Hey Negros Americanos, Why did you choose to live in Panama?

Negros Americanos Panama Costa Rica Black man rapping in spanish

Bishop The Eastside Nappyhead Negros Americanos

By now you feel like you know me a bit don’t you?  You know about my cougar love affair, you know about the decrepit housing project we lived in together in Panama, but do you know the real reasons that prompted our journey to central America?  I have to admit that before the year 2009 I had  no idea what a Panamanian person looked like, thats not to say that I didn’t know plenty of Panamanians, I just didn’t know anything about where they came from.

The first time I realized I was talking to a Panamanian person, was at work.  She was an interesting person, with a great sense of humor.  Interestingly enough during the short time that I met her I was watching a program on the US invasion of Panama, something that happened when I was but a newborn, nonetheless I never heard of this event and the unjustified violence and brute force used on the Panamanian people.  The woman that I worked with was unmistakably black and her accent was so caribbean I swore that she was Jamaican or something, but then i heard her speaking in spanish.  Now it wasn’t the first time I heard a black person speaking spanish.  I’d known some black Dominicans, but the fact that she spoke in a Caribbean style intrigued me.  I asked her where she was from and she said Panama.  Wouldn’t you know that after meeting her I would run into countless Panamanians who all were full of pride for their home country.

hip hop in panama living in panama the real Panama

mc enigma Negros Americanos

Going back even further, I knew mc enigma most of my life.  Probably since we were about seven.  We went to different elementary schools in Plainfield but he actually went to the same school as my cousin.  I would always see him when I went with my grandmother to pick my cousin up from the after school program.  It was actually in middle school when we started putting raps together.  mc enigma graduated from NJCU and got a job working at Yale as a Union organizer in Connecticut, and I stayed in Plainfield working  and was still in school and trying to make my way.  The year was 2010 and it was getting crazy in Plainfield New Jersey.  In this small city of about 45,000 or so there were several murders and I started to notice a growing trend of blacks and latinos killing each other.  Once mc enigma found out about the murders he decided to come back to Plainfield, and we lent our time working for the Plainfield chapter of the Newark based People’s Organization for Progress(POP).  After the notable murder of a teenager in the city we both canvased the neighborhood where the crime happened to talk to the people and realized that the majority of the neighborhood didn’t speak any english. Our message was useless if the people couldn’t hear it.  We wanted to be able to reach everyone in the community and  ease the tension and fear.  With that same mentality, we began to think; “Hey, if we can learn spanish we would be able to make the same type of classic music that we make in english and be able to grab a way larger fan base than otherwise.”  Imagine when we learn other languages as well, we will be unstoppable.  The idea for Negros Americanos was now born.

na black americans rapping in spanish

Now the question was, “how were we going to move to a spanish speaking country?”  Panama was preferred because of the large population of black people.  We knew that we would be able to maneuver there easier than other latin american countries that have as much of an economic boom as Panama was and is still having.  So how were we going to afford it? We started to research how to live and work in a foreign country on google and learned that teaching english was the best route to go about.  We saved up money and paid for courses for certification in teaching english, thinking that after taking the 3 month program we would be placed with a job.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.  We were told that we had to buy our plane ticket and physically travel to the country to look for a job.  When I heard just how difficult it would be for me to find work, as I would be judged as a drug addicted Rasta because of my hair, I almost gave up on the dream.  I didn’t want to starve out there.  Once we got the certification, we bought a one-way ticket to Panama and we met another Panamanian woman in New Jersey, who would become our Aunt.  She was so excited that we were going to move to her country that she told us we could move in with her sister for a few months to get ourselves together. We waited until the 5th of January 2011 and then we hopped on a plane to Panama City, Panama.

Negros Americanos mujeres bonitas de Panama

Bellas Mujeres De Panama

I was so excited to be out of the country and to be starting this new life, the goal was to absorb everything we possibly could, especially the language. As soon as we stepped out into the airport I realized that the “physical” quality of women in this country was unbelievable.  I had learned that the best way to learn a language would be to find a significant other that doesn’t speak your same language.  It forces you to learn in a more natural way.  With that said,  we treated the female hunt with the same passion we took on the job hunt.  Trying to talk to every woman that I could possibly run into with my 5 word spanish, sticking my chest out as if my American-ness would give me access to all of these thick brown women. After reading several blogs on Panamanian women, I thought it would be easier, but I didn’t take into account that those blogs were written by white men, and the results would be a tad different for me.

