Pan Caribbean Sankofa and the Panama Canal Museum Collection (PCMC) have partnered on a project to record and preserve oral histories narrated specifically by people of West Indian descent. Members of Pan Caribbean Sankofa conduct the interviews, and UF preserves and provides access to them as part of the Panama and the Canal Oral Histories collection.
Pan Caribbean Sankofa, a division of CGM Cemetery Preservation Foundation, is an outreach, research, education, and advisory group to organizations and individuals interested in the history, culture, and diaspora of Caribbean people and their descendants in the Caribbean, Latin America, and the United States – focusing on Panama, the Panama Canal, and Panama Railroad from the 1800s to the present.
We invite everyone to share personal stories about their everyday lives and the lives of ancestors, cultural traditions, challenges faced, joys and achievements experienced, important moments witnessed, and thoughts on what it was like to be a person of West Indian descent living and working in Panama and/or the Canal Zone. Historically, the West Indian voice has not been heard, and it is largely underrepresented in many research collections related to the Panama Canal despite the powerful legacy of the West Indian community. The stories of the individuals who lived and worked there are essential pieces of the historical puzzle – without these recorded stories, valuable insight into the past and many cultural memories will be lost. Oral history interviews help to enrich our understanding of life surrounding the Canal, and they ensure that a variety of experiences and viewpoints are represented in the documented history. Our goal is to capture the broadest possible range of individual and collective experiences – everyone’s narrative is irreplaceable and important. We want to give everyone an opportunity to tell their own story in their own words.
All oral history interview recordings will be available for education and research by scholars, teachers, students, and the public. The recordings will be freely available online to a worldwide audience as part of the UF Digital Collections and the Digital Library of the Caribbean.
View a list of the interviews that are available.
If you are interested in recording an oral history, please view our brochure which is available in both English and Spanish. If you would like to donate your time or funds to support the project, please contact Pan Caribbean Sankofa at 347-244-3473 or email@example.com.
Also, we are working to collect more historical resources pertaining to the West Indian community, including photos, diaries, letters, postcards, home movies, scrapbooks, and other objects. We collect a wide variety of materials relating to the history of the Panama Canal in order to make them available for research and education. These important materials will be used to develop a deeper and more accurate understanding of the complexity and diversity of life for the West Indian community in Panama and the Canal Zone. We do accept digital scans in lieu of original objects. Please contact PCMC Curator John Nemmers at 352-273-2766 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This gallery features images from the Panama Canal Museum Collection selected for display as part of the online event, Pan-Caribbean Voices: Connecting People and Sharing Stories, on May 20, 2021. Pan Caribbean Sankofa, Inc., and the UF George A. Smathers Libraries collaborated on this event, which examines the history and lives of the Pan-Caribbean people who lived and worked in the Panama and the former Canal Zone.