Thousands of Barbadians converged in front of the historic Parliament Buildings to witness the official launch of Crop Over 2015.
In the fading warmth of the setting sun, the crowd cheered and applauded as a procession of stilt walkers, Crop Over band models and dancers passed through Heroes??? Square.
This, however, was no ordinary Crop Over festival launch, history was about to be made, as the paths of two major cities would forever be changed.
It was to be the official twinning of Bridgetown and Panama City; two cities which share a long and vibrant history, one that was established during the construction of the Panama Canal.??During the early 1900???s, many Barbadians left their homes, families and country to seek work and to provide for those whom they were leaving behind.
Motivated by the promise of work and financial compensation, many of this country???s young men set out on ships, traveling for eight to 10 days to Panama, to assist in the construction of the engineering marvel that some have described as one of the Wonders of the World.
These men were unaware that their very existence would ripple across the years, altering the course of each countrys??? path.??Bridgetown and Panama City were first linked through the lives of these ???silver men???. A term used to refer to the non-American immigrant workers who were paid in silver coins. Sadly, for the opportunity to work, many paid with their lives.
Now over 100 years since the official opening of the Canal, Barbadians witnessed as Minister of Culture, Stephen Lashley and Panama City???s Vice Mayor Raisa Banfield, made their way to the stage to sign documents that would further bind the two countries.
As part of the official signing, which declared the two cities officially twinned, Minister Lashley presented Vice Mayor Banfield with a solid mahogany handcrafted key made by Barbadian businessman and sculptor, Reginald Medford of Medford Craft World.
The Minister then stated the importance of the twinning of the two cities. ???This signing of our twinning agreement not only epitomizes the close connection between our two countries but also represents all of those persons who would have been part of this historic journey???, he remarked.
Mr. Lashley expressed his hope that the event would produce high returns for all involved. ???Out of this will grow many other areas of cultural and economic linkages with Panama??? This is a very firm and solid beginning of the establishment of firm economic, diplomatic and social connections, reestablishing the roots that existed many years ago,??? he stated.
Vice Mayor Banfield, whose great grandfather was Barbadian, added that she was most pleased with the move to twin the cities. Addressing the crowd gathered in Heroes??? Square, the Vice Mayor emphasised that the twinning was a confirmation of the long and interwoven history which Panama and Barbados shared. ???The truth is that from the beginning of our history we (were) the same land; one heart, one family,??? she said.
Strongly identifying with her great grandfather???s heritage, the Vice Mayor of Panama City professed that she too was Barbadian, she then encouraged Barbadians and Panamanians to ???walk together in the construction of our history???.??To complete the twinning process, a Barbadian representative is expected to visit Panama in August to receive a key to Panama City.