nueva concepción Panama, gueto de Panama

Bishop The Eastside Nappyhead en Concepcion Juan Diaz Panama

Our adventure began in the neighborhood of Nueva Concepción, Panama, a humble neighborhood where you really  feel a sense of community.  The family we lived with was very black and proud, so when I hung out in the street I was in awe at the amount of black women with white or cholo  (panamanian word for indigenous mixed with spaniard) men.  I also noticed that some (not all of course) of the black Panamanian women that I tried to talk to would look me right in my face and then look ahead as if I didn’t even exist.  One time I noticed that happen with me, but then when a fellow white American tourist tried to talk to her and she broke her neck to make sure that he was responded to.  I was in shock.  I started to learn about the “mejorar la raza” phrase that some women have adopted.  It hurt me so to know that many of these women were not with these men initially because of love, rather because of self-hatred and the desire to have ‘pretty’ children who hadn’t been cursed with the same sun absorbing skin tone.  At that point we made a conscious decision to promote black pride everywhere we went.

Negros americanos water shortage in Panama

Negros Americanos water shortage in Panama

 

 

We couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.  There was a water shortage in the country in the first couple months of 2011.  We ended up taking bucket showers and using water from buckets to cook.   Every day a truck would come around midday with water tanks and fill up our buckets.  We had to conserve the water though and not use too much for bathing as it was a family of 6 or 7 including us and the same water had to be used for cooking, needless to say in a country so hot I began to learn how to caress my body with powder every morning.  After the second month, the water started to come back.  Now we could concentrate on trying to find out where all the hip hop events were and how to collaborate with other artists.  That is the story that will be told in the next blog post.

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39 thoughts on “Hey Negros Americanos, Why did you choose to live in Panama?

  1. tiffanycaesar

    Wow! That is awesome…I am so impressed at your ability to up and leave to a new country based on your exposure to the Panamanian culture in America…I do agree…the best way to learn another language is by conversating with someone…when I studied abroad in Mexico…I had a brief fling with this guy…who did not know any English…it was hot…and I learned a lot from him in forms of language and culture…(But if you dont use it…you loose it…I still can pick up some Spanish here and there…) When I was in Douala, Cameroon…I dated a guy who definitely improved his English by dating me…I didn’t learn to much French from him…I wonder if I was in Panama…how the dynamic would be different from yours…do you have any perspective…In Mexico I was called morena…and I fit in more than my white peers…In Cameroon…I encountered mix feelings…some treated me as a white person…one void of cultural understanding though…I have been studying black culture up until graduate school(I still had a lot to learn though)…others wanted to help me understand…Traveling…is such an important aspect of growing…I can’t wait to read your blog on your relationship with the older woman…interesting…

    • hey!!! thanx for commenting Tiff….can I call you that? Im sorry to hear that you were treated as a white person by the Cameroonian people…I mean that might mean good things,….do you mean that you were made to feel like an outsider over there? And what part of the states are you located in?

      • tiffanycaesar

        Yes…I as much as I felt that I was in an culturally safe place…I still did not know all the cultural norms that were different from America..I realized how American I was, though I considered myself a black conscious female…I was in Cameroon for a year and half teaching English and I just came back to Houston, Texas in December…It was a game changer in the way I see the world…and myself…I would prefer you to call me Osage or Osage Dior…It is a name I gave to myself…Osage is a tree that has burnt orange bark…It is very strong…It reminds me that I am humble and grounded…Dior is a French word that means gold…So though I am humble and grounded…I still like to be glamarous…and add a pop of shine to myself rather that is a bulky jewelry or a nice dress with some high heels…Osage Dior is a woman who is equally balanced…with the spiritual and material world…

      • woooow a year and a half @Osage Dior that’s a lot of time…and I love the name

  2. tiffanycaesar

    Reblogged this on Chronicles of Osage Dior and commented:
    He is super B.A.N.J.I…(Be Authentic Never Jeopardizing Your Individuality 😉 … ) ©NEEMA

  3. I dig the abstract storytelling. I want to travel more now than I ever did, but I do not want to teach English. Any other ideas for traveling?

    • that’s difficult there are other ways….but they certainly aren’t as lucrative nor stress free….you could always though find a way to turn a travel blog lucrative.,..thats hard to do I would imagine but def not impossible….you could see what is missing in that area that you travel tooo…something that could make life easier and find a way to set up shop and make money as an entrepreneur which is way easier to do in other countries outside of the states that don’t have as much buracracy I know I spelled that weong lol

  4. Dude,
    I must say, being someone that is looking forward to visiting a Latin American country one day in the future, your blog has inspired me to make that happen ASAP. Nice footage too. I have to ask, What were the rules set by the gang and what was the cause for the amputees? What is their currency conversion system for the american dollar? Did your ex teach you any herbal remedies that you still use? Omg I have soo many question lol

  5. first off thanx for the comment..what country would you think to visit?…I don’t want to talk about the specific rules cuz by now this blog is being paid attention to by someone that still lives there…some things just need to stay private…The amputees…I have no idea what happened to those ppl…In Panama its US dollar…so it was straight…and I know a couple verbal remedies still lol…I still use them.I learned a lot from that woman..

