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The ordinary economic bar between the laborer and the more advanced economic classes is added to on the Isthmus
by the fact that the laborer is either alien European in language and nation, or alien in race. It Laborers. is natural, therefore, that there is little in
common between even the European laborer and the white American. The Spaniard lives in a labor camp apart from the remainder of the village, and has his mess nearby, (where he is served food in a rough fashion for 40 cents for 3 meals), and has his interests in the camp and in the cant nas run by men of his na on. The Government has not been eminently successful in feeding the Spanish laborer, because he does not like thë American way of cooking, and anyway prefers the atmosphere of the cantina, where he can have his wine and can sit long over his dinner, discussing with his fellows questions of common interest. There are only 200 Spanish-labor families on the Isthmus living in the small quarters provided for them by the Government. There are probably twice as many more living in privately rented quarters in the various villages and in Panama and Colon. More about the Spanish laborer will be found in the chapter on Sucial Conditions and Forces, which follows this.
The insurmountable bar of race is between the negro and the other canal workers. He lives alone with his kind
and since he is numerically four times as West Indian strong as the white men on the force, he is Negroes. self-sufficient. His labor camp consists of
barracks where from 40 to 80 men are housed, a kitchen where he is served three meals for 27 cents, and a clubhouse run by a negro society, church, or church guild. He is distinctly sociable, drinks little, and sings much, and appears in general to enjoy his higher economic status. It is proposed to move all the negroes back to the West Indies when the time for turning the Canal Zone into a military reservation comes. This will be hard on the West Indian planter, because the negro has learned in the Canal Zone that the wage paid in Barbados and Jamaica is about fifty per cent too low. More about the negro laborer will be found in the chapter on Social Conditions and Forces, which follows this.
Social Conditions and Forces.
The best analysis of social conditions in the Canal Zone yet made is contained in the book on Panama, in “Porter's Progress of the Nations” series (George Routledge and Sons, Publishers, London, 1912); and, because it is the best, it is quoted here:
Social institutions and conditions in the Canal Zone can be understood only in view of the nature of their being and the varied class of people that influence them. It is commonly said that the villages along the Canal are well regulated American towns. This is true only in appearance.
The effort of the Government was to transplant the life of American villages to the Canal Zone, but in the truest sense this can not be done, because such life is the result of slow growth and can not be picked up and transplanted, any more than an apple-tree can be made to grow in the torrid zone. Every Canal village has churches, schools, meeting halls, libraries, and social organizations; but they are like similar institutions in the United States in form only. Even the people themselves are different.
Taking as an instance only the white American population, these differences are deeply marked. In a village such as Culebra, the capital of the Canal Zone, there are people from the South, New England, North, and West, of the United States. The analysis of the representatives of these four distinct social sections, made by James Bryce twenty years ago, is still correct in all important respects. Any generalization must fail of the truth, but it is indicative of the diverse background of the people from these sections to say that the New England man is a penurious Puritan tainted with intellectual snobbery, the northern man has a distinct commerical bent, the western man is a trader of strong progressive political thought, and the southern man not entirely free from the belief that the civil war of 1860-65 is still being waged, and delightfully convinced that his people have a monopoly of refinement in America. These people meet one another daily, and learn more in a month, from a social standpoint, than they could have learned in years in their home communities. In the ordinary American comm
munity it is seldom that the son of a merchant fraternizes with the son of a mechanic; and in cities of 25,000 inhabitants or over, lines are usually drawn between the members of various churches, not because of religious convictions, but because the church is a social center. Then there are differences of education, culture, birth, and profession, that tend to make people in long-established communities form little coteries, with a consequent narrowing of both knowledge and sympathy. In the Canal Zone there are not enough people of any one industrial class, with common church, professional, and cultural interests, to form these little cliques for social stagnation, and the result is a broadening of social and intellectual horizon that keeps most of them in a fever of excitement. NO should one
ose sight of the fact at practically everyone on the Canal work is on a higher economic plane than ever before This has resulted in a forcing of cultural and social standards, pathetically evident in the efforts of some women to emulate others, and of a few to emphasize the differences between themselves and their social sisters.
