Luz McClinton looks forward every year to the Panamanian Independence Day Celebration in Oklahoma. Saturday, Panama-Americans will gather to celebrate their shared heritage in dance, music, food and drink.
Back home in Panama, it's one of the country's biggest holidays, with people filling the streets dressed in colorful polleras (skirts) and intricate headdresses, dancing the salsa and meringue through the streets with joy.
This will be the third year for the Oklahoma celebration, McClinton said.
“I was really surprised that there are a lot of Panamanians here in Oklahoma,” she said.
She came to Oklahoma more than two decades ago after meeting her now-husband in Panama. He was in the military, and many Panama-Americans came to the country having married an American military member, McClinton said.
For McClinton, keeping her Panamanian heritage alive in the minds of her children and family is important. She has a home in Panama the family visits once a year. Her children speak English and Spanish.
Celebrating their heritage is a good way to keep it fresh and alive, McClinton said, and to make Americans more aware of Panamanian history.
Nov. 3, 1903, is considered the beginning of the country's sovereignty from Colombia soon after the Thousand Days War. But, 82 years before then, Panama obtained liberation from the Spanish crown.
The Independence Day is primarily to celebrate secession from Colombia but also to celebrate two centuries free of colonial rule.