by J Robertson Miller, 3 Feb 2023
Professor Danae led us on a visit to this small museum honoring the history of the Afroantillian community. It is located on Calle 24 Este and Avenida Justo Arosemana across from the Metro station 5 de Mayo.
This wooden structure began life as the Christian Mission Chapel in 1910 and served its congregation until 1980. It was built on land belonging to the Panama Railway Company by volunteers from the Mission’s brethern from Barbados. The style is typical of the canal and the West Indies at that period of time.
We were welcomed by docents (people who protect the artifacts and explain them to visitors) Miriam Gómez, Yamir Guevara and Irayda Alcina who gave us a guided tour, telling us the significance of the artifacts on display and the history of the building.
Caribbean immigrants arrived for the construction of the railroad which started in 1850, and later worked on building the canal. You can see what a worker´s contract looked like.
An original metal mosquito sprayer is appropriately on a stand with photos of it being used. These were so important to reduce the mosquitoes that transmitted yellow fever and malaria which sickened and killed so many workers.
Various types of track, railway and cart, show the variety that were used. Miniature buildings show the workers´ housing are above a photo taken at the time. At the back of the building are series of room displays. In the dining room, on the table is a replica of bread with a sign that tells the tradition of the bun.
The variety of items on display is amazing, and all in a small space. All are details of a period of time now long gone as are the people who lived and worked in this area of Panama and worshiped in this building.
A lovely, well thought out museum. Well worth more than one visit, there is a lot here.