This statement is a response to the negative and unjust representation of Colon by Juan and Raphael Williams.
By Mauro Martinez and Yvette Modestin
Every country has two sides, every community has two sides. Our Colon is no different but one thing that those who were born and raised in the “Gold Coast” know is that Colon is something you carry deep within.
The people of Colon have been knocked down, rejected, ignored throughout the years but have managed to walk with their head up high and exhibit and unshakeable pride.
Poverty-yes, unemployment-yes, lack of resources-yes, lack of policies that can improve the living conditions of the people-yes, educational concerns-yes, crime- yes, and racial issues-yes. We know all of this but unless you have lived it with us, through the good and the bad, then you are in no position to speak about our reality. Every country has a “ghetto”, to label an entire Province as such is an insult to our rich history, a legacy built on strength and most important to the people.
These streets nurtured great leaders, thinkers, teachers, athletes, Judges, Ministers, fire fighters, poets, writers, doctors and nurses. These streets sing we are resilient. That is our Colon, the place with two sides. You may leave Colon physically but it never leaves you mentally. A person who left as a child and never looked back cannot see the Colon through eyes of truth. Panama was not under a dictatorship 60 years ago. Colon’s rise and many may say its demise has many layers but you will need a historical context that includes colonialism, denial of the government, and the end of a segregated era.
Our Colon is a place that fills your cup. It is one of the few places that you can swim in the Atlantic Ocean, Rio Chagres and the Gatun Lake in one day. If you are a real Colonense, you carry it close and when you make it to the mountain top you will say, Gracias mi Colon.
My brother in the struggle for a successful, prosperous Colon, Mauro Martinez moves with the same energy. He lives the struggle daily and highlights our failures and our progress.
To talk about Colon, to be real and not make any mistakes, you need to live here or be a frequent visitor. We are more than barred windows and cockroaches. I would be lying if I said it is all pretty and looks good. In some areas it is awful yet it is slowly changing. It is a matter of time before things begin to improve and things begin returning to our Colon.
There is so much to see in other areas of Colon such as Portobelo, San Lorenzo, Nombre de Dios and Isla Grande. People come from all over to swim in these relaxing waters. We have a long history of slave resistance in our Afro-Colonial community or as we refer to them, “Congos”. Our food is exquisite and our dance creates movement.
I want to highlight a few good things that are happening in Colon. Colon is surrounded by water. We currently have 4 private ports that offer jobs to more than 3,500 Colon Natives. These ports, MANZANILLO INTERNATIONAL TERMINAL, COLON CONTAINER TERMINAL, COLON 2000 HOME PORT and CRISTOBAL PANAMA PORTS speak to the progress of the city. In two years we will have another Port in Isla Margarita. Another highlight is the Colon Free Zone that has increased in size and the volume of cargo handled on a daily basis. This also brings jobs to the people. With all the highway development you can commute from Colon to Panama in 35 minutes. Our Universities and Colleges are preparing our students to take on jobs that will come with the expansion of the Panama Canal and Ports.
All of this is wonderful but our greatest asset is the people of Colon. They are slowly awakening from a slave mentality and looking forward to change and demanding equality. I agree that the City does not look good but we are moving towards more organized community groups that will promote ideas and work closely with the government in creating good projects that will benefit us all.
We are Colon. This Colon is strong, loving and caring. It stands on the shoulders of those who shaped this beautiful city and left us with a legacy to continue to fight for what we deserve, for what we know and what we love. It is in that spirit that we feel the need to make this statement and not leave it up to Juan and Raphael Williams to speak for us.
Mauro Martinez and Yvette Modestin
Mauro Martinez and Yvette Modestin are activists, born and raised in Colon.