Barbados??? contribution to the maritime and engineering wonder called the Panama Canal cannot be forgotten, nor can the recognition of the descendants of Barbadians be eclipsed.

This was acknowledged yesterday by Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Senator Harry Husbands, as he addressed over 100 students at the Edu-Nation discussion at the Queen???s Park Steel Shed.

Senator Husbands stressed that the Ministry was cognisant of the significance of creating awareness of and preserving the ???historical and ancestral linkage of Barbadians and the descendants of Barbadian immigrants in Panama???.

To this end, he pointed to the number of activities identified to celebrate the centenary of the opening of the Canal.

He noted these included an exhibition currently on at the Barbados Museum that would run until February 2015; a commemorative stamp issued by the General Post Office; and the fact that primary and secondary schools had been encouraged to have discussions on the topic during their Social Studies lessons.

Senator Husbands also noted that the Archives Department was moving ahead with an initiative to facilitate the tracing of the ancestry of Barbadians who migrated to Panama, and a list of such persons – along with their birth, baptism and marriage records and savings bank records – was available.

While commending the Edu-Nation discussion to students, the Parliamentary Secretary said: ???The Ministry sees activities such as this as driving interest in Barbados-Panama relations. The Ministry also considers this an opportune time to explore scientific and technological opportunities which might accrue from linkages between Barbados and Panama in addition to the cultural and educational benefits.???

Education Officer, Peggy Agard, in recounting tales told to her about her own family ties to Panama, said Barbadians students needed to hear the stories of hardships in Panama as it ???was not all a bed of roses???.

Alluding to research she undertook that made use of Professor Velma Newton???s book The Silver Men, Ms. Agard said of Panama, ???For me it is something that is full of life; it is something that we should all know; maybe even some of the literary works we should be reading??? but I am wondering if, perhaps, the language barrier is what might have been preventing us all along from getting knowledgeable and being less ignorant about what happened in Panama.???

Meanwhile, moderator and curator of the Barbados Museum, Miguel Pena, appealed to students to visit the Museum???s exhibition, and called on them to urge their relatives to assist in researching their own ties to Panama.

He said: ???This is our challenge to you ??? if your grandparents are still alive; if you have a great-aunt or uncle; go speak with them. Have a conversation with them; ask them if your father or grandmother or anyone had ties to Panama. It is very possible??? That is something you need to explore more of because these people made a tremendous sacrifice to work on the Panama Canal and they were really tough, good people.???

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