Americans in Panama are treated as they should be. If you are a jerk, then you are going to be treated as one, and if you’re not, then you are treated very well. Panama has a love-hate relationship with the United States. Panamanians love Americans, they try and emulate our culture, but they still haven’t gotten over the invasion when Noriega was taken out.
It’s a dichotomy. There’s a love-hate relationship that Panamanians have with the Americans that they don’t really have with anyone else, so it’s complicated. In general, we’re received very well. Panamanians are friendly and generous, but they have a national holiday to recognize the 3,000 people who were killed in what they call “The Invasion” when Noriega was extracted. It’s a complicated relationship, just as the Americans’ relationship with the Mexicans.
On a personal level, I am treated very well in Panama. For example, I’m having a good friend of mine who is the local congressman for our district here in Río Sereno over to my home for lunch. I wouldn’t be able to invite a congressman for lunch in the United States. I’m an easygoing guy- I’ll talk to anybody about anything, shake the hand of the Indian or my congressman going down the road here.
I’m blind when it comes to classes. I don’t like the concept of class or color. We all bleed red. That’s well received with the lower classes because I’m a white guy with white hair and a big house, but I’m out there dirty around the front yard.
Everywhere in the world, you get back what you put out in terms of interaction with people. If you come on high and snotty, people tend to treat you that way, too.
As an example, about 15 years ago, I used to set up pensions in the United States. I brought down a client of mine to the county fair in David who was interested in buying an island off the coast of Boca Chica. County fairs are all the same with lots of greasy food, rides, music and people. The county fair in Phoenix is very similar with the county fair here in David.
This client of mine stands at 6”2’ just like me. Everybody in Panama is a bit shorter than us. We were walking around the county fair and I told him, “You know, I really like this spirit. I like it better than the fair in Phoenix,” and he says, “Man, I don’t even go to the fair in Phoenix. I’m afraid.”
You know he felt at ease walking around the fair in David. I told him, “Yes, you’re probably right. But I do go to the fair in Phoenix and there are a lot of police officers there because there are issues.”
If you were at the county fair and you were a misfit and people didn’t like you, you will get a lot of very “in-your-face” type of stares. There will be people nudging you with your elbow and you’ll immediately feel that you’re not in the right place.
Au contraire here in Panama. When we were walking around, everybody was happy. It was crowded but nobody was nudging us. I’m sure you’ve been in a place in your life wherein you knew you shouldn’t be there. As two very obvious gringos in the county fair in David in Chiriquí Province, we were completely accepted with no issues whatsoever. I felt totally comfortable.
There were probably issues but there was nothing obvious. Some people were probably thinking, “Why are they there?” I’m sure that it was there, although it wasn’t obvious, but we both felt comfortable.
(Manuel Antonio Noriega Moreno, pictured.)