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Colombian with Jamaican roots - An 81-year-old man finally traces his ancestry to the land of wood and water
published: Tuesday | July 15, 2003

By Daviot Kelly, Staff Reporter


Walwin Peterson

IT TOOK him nearly 81 years to get here, but Walwin Peterson has reached the land of his roots.

Mr. Peterson, who is a native of San Andres island in the archipelago, had always wanted to come to Jamaica as he has traced his father's ancestors to St. Elizabeth. "My great grandfather is from Black River and his name was William James Bent. So I'm related I believe to all the Bents in Jamaica and this is one of the biggest families we have in San Andres". He also speaks of a Philip Livingston who lived here before going to San Andres. This interest in his roots started at an early age with his mother's help.

"As a little boy, just three years old, sitting on my mother's lap, I would ask her questions until I fell asleep." He would question her every night and has been able to trace other roots to Curacao, United States and Europe. At every turn, he seems connected to Jamaica. Through further research, he sees that one ancestor from Curacao married into the Evans family, who also had roots in Jamaica. Think the ties aren't strong enough? Archbold (first name unknown) was a Scotsman who lived in Jamaica before moving to San Andres. William James Bent and Philip Livingston both married Archbold daughters.

STAY TOO SHORT

He has been to Jamaica before but only as a stopover on his business trips to the United States. This trip was not about leisure either as he attended conferences at the University of the West Indies; part of a cultural interchange between the islands. His only regret was that his stay was too short (he left on Friday); he really wanted to visit more of the island, especially Black River. He stayed at the Colom-bian Ambassador's residence, Dr. Kent Francis. He and the Ambassador are quite close since he went to school with his father.

During his life he has administered a hospital in Barranquilla, been office manager for a pipeline construction company in Cartagena and served a three-year stint as Mayor of San Andres, the smallest department of Colombia. He played the game of love before his current marriage to a San Andres native. His first marriage brought him five children and the second, two. He has 16 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. He will be 81 in November.

MAKING THE CONNECTION

As an avid historian, he can make connections with both countries from seemingly any topic. For example, the East Queen Street Baptist Church in Kingston is the mother church of the First Baptist Church in San Andres; the oldest in South America.

The close ancestral links between the countries caused him to believe that San Andres and Jamaica should be closer to each other diplomatically. "Culturally we are linked with Jamaica but one of the things that I cry shame about, is that our governments have done nothing to keep this historic and cultural tie between us." He advocates chartered flights between the countries for the people to explore both islands.

He hopes for a wider unity among the Caribbean in general as we all have the same roots. He uses the 'we' because he feels very much a part of the region. "You may look at me and say that I am white, but I have black roots and I am proud of them."

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