I was born, raised and currently live in Panama City, Panama. I was born of an american mother and a panamanian father. They decided to have me one year after the USA invasion of Panama and after a democratic system was set up in the country.
Even though our family lived in Panama, my mother would take my brother and I to visit her own family in the States for at least two weeks every year for the first 18 years of our lives. So I can say I was blessed to grow up not only speaking spanish and english fluently at the same time (the english I learned from my mother, the spanish from my father), but that I also grew up being surrounded by two very different cultures at the same time, both of which influenced my personality and world-view.
My mother used to read me stories when I was little, she started with Dr. Seuss and then progressed to children’s books and middle grade, up until the second grade when I started reading alone. I was educated in a bilingual school, and I remember always getting the ‘reading awards’ during literature class because I could read faster than the rest of the kids, because of my mother having taught me from a very young age.
I started reading when I was four or five and writing at the same age. Later on I got interested in painting and music, but reading and writing would always be my favorite activity. Literature was my favorite class. Since my mother read to me in english while I grew up, most of the books that I read for pleasure were also in english. I explored the world of english literature with much pleasure, and also read some books in spanish for fun.
However, right now in this period of my life I am actually reading more books in spanish than in english and I feel like I’m discovering this whole new ltierature and way of writing and type of fiction. Everything sounds more poetic and beautiful in spanish, but it’s harder to write well, it’s harder to craft a coherent story. English is very cut and dry in comparison, but it’s easier to get the meaning across and say a-lot in fewer words.
I will always be grateful for this double heritage. There are more people like me in Panama, especially those people who were born in the Canal Zone while it was still run by the United States (dubbed ‘Zonians’). I’m not a zonian, I lived in the middle of the city right up until I moved to the suburbs with my husband after getting married, but I can identify with the zonians in many ways.
The good thing about being bi-cultural and bilingual is that you feel like you belong to and can also navigate two very different worlds, as well as nurture yourself from the different values of each world. There are things from Panama, like the people’s warmth and the more laid-back aspects of the culture, that I like and cannot find in the States. And there are things from the States, like how people are independent in their life and more rational-thinking, that isn’t necessarily the norm in Panama. So there’s a balance, overall. I’m looking forward to raising my kids with the same mentality.
If you were raised surrounded by different cultures and languages, I would love to hear all about it.
Have a blessed day!