither by promoting cultural over racial hybridity or, by producing racial mixes acceptable to the lite" (45). This is not surprising because, as it was pointed out in chapter one, the discourse of mestizaje was appropriated during the Panamanian nationbuilding project (1880-1920) to reinforce hispanidad and the nation's racial, cultural, and linguistic homogeneity. Th erefore, terms such as mestizo, which supposedly reflect a hybrid, diverse Panamanian nation, result in reinforcing a sense of commonality and homogeneity. Panama's national resistance to cultural a nd racial heterogeneity and specifically to that of the West Indian population is recuperated in Russell's book-length essay The Last Buffalo: "Are Panamanians of Caribbean Ancestry an Endangered Species?" (2003), where he ponders the possibility of an ev entual loss of Caribbean culture among present generation Panamanian West Indians. One must bear in mind that Russell prefers the term Caribbean instead of West Indian b ecause he believes the former reflects more accurately the culture of its pe ople. Although he uses the term to address specifically the Panamanian who like himself is of Anglophone ancestry, he also notes that he desires that Panamanians of Francophone ancestry recu perate their culture and language as well. Rooted in W.E. B. Du Bois' theory of double consciousness and Frantz Fanon's anticolonialist reading of the problematic of the negro, Russell theorizes that the loss of the English language among Anglophone Caribbean s, the disconnect with their native homeland of the Caribbean, the exclusive us e of Spanish, and the integration into Panamanian culture and society, all make th e Panamanian of West Indian descent an
210 endangered species. In effect, he /she is similar to the last buffalo who is in danger of extinction. Russells piece is just as much about memory as it is about identity as he recalls his childhood years when he was gr owing up in West Indian neighborhoods in Panama: La Boca, Ro Abajo, and Coln. Ru ssell seeks a newly defined Panamanian nation that would incorporate the Panamanian West Indian which l eads him to ponder the question: Where do we, as a Caribbean peopl e, fit within the social and political configuration of the Repub lic of Panama? (20) Russell contests the Panamanian nationa l paradigm of language, religion, and race. He does not want to just remember the importance of his ancestors and their traditions, rather he wants to maintain them. Russell further challenges the limits of the nation-state which views the nation within defined territoria l boundaries. Although Russell resides in the United States, he mainta ins strong ties with Panama, yet he rejects the nation as it is since it is a country that does not value the West Indian influence and, consequently, he feels threat ened by the loss of the Caribbean language and culture. While it is true that Russell does not articu late his plan in terms of a post-national Panama, there are three key arguments in his es say which point to this theory: the use of English, the recognition of the exile community in the United States, and the incorporation of the Anglophone Caribbean in the Panamanian social, political, and cultural matrix. In fact, post-nationalism res ponds to the situation of migratory subjects and diaspora communities dispersed throughout the Atlantic. As Xiaopong Li observes: Postnationalism...belongs to a crowd of descriptive/interpretive terms characterizing contemporary conditions of human and cultural existence--
211 globalization, transnationaliz ation, postcoloniality, creolization, transculturation, and hybridity--without being re ducible to them. It delin eates the dual attempt to globalize on the one hand and to hold onto the nation on the other (194). Paul Gilroys metaphor of the black Atlant ic is another reminder of Russells postnational Panama. He notes: The specific ity of the modern political and cultural formation I want to call the black Atlantic can be defined, on one level, through this desire to transcend both the st ructures of the nation-state a nd the constraints of ethnicity and national particularity ( The Black Atlantic 19). Post-nationalism responds to the limitations of the nation-st ate as well as to the phenomen on of globalization. Russells essay challenges tradit ional notions of nati onhood and nationality a nd illustrates a postnational Panama, one without fixed boundari es or a static na tional identity. First, the Panamanian nation that Russell articulates is not one of homogeneity but one of diversity. According to Richard Kearney: A nation is often assumed to be a state, or a group of people aspiring in common towa rds the condition of a state The nation is defined, according, in terms of a racially homogeneous people which seeks out a state appropriate to its unique ident ity A common sense of nation is that of ethnicity, defined in terms of a racially homogeneous people which seeks out a state appropriate to its unique identity (2,3). As previously illustra ted, Panama is a racially and ethnically heterogeneous nation, and the West Indian pr esence further diversified the Isthmus and threatened its homogeneous image As a result, many West Indi ans were encouraged to assimilate and intermarry in order to generate ligh ter populations. Russell rejects assimilation as an answer to the problem of the Panamanian of Caribbean descent. He writes: "...we are in danger of total assimila tion which will, in my judgment, result in the