It has been said that social institutions in the Canal Zone are like similar ones in the United States in form only. Canal Zone churches, clubhouses, and meeting halls are furnished by the Government. The benevolent despotism, of which Col. Geo. W. Goethals is head, has been too kind for the social good of the community, although its policy has been justified in the smooth working of the Canal building machine.
There is no participation in politics. The laws are made in Washington and Culebra, without question as to the wishes of the people, and there is a consequent loss of social development. If one wishes to know what to do or how to do it, he consults The Canal Record, the weekly bulletin of the despotism, and finds there the law as the despot has issued it. And the people like it. After the policital strife of every American city, it is pleasant to live where all is quiet. One who has experienced both kinds of life knows why the "chosen people" longed to turn their backs on Moses and return to the flesh pots of Egypt.
Here there are no elections to determine whether a new school building shall be erected, or certain streets paved, or a municipal water-system installed; and therefore little thought of municipal government or improvement. Here are no mass-meetings to arouse enthusiasm for a new church building, an orphan asylum, or other social palliative. The Government has decided, or will decide. I :say this Government has been too kind, because no matter how pleasant it is to have others do one's thinking the effect of five years or more of benevolent despotism in the Canal Zone, has convinced me thoroughly of the educative value of a democratic form of Govern
There are many other similar influences, but those cited are the most important in coloring the social conditions and institutions of the Canal makers. It is patent that they are fundamental, and one of their most frequent results is that grown-up people of convictions long settled find themselves, after a few months of the Canal builder's life, drifting from their conventional moorings.
CHURCH WORK. Under the conditions outlined it will be readily understood how formal religion has suffered loss by the migration to the Canal Zone of people who were regular "church-goers” in the United States The sudden broadening of mental and spiritual horizon, consequent upon the abrupt change from a highly formalized mode of living to an entirely different atmosphere, has crystallized in many people an impulse, felt everywhere in the United States, towards a rejection of formal religion. Even Roman Catholics in the Canal Zone are indifferent to a greater degree than in the United States.
Another influence in this rejection of formalism is the breaking up of the home routine. In the United States the average middleclass family eats breakfast at 8 o'clock on Sunday morning, adorns itself in holiday clothing at 9 o'clock, and at 10 o'clock goes to church. The church-going is as much a part of the routine as the breakfast. At church one meets his friends, listens to a sermon that is often good and seldom displeasing, takes part in music that is at least as
high-class as the average taste of the congregation, and on the whole is pleasantly diverted. In Canal Zone villages the sermons are poor and the music not so good as the taste of the listeners.
If each congregation of Canal workers had a feeling that it was building up a permanent organization for social advancement; had before it some tangible ambition, such as building a church and paying for it; or if it could feel in some way that it was being persecuted, the handicaps of environment and unattractive services might be neutralized. But there is no persecution, no tangible goal, no feeling of permanency, with the result that the attitude of the average Canal worker towards formal religion is that of indifference.
In the scope of this chapter it is impossible to give more than a suggestion of the admirable work various religious organizations are doing under these adverse conditions.
The longest-established church in the territory of the Canal Zone is the Roman Catholic, which draws no color line, and embraces in its membership, Americans, Panamans, European laborers, and negroes. As an organization its spiritual power over the Europeans and Panamans has been weakened by the fact that it has uniformly stood, both in Spain and Spanish-America, for reaction, and in the minds of the mass, which can not draw the line between church government and the spiritual church, it is identified with political and economic oppression. With this handicap it yet draws to its services men and women of all classes, and every mass on Sunday is said in the presence of scores of people. There are six churches in the Canal Zone, and the pastors of three of them (a Spanish, a French, and an American priest) are men of distinct intellectual and spiritual power.
