Panamanian Americans

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Panamanian Americans
Total population
206,219 (2018)[1]
0.06% of the U.S. population (2018)[1]
Regions with significant populations
American English, Panamanian Spanish, Bocas del Toro Creole, Indigenous languages
Predominantly Roman Catholic
Minority Protestantism
Related ethnic groups
fellow Latino Americans, Spanish Americans

Panamanian Americans (Spanish: panameño-americano, norteamericano de origen panameño or estadounidense de origen panameño) are Americans of Panamanian descent.

The Panamanian population at the 2010 Census was 165,456. Panamanians are the sixth-smallest Latino group in the United States and the second smallest Central American population.

The largest population of Panamanians reside in Brooklyn and South Florida.

In contrast to other Latino nationalities, Panamanians are heavily concentrated in Army base cities. These cities include Fayetteville, NC - Fort Bragg, Killeen, TX - Fort Hood, Columbus, GA - Fort Stewart, Colorado Springs, CO - Fort Carson, Clarksville, TN - Fort Campbell, El Paso, TX - Fort Bliss and in the vicinity of Fort Dix in New Jersey. Cities home to Navy and Air Force bases also lay claim to a concentration of Panamanians. These include San Antonio, Hampton Roads, Jacksonville, San Diego and Tampa.


The number of Panamanians who emigrated to the US until 1960 is unknown, as the Census Bureau included them in the category of "others". However, it has been discovered that the number of Panamanians who entered must not have been very high, since in the 1830s, for example, only 44 Panamanians left Panama for the United States. However, by the beginning of the 20th century, the number of immigrants from Panama had skyrocketed to over 1,000 per year. After World War II, Panamanians entering the U.S. country was again scarce, but this changed in 1965, when immigration law allowed a maximum of 120,000 annual immigrants in the U.S. This law favored a remarkable migration from Panama, which made it one of the main migratory flows from Central America to the United States in the 1970s. Most of them were mestizos and Afro-Panamanians. In this migration, had many more women than men, although many of them were maids. For their part, the white-collar workers who went to the United States did so only to obtain a salary with which to help their families in Panama. Over 86,000 American people of Panamanian descent were registed in the 1990 US Census.[2]


Race and ethnicity[edit]

Hulk Hogan making his way to the ring in 1989.

Although, black people and mixed race black people only make up about 25% of Panama itself, up to 80% of Panamanian Americans are black or mixed race, far higher than other Latino immigrant communities. This is especially true with the Panamanian community in New York City. Immigrant communities from the Caribbean coasts of other Central American countries also tend to be heavily (unmixed) black, in comparison to more heavily populated "Mestizo" interior of Central America and the more solidly mixed "Mulatto" Spanish Caribbean islands.[2] Although most Panamanian Americans speak Spanish, the group tends to identify itself more with English-speaking West Indian groups rather than with other Latin American groups. So those 160,000 people are mostly related to Jamaica and other Caribbean islands, than Panama its self. And most of them don't even speak Spanish ( the national language of Panama)

This tendency is most prevalent among black Panamanian Americans, which may be due to large Jamaican, and to lesser degree Trinidadian and Barbadian immigration, which occurred during the early 1900s, many of them retained their West Indian culture. A lot Panamanians (the 25%), along with Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Colombians and Venezuelans have higher percentages of African descent than other Latino groups.


Most of Panamanian immigrants have low-skill jobs, mainly are maids, but the followed generations have a majority of college students and white-collar professionals, as well as people educated in vocational training.[2]


The 10 states with the largest population of Panamanians (Source: 2010 Census):

  1. Florida - 28,741
  2. New York - 28,200
  3. California - 17,768
  4. Texas - 13,994
  5. Georgia - 8,678
  6. Virginia - 7,180
  7. North Carolina - 5,708
  8. New Jersey - 5,431
  9. Maryland - 5,341
  10. Pennsylvania - 3,234


The largest population of Panamanians are situated in the following areas (Source: Census 2010):