    • Well I actually have 4 places that I would like to visit: Dominican Republic, Brazil, Columbia and Panama also. But I only know a fraction of spanish which I learned in elementary school because it was a mandatory subject in a language arts school back in the day. I wish I still had someone teaching me today while im still in my 20s and have the patience to learn. Btw, what was the music scene like? Do they listen to any american or ‘Negro Americano’ music?

      • I would love to make it to Brazil for real!

      • yeah man they love American music…..they hate when you say American..though because technically we are all American….they prefer you said united states music…..but yeah there are so many different genres… that there are pockets of ppl that like different things…..what my job is to do is to find a way to tie it all in so that ppl who like cumbia will like hip hop ppl who like funk will like salsa…it has to be executed in the perftect way

  6. Nice blog! You got some really interesting topics.

  7. thanks man you too I check your blog often bro

  8. OhMindful1

    Panama’s black population while sizeable or significant enough is actually a a minority. Panama is a MIXED race nation. NOT a black nation.

    Also you have to keep in mind that MOST Panamanians regardless of what they look like may often most likely be mixed. They don’t have the same hang ups or history as the USA. Classism is a much bigger issue as well as some aspects of colorism that are prevalent and permeate Panamanian society.

    Also, forcing and imposing negative ethnocentric and racist factions such as Afrocentrism and racist one droppism won’t make Panama any better. It will make things even worse.

    Next you have to keep in mind that shallowness or just approaching a women to get play or attention from them will not always work. Some women may even find it stalkerish and creepy especially when they don’t even know you. Perhaps also why some of these women didn’t give you any play was because it could have been your looks or how you dressed. It doesn’t mean necessarily that it was because of your race. Perhaps the white man you claimed some gave attention to had a different approach or perhaps it was how he was dressed. Not every chick will be for you.

    Next most people in Panama are a mix of Spaniard/Spanish, African (predominantly Afro colonial), and Native American descent. So women and men of all races and racial mixtures date whoever they want. They also could have family members that are of different races so they are use to being in and dealing with and interacting in a mixed society. Cholo is also a cultural pattern lifestyle term. There are ppl of African descent who may be called cholo because they are brown or they are culturally assimilated and no different from your average typical Panamanian. Those cholos that you spoke of most likely have African ancestry.

    You have to understand that identity politics differs outside of the USA.

    A Black Panamanian is no different from any other Panamanian. A Panamanian is simply Panamanian first and foremost, and then they rep their province and town. It’s about culture more than anything and land and home.

    It’s better to simply explore the totality and wholeness and beauty of a culture and not to expect anything because it will leave you
    With room for dissapointment. Lastly imposing black pride and viewing a country by race complicates things and builds and puts up further unnecessary barriers. Additionally, studying and reading up on the history of a nation and culture and doing research helps because all the importance and information is all there. You dont always have to go so hard digging for and searching for answers.

    ¿What is your true purpose in Panama besides music and traveling?

