Vida en Panamá


By Jenay Wright —Before I was aware of the term Afro-Latina, I just said I was Black and Panamanian and this is exactly what I told people when asked what I was. It was verbatim of what represented me. I find when I say I am Latina people would give me the same “Girl stop your lying face”. It was apparent I didn’t look like Jennifer Lopez and even more evident that I wasn’t Jessica Alba. Even when it came to just saying I was Black it couldn’t just be that alone it was “Girl you look Jamaican”.

So when i just decided to just roll with the I am Panamanian that gave even more blank faces. It was like nobody knew who Panamanians were and I couldn’t understand why. I understood the diversity within Latin America but some people just didn’t. It is like when some people think of Latinx they assume just Mexicans or in places like New York City your either Dominican or Puerto Rican or even sometimes Cuban. And if you happen be a darker Latinx that speaks Spanish they might even pass you for Honduran


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We are minimizing how far Latinx can really go.

I would rather someone ask me more about the context of where I am from instead of just assuming or saying “You mean your ____”. If I meant that I would have said that. Yes!  It takes much patience and it is important to educate those on who you are but sometimes it becomes redundant when individuals don’t want to do their part. I truly don’t know it all but I am willing to learn; when I am exposed to a new culture that I never knew about. 

My first extinct is to ask that person to elaborate on their culture. 

So for those blank faces who didn’t know of Panama. Today is your lucky day.

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Panama is a nation recognized for its diverse and international background. Like many other Caribbean and Latin American countries, Panama as a nation is heavily impacted by their Spanish, African, Indigenous and European influence.

Panama has a fusion of unique traditions and ideas which are primarily Caribbean and Spanish. Panama is located in Central America which lies South of Columbia and North of Costa Rica. It holds a very tropical climate and is well-known for their Panama Canal.

The diversity in Panama’s music and cuisines are endless. With many influences among the history this truly reflects its diverse population. Growing up in a Panamanian-American household dishes can vary from Arroz Con Pollo, Platanos and Yucca to Oxtail and Dumplings. It can go from mild flavored to spicy mouthwatering dishes. Panama’s location is also very essential because it lies between two continents South & North America. This gives tropical fruits, veggies and herbs that are used in Native-Panamanian cooking.

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Best of Both Worlds right.

Panama was initially colonized by numerous groups of indigenous tribes: Chibchan, Chocoan, and Cueva. The impact of these tribes persisted all over present day Panama, Colombia, and Venezuela. The musical influence of the tribes is still seen in present day. These tribes are known for their involvement of the mejoranera, a five-stringed guitar and the rabel, a violin with three strings.

These instruments are popular in the traditional music known as Saloma and Mejorana. This music combines the ancient languages of the indigenous tribes.

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Indigenous roots are very prominent to Panama while the music is used to celebrate their culture and history. Musical traditions are passed on to the younger population. This preserves the language and culture that have been misplaced during colonization.Central America as a new colony of Spain, became very well known for cultivation and trade. In result of that, Panama was populated with slaves brought from Africa. The slaves carried with them a culture, traditions, beliefs and custom which was very different from what the Indigenous and the Europeans brought with them. 

One of the most imperative influences that Africans had on the music of Panama was the introduction of drumming patterns, dance routines, as well as dramatic storytelling and exciting dramatization. The African inspiration can be seen in the popular dance rhythms and music known as the Congo.The music combines the drumming and dancing of the Africans emerged with language and instruments of the Spanish.

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The African Influence can also be seen in the development of music genres known as Calypso, Jazz, and Spanish Reggae. Afro-Caribbean’s settled in Colon while building the Panama Canal. Panama is also the Birth of Spanish Reggae, Many Panamanians of Jamaican ancestry started this trend of music, if it wasn’t for the Jamaican ancestry in Panama, there would be no Reggaeton.

During the 15th century the Spanish, commanded by Christopher Columbus, he created the first European settlements in present day Panama. The European brought with them to Central America their own set of principles, traditions, culture and music. The musical traditions had a substantial effect on the culture and musical development of the nation. The new music of Panama joint with the traditions the natives brought.

The Spanish familiarized the guitar, the trumpet, and Strobilus (a four-line stanza) connected with poetry and song. Because of the invasion, Spanish became the central language not only in religion, business, politics, but also in music and poetry. Many significant genres of music resulted from this blend, including the Cumbia, Tamborito, Salsa, and Tipico.

These types of music joined the customs, traditions, costumes, and stories of the indigenous with the new European influences. Salsa, was the most popular of these music traditions has carried international attention to the delightful music of Panama. 

Panama is a beautiful placed filled with momentous history and our Panamanians reflect that. 

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Sky Britnei says:

    Que viva Panamaaaa 💕


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