212 practical disappearance of our culture, and eventu ally ourselves as a distinct people. This possible eventuality I re gard as undesirable" ( The Last Buffalo 26). Russell blames assimilation for the loss of Caribbean culture in Panama. In this respect, he rejects George Westerman's assimilation thesis as discussed in chapter four. Whereas Westerman and others campaigned for Panamanian s of West Indian descent to assimilate into Panamanian culture and society and to prove their compatibility with the Panamanian nation, Russell rejects this strate gy and calls upon West Indians to maintain their cultural and linguistic ties with th e English-speaking Caribbean through memory and heritage. For Russell, there can be no compromise, and thus, he promotes the strengthening of Panamanian cu lture by retaining within it a strong and visible Caribbean presence that adds to the social, political and economic vitality of Panama (46). Another common understanding of nation is as territory (Kearney 3). Russell is not only concerned with th e Caribbean population in Pa nama but also the exile community in the United States. According to the 1990 census, there are approximately 30,000 black Panamanian West Indians in the city of New York (Barrow Piel oscura 199). In Russells view, national boundaries should be erased to acknowledge diaspora Caribbean populations. As a result, Russells arguments defy the traditional nation-state and that of Panamanian nationhood Russell describes himself as Panamanian and Caribbean echoing the metaphor of Du Bois double consciousness. He speaks of th e Panamanian West Indian experience as one of duality and describes this duality as Pana-Caribbean, meaning the superimposition of Caribbean culture on the Panamanian social matrix (28). Language,
213 food, dance, and music are all elements of Pa na-Caribbean culture (33). Thus, he does not merely desire to incorpor ate the Caribbean into Panama, but he wants to transcend the limits of the nation-state. Russell's choice to write bilingually does not reflect his proficiency, or lack there of, in either language. He is completely fl uent in both Spanish and English and as he acknowledges in The Last Buffalo which is written primarily in English: "Yo soy aguilucho y sera raro egresar del nido de guilas y no dominar el es paol," meaning that he has an excellent command of Spanish (32). As in De Barbados language is an extremely important part of Russell's works a nd is central to main taining his Caribbean and Panamanian identity. In addition, for Russell, the use of English equates to black nationalism, especially in th e case of Anglophone West Indian s, and the loss of it means that he has denied himself his African root s. As Russell informs us: "[m]y reason for choosing English is in keeping with my commit ment to that 'Last Buffalo,' and my sense that there is a desperate need to preserve our heritage. To do so we must master the English language, for English was the prim ary language of our Caribbean forbearers" (32). Furthermore, for Russell language is important because "language is the primary transmitter of one's culture. The loss of one's language is generally followed by the obliteration of ones roots as expressed thr ough the nuances of the new dominant spoken and written word" (32-33). One must bear in mind that other Panama nians of West Indian descent disagree with Russells assertion that Panamanians of West Indian descent are an endangered species. Nor do they believe that speaking E nglish is the only way to preserve West
214 Indianness in Panamanian culture. Pana manian West Indian Alberto Barrow, for example, notes: Pero presentar al ingls como la ba se fundamental de nuestra identidad panameo-caribea no me luce como una pr opuesta del todo buena. En efecto, ello niega la riqueza multicultural y mu ltilingue de nuestra gente, congelndolo en el pasado, creando lmites inn ecesarios, no aconsejables, que nos separan de otros negros hispanoparlantes de nuestro pas incluidos nuestros progenitores. A diferencia de mi colega y amigo Carlos Russell, no creo necesario ni posible recrear en Panam lo que l llama una identidad caribea .En definitiva, mantener la lengua no es un requisito indi spensable para conservar la identidad tnica. ( Piel oscura 264-265) Barrows sentiments are less radical than Ru ssells and perhaps express views of other Panamanians of West Indian descent who do not feel that it is necessa ry or even realistic that the present generation will be able to speak the language of its ancestors. Perhaps Melva Lowe de Goodins piece is more realisti c as it promotes ethnic memory and takes into account that present ge neration West Indians do not ne cessarily share the linguistic ties to the Caribbean. Russells adamant perspective about th e preservation of the English language stems from his belief that th e Caribbean language and culture in Panama are being lost and will most likely become extinct in future generations. His belief is not surprising because [m]embers of a group who feel their cu ltural and political identity is threatened are likely to make particul arly assertive claims about the social importance of maintaining or resurrecting th eir language (LePage 236). Russell differs from his peers
