Barbados??? postal service played a significant role in meeting the communication and financial needs of over 45, 000 Barbadian migrants to Panama during the early 1900s.
In fact, Acting Deputy Postmaster General, Margaret Ashby, pointed out that while the local postal service kept families in constant contact with each other, it also facilitated the movement of money estimated at US$10 million.
She made these points as she addressed the session entailed The Role of the Post during the Panama Migration, at the Barbados Network Consultation 2014 Third Diaspora Conference at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre recently.
???Remittances received through Panama money are credited to have spurred the development of a broader middle class in Barbados. In 1906 and 1907, remittances from returnees totaled 987, 690 pound sterling, [and] this exceeded the value of grants from the Imperial Exchequer to save plantations on the island,??? Ms. Ashby said.
But, she noted it was no easy feat, as Barbadians had to work hard under very hazardous and life threatening conditions. ??????Workers lost their lives from premature dynamite explosions, diseases, accidents on the rail used to freight dirt or cave-ins; so when funds were sent through the Post it was the belief that this mail would be received by their families and this was certainly the case, as history records the vast sums of remittances received by citizens,??? Ms. Ashby pointed out, adding this was still the case today.
However, the Post also stood out during those perilous times as it was the means by which families stayed in contact with their loved ones in Panama, in the absence of today???s technological methods such as Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook and twitter.
The Acting Deputy Postmaster General explained that the Post ???softened??? the emotional impact of families whose males left for Panama in search of a better life for their families.
???The Post provided the most accessible and affordable means by which persons could communicate with their families. The receipt of a letter or parcel meant the stability of the family; for without the receipt of such funds, families could be vulnerable when there was no money to meet financial commitments,??? she stated.
She added that before the advent of the telephone, life revolved around the postman as villagers watched for them or listened for the knock on doors that would signal their arrival.