Panamanians of West-Indian Descent

Interview with Haydee Beckles


Haydee Beckles

Haydee Beckles is a second generation Panamanian; both of her parents were born in Panama, in La Boca, though her maternal and paternal grandparents were from Barbados. Though she lived in New York for a short time as a child, she and her mother became sick of the cold and moved back to Panama. Since then she has travelled the world, but continues to return to her beloved homeland. Haydee’s career as a poet has sent her to a number of places: Holland, Brazil, France, Costa Rica, South Africa, Nicaragua, the United States, Romania, England, Canada, and Mexico, to name a few. She enjoys her travels, though she does note that not many people abroad know much about Panama. Haydee does not define herself as either black or white, but instead defines herself by the language she speaks: Spanish. She is not married and does not have any children, but does have several nieces and nephews who she loves dearly.



Leslie George

Leslie George was born in 1941. Though he never says specifically where his parents are from, he considers himself part of the African West Indian community in Panama. Leslie’s father was a singer, and his uncle, Victor Boa, was a pianist, arranger, and dance band director who gained international fame. Leslie grew up in several of the poorer districts in the city, moving frequently because of money problems and the pressure of his parents’ having a large family (seven children) on a limited budget. A retired musician, Leslie considers himself to be a scientist and a musicologist. Not only does he have a degree in musicology, he has been a teacher and college professor, and attended seminars and done research on ethnomusicology. Leslie is also an artist in his own right, serving as a choral and band director and a member of a calypso band. Leslie has been married twice; his second wife is also of African West Indian descent and works as a nurse. He has one daughter from his second marriage who works in a chemistry lab.