The Watch

Corozal Cemetery

Panama City, Panama

2010 World Monuments Watch

The Corozal and Mount Hope Cemeteries, located at the Pacific and Atlantic ends of the Panama Canal respectively, together serve as stark reminders of the lives lost to one of the most significant and iconic water passages in the world, and of the racial, social, and economic exclusion many suffered in its construction. The seaway was made possible by the work of more than 60,000 black West Indian laborers before, during, and after its construction period (1904–1914). Corozal was inaugurated as an official expansion of Mount Hope in 1914. Both were designated as final resting places for “Silver Roll” employees, the nonwhite workers of the Panama Canal and American Canal Zone. The present-day 46-acre Corozal Cemetery was transferred to Panama from United States jurisdiction in 1979, when it was officially separated from the 17-acre “Gold Roll” section traditionally reserved for white U.S. citizens and now known as the Corozal American Cemetery and Memorial. In 1999, when the entire Canal Zone reverted to Panamanian control, administration of the Corozal Cemetery was handed over to the City of Panama. By the time the burial ground was included on the 2010 World Monuments Watch, inadequate maintenance had caused improper drainage, erosion, vandalism, and jungle encroachment at the site. Increased awareness and collective action were needed to ensure the preservation of this venerable landscape.

Since the Watch

In April 2010 the Panama National Assembly passed the Silver People Bill, a law that proposed to rescue, conserve, and safeguard the historic sites of the Silver Roll community. In March 2012 Corozal Cemetery was declared a National Historic Patrimony. Despite these positive steps, the condition of the burial ground is still very poor and requires practical conservation work.

 

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