A Visit to the Afro-Antillean Museum

Museo Afroantillano

Afro-Antillean Museum is dedicated to Afro-Caribbean history in Panama, located near to 5 de Mayo.

To be honest, I had not gone before, because I thought it was not open, that it had been closed, since every time I passed by, it gave me that impression, speaking with the guide, he told me that there are other people who have told her that.

So even though it looks like it’s closed, get closer and push the door hard (it’s a bit difficult to open).

I was near to Afro-Antillean Museum, so I went to meet it, and I repeat, that door is difficult to open, I almost retired, when it was opened from the inside.

Once inside, the entrance is paid and the visitor’s book is signed, control in the state museums of Panama.

Afro-Antillean Museum
Afro-Antillean Museum.

The Building

The Afro-Antillean Museum is in what was previously an Afro-Antillean Protestant Chapel (the Chapel of the Christian Mission).

They were Protestant and when they arrived in Panama, they arrived with their religious belief.

It is a small, air-conditioned place, recently remodeled, that contains the history of the Antilleans, since they arrived in the country.

These people were very hard-working, after their day in the construction of the Canal, they went, voluntarily, to build the chapel.

Why did they arrive to Panama?

They arrived in Panama for the construction of the Panama Canal and were the majority foreign group in that construction.

They had previously brought Jamaicans, but after the construction failed by the French, many returned to their country in worse conditions than they were before.

Then, Jamaica introduced a tax to leave the country and that caused workers to be sought in the Antilles and Barbados.

Many were dedicated to agriculture, such as the plantain farm in Bocas del Toro, others settled in Colón.

The Antilleans did not want to settle in Panama, but due to the salary they had, the benefits and the few opportunities that there were in their country, many stayed in Panama and raised families.


They earned it was considerably lower than what American workers (whites) earned, doing the same job.

US  workers were on the gold roster and the rest of the workers on the silver roster.

Tank used in excavations
Tank used in excavations.

The discrimination for the time was big, there were doors for whites, doors for blacks and non-US people, as well as water fountains, restrooms, among others, just like the movie Hidden Figures.

Situation that was eliminated when Panama obtained control of the Canal thanks to the Torrijos-Carter Treaty.

By the time, Panamanians tolerated emigrants for their work.

But did not see them with much pleasure, because there was competition for jobs, in addition to dissatisfaction with the increase in the cost of living.

On the other hand, a new constitution denied Antillean, their children and other immigrants, citizenship and civil rights.

They organized and created schools, businesses and charitable associations.

The black emigrants went to ask for citizenship in the United States, but they were denied it.

So, they went to the Panamanian politicians who in exchange for loyalty (votes) promised to protect them.

The Panamanians demanded that they renounce their language, their religion, but they opposed it.

What to see at Afro-Antillean Museum?

At the Afro-Antillean Museum there are elements used by the Afro-Antilleans and that have been donated by their descendants.

Iron comb

One of those that caught my attention was the iron comb that they heated to straighten the hair, I had heard about the iron, for the clothes, that they passed through the hair, but not about this.

Tank to fumigate

We can also see a tank to fumigate, imagine that plastic that is used as a backpack, only it was made of iron, it must have weighed a lot.

iron comb at the Afro-Antillean Museum
Utensils, on the left side is an iron comb, which they heated and used to straighten the hair.

Bon Bread

The Bon Bread, one of the breads sought after at Easter.

It turns out that it was created by a priest in England to give it to the poor, this became a tradition for Good Friday and was enjoyed by everyone.

With the slave trade, it was adopted by the Antilleans.

Afro-Antillean Museum
In the center, a model of the Afro-Antillean dwellings.

Model of the houses of the Afro-Antilleans

In the center of the museum there is a model of the houses of the Afro-Antilleans, they were buildings of 2 levels, where the bathroom was communal, it was shared by floor.

At the back of the Afro-Antillean Museum you can see what the houses were like inside, in real size.

The first thing we find is a dining room, with wooden furniture, ceramic objects, guarichas (kerosene lamps).

They are representations of what their homes were like inside, not contributions to the country.

Dining room
Dining room.

Then we see the part of ironing, washing and what could be the kitchen.

Personally, I remember that my grandmother had metal buckets to wash clothes and I remember, as a child, that my mother had thewashboard, where she passed her clothes to remove the dirt.

There are also some representative paintings.

Ironing and laundry area
Ironing and laundry area.

To finish with the representations, there is a bedroom, quite simple, in it there are ceramics pots, where they could have either water or be used to urinate or shit.

Which not only did not have a toilet in the houses, but, in some cases, it was like in some houses in the interior, where it is a bit far from the house and going at night with a candle was not the safest thing to do.

The bedspread caught my attention, since I made something similar for some cushions in my house, many years ago.

I also made the carpet, which is a piece of henequen bag in which strips of fabric are inserted, as close as possible so that the background is not visible.

Bedroom at the Afro-Antillean Museum

Books and photographs

To end the visit, there are some books and photographs of some Afro-Antilleans who have stood out in Panama, I know for their intellectual or sporting contributions.

Something more

I had some doubts, so I consulted the guide, who clarified me and talked a little more with her.

She told me about other things that I did not know, such as the communal bathrooms, which US people certainly did not have. this situation.

Afro- Antillean Museum is small and perhaps it is not to make a special trip.

But if you are near, I recommend you go and learn some of the Afro-Caribbean history in Panama.

Thanks to the construction of the Panama Canal, many people came from different countries and each one made contributions and contributed to what is now Panama.

I would like to see one day a Museum of emigrants and all the contributions they have made to this country.

Antillean dances
Antillean dances.

Due to the recent remodeling, some things still do not have their respective descriptive sign.

But the ones that do have are in Spanish and English.

Before leaving, the guide recommended that I keep the camera, because in the area it could be stolen.

And just leaving I ran into a man, who could tell that he was well drugged, he asked me, if I speak English, I said Spanish and then he asked me for 5 dollars.

You have to be careful in certain places, because when you take out your wallet, they take it or they realize that you have one inside and then steal it.


  • If you have any doubts, consult the guide, she will gladly explain and give you information that is not written in the museum.
  • The museum is in an area where you can meet some thieves, so, outside of it, do not take out cameras or cell phones, or open your wallet.


  • Tuesday to Sunday,
  • From 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.


  • Free.


A booking is required to visit the museum, it is made from the Mi Cultura website, click here.

However, if you are near, stop by and ask if you can meet it, if there is no booking, they will probably let it pass.

How to get Afro-Antillean Museum?

By car: you can get to the Cinta Costera and park near the Mercado del Marisco, walk to the 5 de Mayo Subway station, the museum is in front.

Near the Museum you can find a parking space, but it is safer to leave your car on the Cinta Costera.

By bus, you can take a Corredor Sur, Via España, Transistmica, Tumba Muerto or take the Subway.

With the first one, get off at the bus station and with the Via España buses, get off at 5 de Mayo, with both walking towards the Subway station.

If you take the Subway, get off at the 5 de Mayo station and cross the street, the Afro-antillano Museum is in front.

If you are traveling from the West or Colón, take a bus to Albrook Mall and from there the Subway to 5 de Mayo.

Updated: 2021.

Other places you may like

Protestant Chapel, today the Afro-Antillean Museum.
Protestant Chapel, today the Afro-Antillean Museum.

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