    • I don’t know why this post made you feel so strong as to write this book telling me how to explore cultures with an open mind….all things i know and i have donee….As a black man am i not alowed to share my opinion about how I felt after living a year in a foreign country….lets stop making excuses for a brainwash…when we do that we are ignoring the real truths, and it divides us further…..I lived in Panama for a year in 2011 i dont live there anymore….So living there for a whole year, amongst the people and not in a touristy setting…i am well aware that panama isnt a black country and that its mixed, but what African person in the new world isn’t mixed, its what you identify with. And if you are Identifying with another ethnicity, that is your choice. Im also aware that of the identity politics outside of the US…However there are plenty panamanian people that have African pride, and that was the family I stayed with af first, that was my woman, those were my associates. And yes i tried to impose my opinion on race relation on them…DO YOU KNOW WHY….Many werent taught about slavery or where they came from before panama or jamaica or Barbados….it only went back to that history, they werent taught their African origin, but through constant propaganda taught to worship whiteness look at all the novelas, the ads in the mall, on tv, the bilboards, music videos.. Panama had some of the most volumptious beautiful black women i have ever seen yet they never make it on the silver screen, why is that. Whats wrong with me trying to let them know look….you were once a slave this is what you came from…this is why you are taught to worship white, and this is what is going to happen to your society if you keep up with this brainwash…im sorry but i disagree with your opinion, that i dont have a right to impose my “AMERICAN racial standards” on the good people of Panama look lets not use the excuse of racial politics outside the US….mejorar la raza is real…..and no no its wasnt my looks or the way i dress, because a disheveled white man that showered 4 times a week was way more successful then I was with women. and how is it creepy to approach a woman for play? If i see a woman and in my mind i say….she is going to be my wife one day, should i just let her pass by without trying to actually speak, and what the hell i was a single relatively young heterosexual man that was living in a foreign country with extrmely attractive woman and i wanted to fornicate….and I wasnt used to a black woman choosing a white man over me, it was a new experience that actually had me doubting and questioning myself..until I realized what was happening, and you can make all the excuses you want about it, but its a brainswash. Lastly to ask me what my purpose is in panama besides music and traveling insinuates that you never really read the article that you just commented on….Its all in there. i would love to have a back and forth with you seriously, i love convos like this they keep me on my toes……contact me

  9. What an awesome, mind expanding experience. Good for you!!

  10. WOW! I am at a lost for words. This article is extremely inspiring, informative, and filled with creativity. For two young men to come together to think of a wonderful idea to learn a new language and move to a different country to spread knowledge is extremely impressive. Keep doing what you guys do best and I pray that you guys make it to my television set one day. You guys are one of a kind and its not a lot of young urban African-american men especially in the new jersey area who thinks the way you think in our generation. Much love and these types of stories warms my heart! I went to school with you and I remember always seeing you pass me on campus but I never knew you were a star in the making! Much love.

    • wooow…hey so I would love to know just who you are…are we friends on facebook….If so please send me a message to let me know who I am talking to….SO I def enjoyed an appreciate all that you have said on this post and it fills my heart with great joy and elation

  11. AL

    Wow, thank you Bishop. I have been looking for the vital intel or info that you have provided for more than a year now. Every time I have done research online about Panama, it’s from a non-african American point-of-view. I am planning on visiting Panama in November 2013. I am a black male and I would really like to know more about the women in Panama. I will try to contact you on Facebook or something.

  12. man Im glad that I could have helped you..trust me I did a lot of research before I went…It shows your preparedness but I found nothing really useful. the non-black perspective is useless in giving an accurate depiction on what a black male is going to encounter on one of these types of excursions

  13. Auburn Ave Zay

    I respect that you had the courage to step out there and take the chance. , and move there big up to you!

  14. I’m sure you have been told this many times….but man…you are my hero. I am 49 and oh how I wish I had done what you have done. Don’t get me wrong. I travel the world…been to Africa many times on vacation…by myself…and I love Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. I found your site as I was looking at Panama. I am interested in retiring outside of the US. My first thought is Bahia. But I also wanted to consider other places and Panama is that place. I’m a gay black man so my concerns are different from yours but your experiences do lend some insight and I appreciate them. Thanks so much….wish my son was more like you (adventurous). All the best to you. Peace.

    • hey thanks so much for commenting brotha…..I think it may be the place…I have never been to Bahia, though I hear wonderful things about it. Its my dream to be there actually, I had a lot of fun in Panama, it was a rather different experience..if I may say so-I wish you the best on your country choosing man, Im still in a never ending search for mine

      • Thanks for responding back. I’m not sure if you have any plans to travel to Brazil any time soon, but me and some friends are heading back there in November 2014. I usually go every 2 years. So if you would like, come on down I can give you info on securing a place to stay. I usually rent an apartment. When it comes to music, you would love this place, music is all around all the time. As a matter of fact, here is a link to Alan’s website…he is the guy me and my friends have been using since 2005: http://www.salvadorcentral.com/alapartments-2.htm. I would be glad to introduce you around. Remember they speak Portuguese in Brazil, but I do have some friends that speak English.

  15. Hey Bishop, Great Blog ! What’s your take on Bocas del Toro ?

  16. thanks for checking it out bro

  17. Can a brother live there for $1000 a month ?

  18. ha…..try three hundred a month my brotha

  19. Reblogged this on LivingInColorBlindness.

  20. Cygnus

    Hey guys,when are you coming to the UK? Pls pls pls?!,!,!,!,

  21. Reading your blog is so encouraging. I am building an international empire. It is nice to come across a blog of this magnitude that can give me a perspective on the ground.

  22. Bishop…do you have a twitter page?

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