Sarah York

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For Sarah Margaret Ferguson, former member of the British Royal Family, see Sarah, Duchess of York.

Sarah York is an American who became the pen pal of Manuel Noriega, then the de facto ruler of Panama, at age ten. Sarah began correspondence with Noriega after her father suggested on a whim that she should write to him because he liked the general's hat. This correspondence developed to the point where Noriega invited her family to visit him in Panama. Her family agreed to the visit, seeing it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

In October 1988, York (then 11 years old) and her mother were escorted by a military guard on a tour of Panama. She was interviewed constantly during her visit, becoming the main item on the Panamanian news, and the mayor of Panama City awarded her an honorary key to the city. Upon her return to her home in Negaunee, Michigan, she was praised at first, particularly by her school and community, but soon the story was covered in the national media, where she was derided and ridiculed for befriending an enemy of the United States. Nevertheless, York would visit Panama and Noriega again one year later, in October 1989, just two months before the United States invasion of Panama. (Murillo 690) Her parents were criticized for allowing her to visit Panama, and for encouraging her friendship with Noriega, then a highly controversial figure. [1]

She now lives with her husband on a self-sufficient farm in remote rural Wisconsin, and was interviewed by the radio show This American Life in 2003.

Popular Culture[edit]

The song "Pineapple Girl" by indie rock supergroup Mister Heavenly is written directly about the relationship between York and Noriega. This has been confirmed by the band in some live shows.


  1. ^ "NORIEGA'S SURRENDER: PEN PAL; 'Kinder, Gentler Noriega." The New York Times, 5 January 1990.