  1. New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA MSA - 29,619
  2. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL MSA - 13,529
  3. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV MSA - 7,322
  4. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA MSA - 6,353
  5. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA MSA - 5,599
  6. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL MSA - 4,234
  7. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL MSA - 3,772
  8. Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX MSA - 3,350
  9. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX MSA - 3,162
  10. Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD MSA - 2,841
  11. San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX MSA - 2,663
  12. Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC MSA - 2,658
  13. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA MSA - 2,556
  14. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA MSA - 2,384
  15. Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI MSA - 2,300
  16. San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA MSA - 2,144
  17. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA MSA - 2,002
  18. Baltimore-Towson, MD MSA - 1,877
  19. Fayetteville, NC MSA - 1,788
  20. Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH MSA - 1,749

US communities with largest population of people of Panamanians ancestry[edit]

The top 25 US communities with the highest populations of Panamanian (Source: Census 2010)

  1. New York City - 22,353
  2. Los Angeles - 2,131
  3. San Antonio, TX - 1,602
  4. Jacksonville, FL - 1,165
  5. Fayetteville, NC - 1,154
  6. Miami, FL - 1,113
  7. Houston, TX - 1,076
  8. San Diego, CA - 1,018
  9. Killeen, TX - 998
  10. Chicago, IL - 883
  11. Washington, DC - 742
  12. Boston, MA # Hillcrest Heights, FL - 1.57%
  13. Pemberton Heights, NJ - 1.40%
  14. Indian Creek, FL - 4.65%
  15. Lisbon, FL - 1.92%

Panamanians are more than 1% of the entire population in only four communities in the US, none of which has a significant population. As a result, Panamanians are one of the least visible Latin American nationalities in the United States.

US communities with high percentages of people of Panamanian ancestry[edit]

US communities with the highest percentages of Panamanians as a percent of total population (Source: Census 2010)

  1. Virginia Beach, VA - 702
  2. Miramar, FL - 700
  3. Columbus, GA - 696
  4. Pembroke Pines, FL - 676
  5. Tampa, FL - 656
  6. Colorado Springs, CO - 642
  7. Newport News, VA - 615
  8. Charlotte, NC - 608
  9. Austin, TX - 607
  10. Orlando, FL - 596
  11. Clarksville, TN - 588
  12. El Paso, TX - 551
  13. Dallas, TX - 458
  14. Philadelphia, PA - 737

Notable people[edit]