215 in that he strongly believes that language is the key to the survival of the Caribbean of Anglophone ancestry in Panama. Russells post-na tionalist Panama obligates us to return to Antonio Bentez-Rojos assertion that the Caribbean connects North and South America in another way. Russell's views on Pa namanian nationalism defy the traditional construction of the nation-state by illustrati ng the importance of English which has been associated with foreigners, and by trans cending the limits of fixed national boundaries. Coda Although the issues of race, language, a nd nation are present in all of these writers' works, each one treats them in a di fferent way. Gerardo Maloney is concerned with portraying the past, presen t, and future of blacks in Panama and demonstrates a broader awareness of the black problematic in his works by characterizing problems that affect not only blacks in Panama but also ot hers throughout the diaspora. Melva Lowe de Goodin stresses the importance of language, me mory, place, and identity in her work and attempts to recapture the Panamanian West Indian heritage through memory and the representation of this herita ge through language. For Carlos E. Russell, Spanish is a means of communication, but it is not a symbol of the Panamanian West Indian culture or experience. Russell insists on preserving West Indian culture in Panama through memory, as well as through the preservati on of English. Bilingual in Spanish and English, Maloney, Lowe de Goodin, and Russell ar e perhaps similar to the last buffalo in that they represent one of the last generations of Panamanian West Indian writers who are able to write, speak, and understand the language of their ancestors. However, they each contribute to the preservation of this heritage by highlighting the West Indian experience in Panama which is a large part of the Af ro-Panamanian experience. By doing so, their
216 works further illustrate Panama's hybrid cultu ral identity and diversity which is colored by not only Spanish influences, but by Af rican and Caribbean ones as well.
217 Conclusion Afro-Panamanian Discourse: From Invisibility to Visibility Geographically, Panama is the Southern-most c ountry of Central America. It is a long, narrow country in the shape of an S, borde red on the West by Costa Rica, on the east by Colombia, on the north by a 1,160 kilometer Ca ribbean coastline, and on the south by a 1,690 kilometer Pacific coastline (Dogget 20). Panamas history, geographical position, and cultural hybridity have shap ed the Isthmus national discourse. In effect, Panamas geographic location has influenced its hi story and struggle for national autonomy. In his essay, Los afroan tillanos en Panam, Gerardo Maloney points out three modes of geographic exploitati on that have characterized the Isthmus since the colonial period: Camino de Cruces, one of the first roads built by the Spanish conquistadores the Panama Railroad, and the Panama Canal. These geographic exploitations occurred during the colonial period, the nineteenth century, and the early twentieth century and contributed to the voluntary and involuntary migration of Africans to the Isthmus. Consequently, black identity in Panama is di rectly related to the countrys geographic exploitation. Afro-Panamanian discourse began with a questioning of identity as evidenced in the poems "Ego sum" and "Negro nac," by the Afro-Hispanic poets Gaspar Octavio Hernndez and Federico Escobar and continues to present this same problematic because of the added factors of color, class, and co mplexion of the Caribbean. In nineteenth and early twentieth-century Panamanian literature, Afro-Hispanic poets felt challenged by a national rhetoric that invisibilized their blackness and aimed to promote panameidad Consequently, this national rhetoric characterized Panama contradictorily as a mestizo
218 non-black nation, and in light of such excl usion, many writers such as Escobar and Hernndez challenged the national discourse by representing themselves as black, albeit with some hesitation. The literature of th e nation-building project illustrated how the imaginary of the nation affected late nineteenth and early twentieth-century AfroPanamanian discourse and led other poets such as Simn Rivas and Jos Dolores Urriola to write themselves out of blackness by writi ng for their country instead of their race. Early twentieth-century Panama nian literature represented blacks as objects of the white mans desire which resulted in essent ialisms and a deracialized discourse. For Franceschi, Korsi, and Sinn, blacks repres ented the Other and a kind of forbidden fruit. While Sinn attempted to problemati ze the situation of the black by exploring the subconscious fears of whites towards blacks, his depicti on of blacks resulted in his reinforcing many of these same stereotypes b ecause blacks were vi ewed outside of the African Diaspora discourse. The United States has been a central figure in Afro-Panamanian literary discourse. The construction of the Canal inspired a li terature that contested the United States presence. Tired of the United States occ upation of the Canal Zone, writers such as Joaqun Beleo protested North American im perialism and illustrated the division among Afro-Hispanics and Afro-A ntilleans caused by perceived images of Panamanian nationalism. The Canal Zone limited Panama 's sovereignty and independence which it did not gain until 1999 when ownership of the Canal was transferred to Panama. However, recent acquisition of the Canal ha s promoted national unity (Snchez 110). Although Joaqun Beleo proteste d United States racism, he failed to see himself as a