The second-oldest church organization is the Protestant Episcopal, which opened Christ Church in Colon in 1865. In 1883 when the West Indian negroes came to the Isthmus in large numbers to work for the French Canal Company, the work was placed under the jurisdiction of the Anglican Church, to revert in 1907 to the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States. Its work among the negroes is of more importance than that among the whites, because the former are more in need of spiritual guidance. There are thirteen congregations of negroes and five of whites.
The change in surroundings and the rise in the economic scale experienced by the West Indian negroes, by reason of their migration to the Canal Zone, has had the opposite effect on them from what it has had on the Americans; and they have become more diligent in their church-going. This assertion is made on the authority of the Rev. Henry Bryan, one time archdeacon of the Canal Zone and Panama, who quotes the undivided opinion of the Anglican clergy of several West Indian islands, scores of whom he questioned on this subject. The most evident reasons are, first, that the negroes on the Canal Zone have their own churches, and there is none of the feeling that they are inferior to anyone in the church work; second, the Governinent of the Canal Zone has insisted upon marriage as a prerequisite to cohabitation, and there is a distinct increase in the self-respect of the negroes who are living together under the formal sanction of religion and law.
Among the sectarian or evangelical churches the Wesleyan is the most potent. It was established on the Isthmus in 1882 to care for negro laborers of that sect, and now has two ministers and sixteen
lay preachers in the Isthmian mission. The Methodist Episcopal Church maintains a mission and school in Panama city, and works chiefly among the white Americans, although its missionary society has begun to proselytize among the Panamans. The Baptist Church works among both negroes and whites, and one of its missionaries, the Rev. S. M. Loveridge of Culebra, is accorded by the Canal workers the distinction of being the most powerful spiritual influence among the 30,000 negro workmen. A nonsectarian organization known as the Union Church was organized by several Canal employes in 1907, and now conducts services in the Government chapels in five different Canal villages. Among other organizations doing spiritual work along definite lines are the Christian Science, Seventh Day Adventist, “The Remnant of Israel" (Hebrew), and the Chinese temples at Panama and Colon.
Church work was authorized by the Isthmian Canal Commission on October 4, 1905, as one of the means of stabilizing the working force, and promoting social order. Of forty church buildings in the Canal Zone in 1911, seven were Roman Catholic, thirteen Episcopal, seven Baptist, two Wesleyan, and eight undenominational. ` All but two of the buildings are on land set aside by the Government, and twenty-six are owned by it. Fifteen chaplains are maintained by the Government, of whom four are Episcopalians, four Baptist, three Roman Catholic, one Wesleyan, and one Presbyterian.
Although it is carrying on a more vital class of work than any of the churches, the Salvation Army is classed with them, because of the fact that it also conducts religious services. The work dates from May 19, 1904, and is confined almost entirely to West Indian negroes.
A rest house, where free lodging and meals may be procured by the needy, is maintained in Colon in a building erected by the Canal authorities, and outposts are maintained for welfare work in Panama City, and the Canal villages of Gatun, Gorgona, and Empire. The Army emphasizes the fact that it is assisting the laborers by lending them meals and a place to sleep, and in consequence at least fifty per cent of the people who accept its aid do not leave the Isthmus before paying the entire indebtedness, while many more make some payment.
Services of the characteristic Salvation Army. kind are held at street corners, and in the various posts, and they are well attended.
THE SICK AND INJURED. In every Canal village there is a public dispensary presided over by one or more physicians, and equipped with an emergency operating-room and a good drug-store. The physicians have regular office hours for making calls on patients confined to their homes. Only the simplest cases are treated at the home of the patient, the aim being to send everyone who is likely to become very ill to one of the two main hospitals, situated at Ancon (Panama), and Colon. Emergency cases are treated in the dispensaries only to the extent of giving first aid, and the patient is then sent to one of the main hospitals.
The hospital at Ancon can accommodate 2,000 patients, though the wards are rated for 1,500 only, and the staff is organized for that number of patients. At Colon the hospital is arranged for 200 patients, but in emergency can accomodate half again that number. These hospitals are modern in equipment both for medical and surgi