The Great, Great Simon Vallee

Getting my DNA results  a couple of weeks ago has inspired a new wave of family history research activity that is paying off already.  This week I made my most exciting genealogical discovery to date thanks to FamilySearch.org.  I found a form called a “Panama Canal Application for Photo-Metal Check Employees” for my great-grandfather Francois “Simon” Vallee.  This single page provides a wealth of information that both confirms some facts we believed to be true and provided some new details that help to round out our timeline of his life and a picture of who Simon was. Let’s go through it line-by-line.

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#diasporalovestory

One of my most aching family history research questions comes from a desire to know if my great-grandparents knew each other in their home islands or if they did not meet until after migrating to Panama.  So many questions: Did they grow up in the same town? Did they marry in the Caribbean or in Panama?  Heck, did they marry at all? Did they travel to the isthmus together or separately? Were they truly in love or were their relationships more a result of circumstance or convenience…or maybe even coercion? Two sets of great-grands from Barbados, one set from St. Lucia, and another from Martinique; I’m sure at least one of their stories has an element of at least one of those.  But I don’t know yet. Continue reading

Family Pictures = Family Treasures

A couple of months ago my mom gave me an old album of hers. It was filled with pictures that had been taken before she ever moved to the United States. I’m thankful for this priceless and timeless gift.

Out of all the pictures, the one I was most excited to come across was this one. It’s all of the Vallee-Colombs in one picture, looking quite groovy if I don’t say so myself.

Hilarion y El Cristo Negro de Portobelo

Today my mother’s father Hilarion “Julio” Vallee

would’ve turned 90 years old so I just wanted to take a quick moment to say, “Happy birthday abuelo!”

His birthday happens to fall on a day that is very important to Catholics in Panama and is also ardently observed by many followers outside the country as well.  October 21st is El Dia del Cristo Negro de Portobelo. People form all over the country journey to the small town of Portobelo to pay homage to the statue of a Black Jesus (one of many found in Latin America) that has resided there since 1658.  When he was alive, my grandfather was among the many that would make this trip each year.

Unfortunately, Hilarion did not live past the age of 37.   I wonder, would a 90 year old Hilarion still have been making that pilgramage? Judging by how sharp and feisty some of my oldest Medicare clients are, I can definitely say it’s a possibility we can not rule out!

A few fun facts about El Cristo Negro de Portobelo:

  • El Cristo Negro de Portobelo is the saint for singers.
  • None other than the queen of salsa, Celia Cruz, was known to join this pilgramage on occasion.
  • Another great salsero, Ismael Rivera, recorded “El Nazareno” in honor of El Cristo Negro de Portobelo.

You can go here for a short news peice on this year’s gathering at the church of San Felipe in Portobelo.

No Jumping, Please

Addendum to report #4 on my 2011 genealogy research trip to Panama

I have to say, things have really been moving on the Cadignan end of things. I also have to admit that I may have gotten so excited about the progress I was making I jumped ahead of myself and went running full steam ahead towards a conclusion based on shaky evidence.  I’ll explain. Continue reading