My last night in Panama City, I had the privilege of meeting up with a collective of Black-American female travelers for dinner; one of the many benefits to being a part of the Nomad*ness Travel Tribe. From Chicago to Atlanta, these women came from all walks of life. During the course of our meal, we exchanged travel stories, from getting racially profiled to avoiding the Gringo tax from local taxi drivers.
We each shared highlights from our time in Panama. I was shocked that nobody knew about the Afro-Antillean Museum. I had to check myself because I had just learned about it a few days prior. Part of the conversation was rooted in the frustration that the Panama Canal gets so much notoriety while the stories of the people who sacrificed their lives to build it remains on the periphery. As Black people, we know this story all to well. The Afro-Antillean Museum was an essential part of my Panama City experience. It helped me appreciate the Canal in a different way. So much so that I wish it was a packaged deal for all tourist flocking to Panama City and here is why.
“The Afro-Antillean Museum tells the Story of a Great Migration.”
Visiting the Afro-Antillean Museum painted a vivid picture of the rich stories of the West Indian community that migrated to Panama to build the railroad and later the Canal. In 1903, approximately 50,000 workers were imported from Jamaica, Martinique, Barbados and Trinidad. Often treated like second class citizens, these men and women worked for peanuts on the dollar while their contributions helped revolutionize international trade for years to come.
I don’t know about you, but this story wasn’t in my history books. Learning about the powerful history and narratives of Black people around the world is one of the main reasons I love traveling. This experience gave me another reason to be a proud child of the diaspora.