Tribute to the “Last Buffalo”: Panamanian West Indian Writer Dr. Carlos E. Russell (1934-2018)

Sonja S. Watson


I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Carlos E. Russell in 2010 at the College Language Association Conference, held in New York, the author’s home away from his native Panama. I organized a special panel on  Russell’s scholarship on West-Indian literature in Panama.  During the visit, I also had the opportunity to interview Russell for a piece that would be published in Istmo. Revista virtual de estudios literarios y culturales centroamericanos. The interview was arranged and filmed by Panamanian scholar Luis Pulido Ritter who also served on the panel. The interview was transformational for my research on Panama and would shape the chapter that I included in my then forthcoming manuscript (The Politics of Race in Panama: Afro-Hispanic and West Indian Literary Discourses of Contention University Press of Florida, 2014, 2017). During our one-hour conversation, it became very clear that the generational shift amongst blacks in Panama and between negros coloniales and negros antillanos was indeed real and shaped by ideological differences toward language, culture, and identity.

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