With or Without Gringos

When Panamanians Talk about the United States and Its Citizens

in Social Analysis

In local and informal contexts, Panamanians talk about the power of the United States and describe its citizens in multifaceted and complex terms. In this article I examine those views as they are articulated in informal urban settings in Panama City and in conversations with middle-class Panamanians. My respondents evaluate the US-Panama relationship and discuss individual North Americans with realism, reflecting a graceful but critical spirit of forgiveness toward their more powerful ally. A broader awareness of US colonialism in the past is combined with a pragmatic acknowledgement of opportunities in the present and the desire for a more equal relationship in the future. I argue that the opportunity to voice unreserved opinions about powerful Others can potentially empower local actors.

Social Analysis

The International Journal of Anthropology