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The Politics of Race in PanamaAfro-Hispanic and West Indian Literary Discourses of Contention$
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Sonja Stephenson Watson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780813049861

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813049861.001.0001

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Anti–West Indianism and Anti-Imperialism in Joaquín Beleño’s Canal Zone Trilogy

Anti–West Indianism and Anti-Imperialism in Joaquín Beleño’s Canal Zone Trilogy

(p.42) 2 Anti–West Indianism and Anti-Imperialism in Joaquín Beleño’s Canal Zone Trilogy
The Politics of Race in Panama

Sonja Stephenson Watson

University Press of Florida

This chapter focuses on Joaquín Beleño's Canal Zone trilogy (Luna verde [Blue moon], Curundú, and Gamboa Road Gang) which objects to racial injustices against Panamanians in the Canal Zone. The construction of the Canal inspired literature which was critical of the United States’ occupation of the Canal Zone. The United States not only took over construction of the Canal but also transformed all aspects of Zonian life by imposing a racial hierarchy that differed from the Latin-American model that categorized blacks according to appearance or skin color. The Latin-American racial model contrasted with the “one-drop rule” of the United States where anyone with one drop of African blood is considered black. This proved to be problematic since nineteenth-century Panama was already a nation characterized by racial diversity where blacks represented a significant portion of the population. In his trilogy, Beleño, a black writer, differentiates West Indians from Afro-Hispanics and other Panamanians in order to thwart North-American imperialism. Although Beleño protested United States racism, he failed to see himself as a supporter of the racist national discourse against West Indians which pitted Panamanians against them as well as other immigrant groups.

Keywords:   Canal Zone trilogy, Racism, Canal Zone

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