I am an American. Born and raised in the shadows of rock n’ roll, apple pie and baseball. I learned at a fairly early age while standing in class with my hand over my heart, that I should always “pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America…” and while I am proud to be American and wave the colors of Old Glory (red, white and blue), it should be noted that I am just as proud to wave the colors of La Bandera Typical (also red, white and blue) and to be a Panamanian. It’s not something that many people would instantly know about me, as I don’t walk around with mola bags, caday jewelry or even a Panama t-shirt. And although I may not “look the part”, I am a proud Hispanic whose heritage and ancestry spreads as wide as Jamaica, Barbados, Costa Rica, Portugal and Spain. New York City, and most specifically Brooklyn, is slated to have the second largest Panamanian population in the U.S.
And so, it was on a sun drenched Saturday in October that revelers born in, transplanted from, or just in love with Panama gathered in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn to celebrate the uniqueness that we represent, at the 17th Annual Pre-Panamanian Independence Parade! Franklin Avenue, between Fulton Street and Empire Boulevard has traditionally been the epicenter of Panamanian-American culture and community and it was here where city and state representatives, singers, beauty queens and marching bands from all across the country (and even some visiting from Panama) put themselves on display for the world stage. Banderas, Polleras, montunos and smiles were widespread during this celebration! The music, the food and the sense of camaraderie were enough to make anyone feel like an honorary Panamanian that day!! But it’s officially today, November 3rd that we celebrate 109 years of independence — Viva Panama!!
This identity goes far beyond where I was born. It goes beyond what people may think they know about Panama — it’s so much more than just a Canal! It is demonstrated in the timbre of my voice, the way I laugh, the way I dance and the way I walk through my life. I am Panama.