Our Chicago to Cuenca itinerary is straightforward enough. Depart Chicago at 8am (CST) –arrive in Panama about 2pm (EST) – depart Panama at around 9pm –arrive in Quito 11pm (EST). Why the long lay-over in Panama? My thinking is, pay to visit one country and visit another one for free (excluding any departure taxes not included in your flight fare and the roundtrip cost of a taxi or bus into town).
Panama has been a destination spot for multiple waves of émigrés. From those seeking employment along its shipping lanes, to those who flock there as an escape from their USA norms, for many, Panama holds a dichotomous image – at once utilitarian and exotic. The pull for me is one of family history…lost and not yet fully recovered. It is, to be more specific, my eldest daughter’s history.
Born to African immigrants, I have always found delving into the histories of black families in the United States a draw and when I became a mother, my awareness of the importance of family history became that much more acute. As a result, I would often essentially interrogate my ex about his story of genesis. It ends up that his is the story of migration: emigration, integration and immigration. On the first layer, he is from the US Virgin Islands (USVI), on the second layer; his parents are from Jamaica but moved to USVI, and subsequently the US, because of work and educational opportunities. The third layer is where things become even more interesting and dynamic for my daughter:
- One great-grandparent was south-east Asian – most probably part of the large southern Indian and Sri Lankan population who went to Jamaica for work;
- One great-grandparent was born in Panama to Jamaican parents. She grew up there then moved to Cuba where she married and raised children, then moved to Jamaica where she remarried and had more children; and.
- One great-grandparent was half Irish.
I love these layers because they point to the fact that “black history” and African-American history encompass a set of diverse and sometimes disparate experiences that are linked to a greater diaspora. In our combined travels, we have touched on Ireland, southern India, and Jamaica. So to be in Panama, this land that is so personally connected to my daughter, and not at least attempt to “step into it”, if only for a few moments, would be tragic. Perhaps a bit melodramatic…but I reserve the right to be occasionally dramatic, it adds texture and depth and it makes us think!
Positive thinking keeps the train from stalling but
Critical thinking drives it to be nimble, innovative, and a game changer.
You are the train.