Listen to Voices: Cecil Haynes
Cecil Haynes was born in Gatún in the Canal Zone in 1913 to parents who immigrated to Panama from Barbados; his father came first to find work, and then his mother came one year later. The Haynes family was very large; it eventually grew to include six children, and from a young age, Cecil was very helpful—he would often catch fish for his mother to cook and feed the family. At the age of fourteen, he decided that he wanted to get a job, so he went out into the Canal Zone to find work, and was hired as an office boy. By the time Haynes retired as an inventory management specialist after working for more than seventy-one years on the Canal, he was recognized as one of the most famous Canal workers; he has received many awards, and has met several international leaders. When asked about the racism and discrimination West Indian Canal workers faced, Haynes says that it was very hard, but it is important not to focus on those hardships alone, but to celebrate the hard work that many Afro-Antillanos put into the Canal—it is something to be proud of. Cecil Haynes still lives in Panama with his wife, Margarita, and they have been married for sixty-three years.