Friday, October 9, 2009

Black Presence in Panama (2000 CE)

Seko VArner's video footage from a trip to Panama in April of 2000. Seko traveled to the country of Panama with Tamaris & Edilberto, friends who formerly lived in Panama City and in Colon Panama. Seko's trip was for pleasure and to view the African presence in Panama (one of Seko's hobies is studying the African presence in various areas of the world).

This was a trip I couldn't wait to do. I tried to go to visit Cuba in 1999 with AfroPop until the U.S. goverment shut me down. I really needed to visit Latin America as I had studied so much about my ancesteral connections (African & Indian) in Latin America. In early 1998 I completed a photo exhibit called "Mi Gente (My people)... The African Presence in Latin America." In late 1999 I met Fulo (Edilberto Galvan from Colon Panama) and we started hanging out. Fulo was a Spanish instructor in Portsmouth Virginia and I was a counselor in Portsmuth. It turned out that we were both attending Hampton University at the same time in the 1980s. Tammy studied at Norfolk State University and was also originally from Panama. Fulo enjoyed my exhibit and allowed it in his classroom. Fulo and I also both were DJs and we used to hang-out at the various Latino night clubs in Virginia.
During the trip I was able to eat Panamanian food, learned that the Panamanian version of the N-word was the word "Chumbo", and completly soaked in the beautiful culture of Panama. One thing I did note is that the Panamanians of African descent didn't outwardly value thier African heritage as much as we "African-Americans" outwardly do. This presence was mostly obvious in Colon and pretty much hidden in all other parts of the cultural melting pot of Panama. This was a great trip. I plan to make Panama my second home. Here are a few videos from my trip......

The second installment in my 2000 trip to the lovely country of Panama. On this day I traveled to Colon and witnessed Carnivalito in Colon. I became so excited that I left my Panamanian friends and dissapeared for hours capturing video and taking photos. In this area of Panama I was able to easily capture my interest in the African presence in Panama. I also heard frequently "Yankee Go Home !" by the older Panamanians although it was mostly in jest. This is one of the areas that my beloved U.S. Goverment bombed in 1989 which resulted in thousands of civilian deaths 11 years earlier. I was warned a few times that some older Blacks did harbor anger towards America for the deaths of their family and since I could easily fit in, I should try to speak my limited Spanish just to be safe. In Colon most of the older "Blacks" spoke both an English Patois and Spanish while the youth spoke mainly Spanish. As it became apparent that I was an American I was frequently called the N-Word in a very loving manner and asked if I knew Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige, or Mariah Carey. Towards the end of this video is my interview with a guy who had an American father and a Panamanian mother who acted as a "Congo" during the festivities. He noted how the term 'Congo' had come to mean "foolish" to the Spainard enslavers as many of the enslaved African seemed to do and wear foolish things which were later acts and weapons used by these enslaved Africans to fight against the Spainards. Nowadays the term meant "a fool" and according to him many of the younger Panamanians are unaware of it's origin. He also believed, as most of us were taught, that Pre-European enslavement Africans worshiped Satan. He and I had an interesting conversation later since I had to buy him some liquer to get him to do the interview.

Day Three ! This was a great trip ! This video begins with a little more of Carnivalito in Colon. I wish I could have showed all of what occured in Colon. Colon is truly the place to party in Panama !

Day Four ! I've learned to stick with my tour guides...... I'm a mess for real. I kept leaving Fulo & Tammy and dissapearing and getting into too much fun. On this day we had dinner, visited some very historical areas of Panama and I forgot my video camera. My video is missing the rich cultural landscape and people of Panama...... But I got more footage of Colon Baby ! We returned to Colon again for more of Carnivalito (little Carnival)> These folks in Colon don't stop. The official Carnival season is over...... but Colon doesn't stop. This night a street parade occured with locals "representing thier streets". Everyone is in the street yelling their streets version of "Todo el mundo bajo, todo el mundo abajo, todo el mundo - ariba, ariba, ariba, ariba...." Then there is another chant having everybody go to the left and right. It was sort of a very soulful Electric slide.

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