Panama canal connections

Alexis Sandoval, Panamanian ambassador to Jamaica, points to a picture of the current expansion of the Panama Canal, which is scheduled for completion in 2016. 

HUNDREDS of Jamaicans made the arduous trek to central America in early 1900s to assist in the construction of the Panama Canal.

These tales are brought back to life in Panama Canal Stories, which makes its debut at the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) Film Festival at the Courtleigh Auditorium in New Kingston on Tuesday at 8:30 pm.

The film fest begins Tuesday and continues until Saturday.

"Panama Canal Stories relates the survival experience of Jamaicans and other Caribbean nationals in the construction of the Panama Canal," said Alexis Sandoval, Panamanian ambassador to Jamaica, through his interpreter Corey Whyte.

The film comprises five short shorts by Panamanian directors, who focus on the lives of ordinary folk affected directly or indirectly by the waterway's construction.

"One of these stories relate to the experience of Jamaicans when they came to Panama. The plot relates a romance between two Jamaicans," said Sandoval, whose tour of duty began in March.

Listed among the film's credits are directors Pablo Schverdfinger, Carolina Herrero, and Pituka Ortega Heilbron.

The ambassador feels the premiere of film is timely.

"It is quite opportune as Panama and Jamaica are working on a bilateral agreement in areas of agriculture, tourism, commerce and sports. A draft is currently being reviewed," he said.

Construction of the canal started in 1904 and ended in 1914. The 77.1 kilometre waterway connects the Atlantic Ocean, via the Caribbean Sea, to the Pacific Ocean.

Sandoval, who was born in Rio Abajo in Panama City, said the connection to Jamaica in several cities are still alive and well.

"In Colon City, for example, the food and culture are similar to that of Jamaica. So I'm already accustomed to it. There are many people living there who can trace their heritage back to Jamaica," he said.

For the film premiere, the ambassador hopes patrons will come out and view Panama Canal Stories with a sense of connection.

"The Panama Canal has connected our countries and lives together," he said.

Published Date: 
Sunday, July 5, 2015