AuthorZenger, Robin Elizabeth
AdvisorMorrissey, Katherine G.
Committee ChairMorrissey, Katherine G.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractAt least 50,000 working-class laborers from the West Indies, many of them poor and unemployed, remained with their families in central Panama after the construction of the Panama Canal in 1914. Over the next thirty years, along with a small number of West Indian professionals, religious leaders, and business owners, they established ways to sustain themselves in locales, both in Panama and the American-controlled Canal Zone, where they faced challenges and opposition. Their sizable presence interrupted ideals of elite politicians in Panama to Hispanicize the population. Nationalist Panamanians stigmatized them as culturally different competitors for canal maintenance jobs, and lacking in loyalty to the state because they clung to English and their British colonial citizenship. In the Canal Zone, they faced racial segregation and second-class status. This dissertation examines critical physical and cultural spaces the immigrants created to foster community, provide social and economic security, educate their children, and as a corollary, develop new identities. Using archival material, land records, interviews and historical newspapers from Panama and the United States, and informed by a wide range of secondary sources, the chapters examine the activism of West Indians, in the context of Panamanian historical trends. The case studies analyze involvement of the immigrants in three particular settings: as members of voluntary associations called lodges, as renters and residents of neighborhoods, and as shapers of education for their children, who were born into citizenship in Panama. West Indians had come to Panama from different island cultures and maintained many differences, yet in these settings they developed commonalities and shared experiences as West Indian Panamanians. In the process, West Indian immigrants influenced Panama's development in ways little acknowledged in Panamanian or American national, social or economic history.
Degree ProgramGraduate College