The deep historical ties between Barbados and Panama will be further explored when three Barbadian tour groups join Panamanians in celebrating the 100th Anniversary celebrations of the opening of the Panama Canal.

In 1904, the American-owned Isthmanian Canal Commission (ICC) re-opened the project to build the Panama Canal, and began to recruit actively in the British West Indies. Between 1904 and the opening of the Canal on August 15, 1914, approximately 60,000 Barbadians migrated to Panama on a trek that promised economic advancement.

The Panamanian experience is often credited with giving impetus to the emergence of a Barbadian middle class, and highlights the power of Barbadians overseas in providing a platform for a ???quantum leap in the development of Barbados???.

Radio Personality, Carol Roberts, will team up with the Indar Weir Travel Centre, to bring live reports during her morning programme, leading up to August 15. Students from the Combermere School, assisted by Value Vacations, and a group from the Barbados Museum and Historical Society (BMHS), facilitated by Travel House, will tour various places of interest in Panama.

Managing Director of Indar Weir Travel Centre, Indar Weir, said he had taken groups on tour to Panama in the past, but this trip was special since it coincided with the centennial celebrations.

???We have planned to all lengths to make sure that we get an opportunity to participate in the celebrations there. But generally, the tours are in line with what tour operators do when they go to Panama,??? he added.

Meanwhile, Education Officer at the BMHS, Peggy McGeary, said the activities for the group included a trip into the forest to visit the Embera Indians. They also plan to tour Panama City, visit museums and take in other aspects of Panama???s culture.

The BMHS will also be mounting an exhibition entitled From Barbados to Panama, beginning August 8, at its Garrison headquarters.

Head of the Department of French and Spanish at the Combermere School, Nicholas Vaughan, said the school tour would be a mixture of fun and work. He said the purpose of the trip was two-fold ??? to enhance the students??? proficiency in Spanish and to expose them to other aspects of the country???s culture.

He also informed that on Tuesday, August 12, his group would attend the presentation entitled: People of African Ancestry in Panama 1501-2012, which is the most recent literary work of Melva Lowe, a Panamanian of Barbadian descent.

Following this event, Mr. Vaughan said the group might be involved in a ???Panbajan??? social gathering, aimed at promoting stronger ties between the people of Barbados and Panamanians of West Indian descent.

Meanwhile, Ms. Roberts said she had already started promoting Panama and disclosed that a major part of her promotion before the trip included publicising the documentary Panama Fever, produced by Alison Saunders. She also said that a variety of stories from Barbadians with a Panama connection would be shared with listeners during her morning show.

Ms. Roberts also disclosed that a full-length documentary would be produced chronicling her experiences in Panama, which would be uploaded to Starcom Network???s online website.

Other activities to commemorate the 100th Centennial celebrations include a Centennial Gala Event in which Professor Velma Newton will be honoured on August 15; the world premiere of the film: The History of the Canal on August 13; the unveiling of a memorial aeroplane of COPA Airlines at the Aeropuerto Internacional de Tocumen, also on August 13; and a Paintings Exhibition of the Panama Canal from August 5 to October 5.

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