Black Ethnicity Day Celebration in Panama

The fact that Black Ethnicity is being celebrated yearly on the 30th of May in Panama has now a permanent place in our culturally diverse country. There is, however, a special history behind the development of the recognition of our ethnic identity which for so long was denied. The person responsible for the events being celebrated until now hailed from the Province of Chiriqui and the historical background behind the celebration of this national holiday has made it possible to highlight the abolition of slavery in 1851 in our country of Panama during the period in which it was united with the country of Colombia, then called Nueva Granada.

The government of Panama by means of Law Number 9 of the 30th of May of 2000 officially established that yearly date for the celebration of the Day of National Black Ethnic groups. The original idea for this celebration, in fact, had been born from the inspiration and vision of one of Panama’s native sons born in the Province of Chiriqui, in the area of Arena of the district of Puerto Armuelles. The Honorable Claral Richards Thompson, an afro Panamanian champion discus thrower during the First National games in the year of 1955 in which he represented the Republic  of Panama, also represented the country as a baseball pitcher, having signed a contract with the San Francisco Giants in their minor league as a professional ball player. This outstanding athlete, up and until the date of his retirement, was also a supervisor for the United Fruit Company in the area.

The Honorable Legislator Osman Gomez, in fulfillment of a campaign promise he made to the Honorable Richards Thompson, took the matter up with the Legislative Assembly as a first draft of the above mentioned law. In their efforts to work out the passage of the law, there was close coordination between the functionary and the Ad hoc Commemoration Committee for the Day of Black Men and Woman. The vital work and tireless efforts of Professor Elias Colley should also be underlined in developing the investigative research and documentation for the technical affirmation of historic facts on that first draft of the law. Much later the Human Rights Commission of the legislative body took up the draft and welcomed it for due discussion.

It should be noted that the valuable contribution of the members of the Ad hoc Committee on Commemoration of the Black Ethnicity Day in Panama including the Director of the Afro Panamanian Chamber of Commerce (CAMCAP), the Savings and Credit Cooperative of Cristobal, the Society of Friends of the Afro Antillean Museum of Panama (SAMAAP), and other notable citizens have made it possible for what today has become a joyful occasion to honor our citizens of Afro Panamanian ancestry. So that the 31st of May, the day of our Lord dedicated to celebrating National Black Ethnicity, should first, and foremost, be remembered as the day to commemorate the law that ended the cruel practice of slavery in New Granada in 1851 in the country which today constitutes the Republic of Panama.

Leave a Reply