  • Tatyana Ali - actress and singer
  • Linda Martín Alcoff - philosopher
  • Ra Un Nefer Amen - founder of the Pan-African religious organization Ausar Auset Society, dedicated to providing Afrocentric-based spiritual training to people of African descent
  • Cirie Fields - American reality TV contestant, famously known for competing on ‘Survivor’.
  • Nancy Ames - American folk singer and songwriter; granddaughter of former President of Panama Ricardo Joaquín Alfaro
  • Gwen Ifill - American Peabody Award-winning journalist, television newscaster, and author, daughter of a Panamanian immigrant of Bajan descent
  • Braulio Baeza - American Thoroughbred horse racing Hall of Fame jockey
  • Cliff Clinkscales - basketball player
  • Tyson Beckford - actor and model
  • Uri Berenguer - play-by-play announcer for the Boston Red Sox Spanish Beisbol Network
  • A. R. Bernard - founder, Senior Pastor and CEO of Christian Cultural Center (CCC), in Brooklyn, New York; born in Panama and emigrated to New York with his family when he was four
  • Aloe Blacc - singer
  • Roberto Blades - Panamanian salsa singer
  • Rubén Blades - salsa singer
  • Jordana Brewster - actress
  • Pop Smoke - rapper form New York; of Panamanian and Jamaican descent
  • Jeff Buckley (1966–1997) - American singer-songwriter and guitarist; son of musician Tim Buckley; his mother was a Panama Canal Zonian of mixed Greek, French, American and Panamanian descent[3]
  • Rod Carew - Baseball Hall of Famer
  • Eddie Castro - Panamanian-born jockey in American Thoroughbred horse racing
  • El Chombo - American-born Panamanian producer and artist
  • Billy Cobham - Panamanian American jazz drummer, composer and bandleader; Panamanian born, American raised[4]
  • Emayatzy Corinealdi - American film and television actress
  • Ed Cota - American professional basketball player
  • Melissa De Sousa - actress
  • Ruben Douglas - professional basketball player
  • Roberto Durán - Boxing Hall of Famer
  • Adrian Fenty - American politician who served as the sixth mayor of the District of Columbia
  • Gary Forbes - Panamanian professional basketball player who plays for the Houston Rockets
  • Hulk Hogan - professional wrestler; of Italian, French and Panamanian descent[5]
  • Sam Hoger - American mixed martial artist
  • David Iglesias - American attorney from Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Shoshana Johnson - former United States soldier; first black or Latina prisoner of war in the military history of the US; Panamanian born and American raised
  • Clark Kent
  • Olga F. Linares - Panamanian–American academic anthropologist and archaeologist
  • John McCain - American politician, long-time U.S. Senator from Arizona from 1987-2018, and 2008 Republican nominee for President of the United States; was born in Panama to parents who were serving in the U.S. Navy, but raised in the United States
  • Scott A. Muller - American-born Panamanian Olympic slalom canoer
  • Sigrid Nunez - American writer
  • Demitrius Omphroy - American-born Panamanian footballer; of Panamanian and Filipino descent[6]
  • Jeremy Renner - American actor; maternal grandmother was born in Colón
  • J. August Richards - American actor; known for his portrayal of vampire hunter Charles Gunn on the WB cult television series Angel; of Panamanian descent[7]
  • Mariano Rivera - New York Yankees pitcher
  • Michele Ruiz - broadcaster and founder of
  • Christian Duke - American lawyer and activist
  • Clarence Samuels (1900–1983) - first photographer of Latino American of African descent in the United States Coast Guard and first to command a cutter
  • Tessa Thompson - American actress of Afro-Panamanian and Mexican descent
  • Daphne Rubin-Vega - Panamanian-born American dancer, singer-songwriter and actress.
  • Jorge Velásquez - thoroughbred horse racing Hall of Fame jockey
  • Nick Verreos - American fashion designer and contestant on the second season of the reality television program Project Runway; Greek-American father and Panamanian mother
  • Juan Williams - journalist and political analyst
  • Anthony Michaels - tattoo artist
  • See also[edit]


    1. ^ a b "B03001 HISPANIC OR LATINO ORIGIN BY SPECIFIC ORIGIN - United States - 2018 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates". U.S. Census Bureau. July 1, 2018. Retrieved November 25, 2019.
    2. ^ a b c Panamanian American. A Countries and Their Cultures: Panamanian American, by Rosetta Sharp Dean. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
    3. ^ Kane, Rebecca (1998-07-19). "What is Jeff's Ethnic Background?". Archived from the original on 2008-05-09. Retrieved 2008-06-13.
    4. ^ allmusic Billy Cobham Biography
    5. ^ Hollywood Hulk Hogan By Hulk Hogan
    6. ^ Dominguez F., Jose Miguel (2010-06-02). "Entrenamiento. Demitrius Omphroy quiere entrar en la sub-21". (in Spanish). Panama America. Archived from the original on 2011-08-09. Retrieved 2011-01-14.
    7. ^ "Raising the Bar: J. August Richards". TNT. Archived from the original on February 19, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-18.

    Further reading[edit]

    • Dean, Rosetta Sharp. "Panamanian Americans." Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America, edited by Thomas Riggs, (3rd ed., vol. 3, Gale, 2014), pp. 449-457. online
    • Dolan, Edward F. Panama and the United States: Their Canal, Their Stormy Years (1990).
    • Mejía, Germán. The United States Discovers Panama: The Writings of Soldiers, Scholars, Scientists, and Scoundrels, 1850-1905 (2004).