PANAMA AND THE NEGRO
 OUR steamer has just dropped anchor off Bridgetown, the capital of the British West Indian
island of Barbados. She will be stopping in port long enough for us to make an excursion
ashore, but we must not leave the ship until the doctor has been on board to see that we
are not "infectious," and the harbourmaster to satisfy himself that we are not
"undesirable aliens." Meanwhile, plenty of amusement will be provided for us by ten little
negro boys, and a brigade of adult darkies who have come out in small boats to meet the
The children are remarkably clever divers, as you will soon see if one of you will give
the signal for which they are chorusing. A penny will start the show. Yes, throw it into
the water, anywhere you like, and the farther away the better will be the fun. Look at the
youngsters racing along in their home-made skiffs, with their eyes fixed on the flying
coin. A second later, and the coin has disappeared—so have the boys. Now curly black
heads are popping up into the sunshine; someone must have found the penny, for the
children would not come to the surface whilst there was a chance of making money below.
See, there is the prize-winner, he is just banking the penny in his mouth, Little folks on
the ship do not find any difficulty in persuading fathers and mothers to give them coppers
to throw in the sea; grown-ups join in the flinging of the largess, coins are sent flying,
often after a make-believe start, in all directions, and the diving exhibition becomes
more and more exciting.
The older darkies, in charge of rowing boats which
 look very trim in comparison with the children's home-made craft, are touting for
passengers; at the same time they are so vigorously trying to do each other out of the
chance of being first to mount the gangway ladder that we begin to fear all the boats will
be capsized before we are ready to go ashore.
What a hubbub! Little and big darkies are shouting at the top of their voices, and talking
nineteen to the dozen. Their antics and pranks make the general meaning of their chatter
quite plain; but no wonder you are all puzzled as to what language or languages they are
speaking. I can assure you that every one of them is talking English. But English as she
is spoken by a West Indian negro sounds like a foreign tongue to untrained ears. By the
time we have come to our journey's end you will have grown fairly familiar with the lingo
in which we are now being asked for pennies and patronage, for we are going to see a great
deal of Little Black Sambo and his kith and kin. There are thousands of negroes at work on
the Panama Canal, and in common with all their West Indian friends and relations they have
a horror of silence. When they are not talking they are singing—folk songs
occasionally, but hymns with a refrain are more popular. And in talking—or
writing—they never use a short word if they can possibly make shift with a long one,
and show marked ability for steering clear of a simple, straightforward sentence.
The Negro race was introduced into the New World by the Spaniards because the native
Indians were not strong enough to endure the hardships of serving the colonists and
explorers. In the early expeditions into the interior the Indians were used as carriers,
and hundreds, thousands in some parts it is said, died from the effects of being
 overworked, overloaded and roughly treated. A threatened dearth of drudges and beasts of
burden led Spain into pressing the African native into her Empire-building service.
Shiploads of negro slaves were sent to the West Indies, Panama, and numerous other centres
of Spanish colonization; as a result of the slave traffic, the bulk of the population in
Spanish-American territory soon consisted of blacks. By the time slavery was abolished the
majority of the negroes in America were many generations removed from African-born
ancestors. The freed blacks looked upon the country in which they had been born as their
homeland, and when they understood they could go where they chose, they showed a strong
preference for staying where they were. Hence, negroes and coloured folk are more numerous
than white people in many parts of the American continent and in all the West Indian
GOING TO WORK, BARBADOS.
When the Barbadian boatmen are allowed on board they begin a wily search for greenhorns
who do not know the regulation fare to the shore. All the people on the ship seem to be
familiar with the tariff. The boatmen have had countless opportunities of learning that
British and American visitors to the West Indies have occasionally been away from home
before; but no amount of experience can teach a Barbadian negro not to be surprised at
finding anyone who knows as much as he does; he is the most enterprising of West Indian
blacks, and the most uppish. When, at last, the boatmen's demands drop somewhere near to
being reasonable, and bargaining becomes general, we come to terms for the return journey.
A few minutes later we are landing at Bridge-town.
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