Listen to the Interview
Even though her relatives moved to Panama from Jamaica for reasons independent of the building of the canal, Silvia Keene was born in 1940 in New Providence, Panama, a small town given to the West Indian community that stayed in Panama after working on the canal. The granddaughter of Jamaicans with Scottish heritage on both sides, Silvia had a happy childhood and grew up with the privileges and pressures of being the daughter of the community’s judge. When her step-father died and her mother took over as judge, Silvia began helping out on her family’s rice farm, but still enjoyed a normal childhood and adolescence playing softball and going to school. Silvia considers herself both black and Hispanic and believes that it is important for people to recognize and be proud that they are black.