219 supporter of the racist national discourse whic h served to divide Panamanians from all foreigners that inhabited the Isth mus including West Indians. Panamas geographic position has contri buted to its economic promise and the countrys exploitation. This e xploitation resulted in the migr ation of Afro-Antilleans in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centur ies and created a new Other, that of the black West Indian. The late twentieth centu ry ushered in a group of Panamanian writers of West Indian descent who were challenged to represent themselves in Panamanian literature. Panamanian West Indian Carlos Guillermo Wilson (re)signified the image of the black West Indian in Panamanian liter ature by recognizing the importance of the countrys heterogeneity and the West Indian contributions to the Isthmus. He fought to change the concept of Panamanian nati onal identity which abhorred blackness. Wilson, along with other contemporary writers such as Gerardo Maloney, Melva Lowe de Goodin, and Carlos E. Russell, exemplif ies the complexities of Afro-Panamanian discourse because their works illustrate ties no t only to Latin America and Africa but also to the Caribbean. In the early nineteenth century, nationa lism was a common theme in Panamanian and Afro-Panamanian literature. Contem porary Panamanian West Indian writers illustrate that nationalism continues to be an important issue and is further complicated in the age of migration, exile, and globalization. Maloney asse rted black nationalism in his works and promoted unification with blacks across national boundaries Lowe de Goodin stressed the importance of language while Ca rlos E. Russell advocated a post-national Panama which would transcend the lim its of the traditional nation-state.
220 While this diversity makes for a rich he terogeneous nation, it also makes difficult an articulation of a national Afro-Panaman ian identity. Panamanian West Indian discourse challenged the early twentieth century mestizaje rhetoric and anti-West Indian sentiment and fought to incorporate th e Anglophone Caribbean into the national paradigm. However, many of these problems re main. It should be noted that, "... AfroPanamanian consciousness continues to be inhibited by three major obstacles: nationalism, the division between antillanos and natives; and a soci al hierarchy based in part on skin colour, which allows a sele ct number of blacks and mulattos to ascend unhindered into the dominant mestizo culture" (Minority Rights Group 208-09). Panamas size does not illustrate the impact of its multiplicity and plurality when discussing literatures of the Americas and the African Diaspora. Pana manian literature is truly a diaspora literature involving Africa, the Caribbean, and Central America. From the late nineteenth century to the pres ent, Afro-Panamanian discourse has been transformed from a state of invisibility to visibility. This study will hopefully begin to lift a veil from the tradition of black writing in Panama by inserting it. Upon completing this dissertation, it has b ecome apparent that much remains to be explored. For example, studies on Afra -Panamanian writers remain scarce. In addition, there is an emerging group of new generation Panamani an short story writers of African descent. Carlos Oriel Wynter Melo (1971) and Melanie Tayl or (1972) are two of these writers who share paternal ties to the West Indies but whose works do not exclusively treat problems of race and ethnicity. Thus, their works invite us to continue examinining the meanings of race, ethnicity, and nation in Panama in the new millenium.
221 This dissertation will hopefully incite interest in the study of Afro-Panamanian literature and that of Central American writers.
222 LIST OF REFERENCES
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247 Vita Sonja Nora Stephenson Watson was born in Newport News, Virginia on October 4, 1974. She is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Willie and Millie Stephenson of Newport News, Virginia and the sister of Dr. B ecky Leticia Stephenson of Durham, North Carolina. In 1992, she graduated with honor s from Menchville High School and was accepted to the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. She graduated from the College of William and Mary in December 1995 and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish. After graduating, she taught Spanish at Denbigh High School in her hometown of Newport News. From ther e, she relocated to Knoxville to pursue a Master of Arts degree in Spanish. In Augus t 2000, she received a Master of Arts degree in Spanish and in August 2005, she received a Doctor of Philosophy in Modern Foreign Languages. In 2002, she married Mr. Marcus Jermaine Watson who received his Juris Doctor and Master of Business Ad ministration from the Univ ersity of Tennessee in 2003. Jermaine and Sonja currently re side in St. Louis, MO. In Fall 2005, she will begin a one year Po st-Doctoral Research Fellowship in the African and African-American Studies Depart ment at Washington University in St. Louis, MO.