Sparky's Quill: Panamanian Reds, Whites and Blues
Have you ever wondered why some history is easy to get interested in, but any other type of history is just. . . bleh? I’m from California, and ever since elementary school we get an overview of California history, especially the Gold Rush (and take my word for it, you never know enough about the Gold Rush). But this history has always been interesting to me. My interests grew to become a love of United States history as a whole. It just came so easily to me, like math or science can come easily to others. I could recite random facts at the drop of a hat, or tell you the ways in which Thomas Jefferson was a Francophile. However, if you throw me into a class about European or Asian history, I’d be lost the entire time. I would study ten times as hard in that class because I would need to. I’m just not as interested in it. I think the reasoning behind this is because I’m studying the history of where I’m from. When the history is personal, it’s a heck of a lot more interesting.
I’m multiracial. My mom is white and from California. My dad is Hispanic and he and his family are originally from Panama (see map). When I was younger (mostly in middle school), I went through an obsession with this country. I would only identify with my Panamanian side, ask my grandpa and my dad all sorts of questions about why they came here and how they managed, I’d look up its history any chance I could get, and drew its flag all over my notebooks. I visited there with my grandmother and my cousins a few times and almost always had fun.
But suddenly, some time in high school, that all just stopped. I just didn’t care that much anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I still see it as part of my identity, but it’s not quite the large part of my life that it used to be. It’s just an interesting thing about me that I can use at the start of each semester for those ice breaker games our professors always want us to participate in.
That is, however, until I need to do a research paper or project. Suddenly, I dive back into the subject of Panama. In one of my Spanish classes, we had to present a PowerPoint about a Hispanic country. With as much fervor as is possible in a Spanish 101 class, I made an elaborate 14-slide presentation on how awesome Panama was. I touched on its association with the United States back when Theodore Roosevelt was building the canal and the cultural food that my great-grandma still makes today. It’s so close to me that I immediately get excited as soon as I hear anything having to do with Panama. This is the same with anything that has to do with California history or any United States history.
I believe that if you can identify with the things that are happening in the region that you study, it’s just that much more fascinating. So, if you’re not that into history, but have heard that your family has roots in Ireland, go look it up. Maybe one of your relatives is famous there. Or maybe your mom still makes a traditional dish from that region.
Have a burning historical question that you’re just dying to know the answer to? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on Twitter @sparkysquill.