Celebrating Thanksgiving in Panama

April 19, 2012
Celebrating Thanksgiving in Panama

It goes without saying that Thanksgiving is one of the largest and most anticipated holidays in the United States. Thanksgiving represents family, it represents amazing food, it represents an actual NFL lineup on a Thursday, it represents time off from work and school, and it represents Black Friday (importance of representation given in no particular order). However, in Panama, Thanksgiving—el Día de Acción de Gracias—doesn’t mean much, if anything. And that’s fair enough; the Pilgrims and Indians didn’t break bread in Panama City centuries ago.

While studying abroad in Panama, I have compromised more than my share of compromises these past three months. Thus, when it came time for Thanksgiving, there was no negotiation.

Whether I believe the adage or not, I’ve been told that life is about compromise. That said, here in Panama I have compromised a constant supply of A/C, I’ve compromised scalding hot water, I’ve compromised weekly TV dinner dates w/ Gossip Girl, I have compromised more than my share of compromises these past three months. Thus, when it came time for Thanksgiving, there was no negotiation.

Celebrating Thanksgiving in Panama

Two girls in our study abroad group decided to host a potluck Thanksgiving dinner at their house. I signed up to bring cornbread, my roommate signed up to bring corn. Given the lack of a functioning oven in our apartment, we were forced to be creative and decided to fry corn fritters instead.

So my Thanksgiving Day began with me skipping school. (Although, in my opinion, it doesn’t count. I was observing a national holiday.) I woke up at whatever time and my roommate and I headed to the grocery store to buy the necessities for our collaborative dish. Cornbread mix is actually hard to come by here in Panama, surprise surprise, and “from scratch” was out of the question.

Next on my agenda was to join a gym. Draw your own conclusions if you must, but it’s almost time for me to return to the States, and…I don’t need to explain myself to you.

After signing my life to a 3-week gym membership, I returned to the apartment to begin mixing the ingredients for the corn fritters.



4 bags of cornbread mix, milk, eggs, chopped red and yellow pepper, sugar, 1 can of sweet corn, oil (for frying), honey (to glaze the finished product)


  1. Mix all.
  2. Sit back and watch football while your roommate exerts effort frying the fritters.
  3. Drizzle with honey when she finishes.

Somewhere around the fourth quarter of the Cowboys game, my roommate and I showed up fashionably late with our dish in hand, ready to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with the rest of our study abroad group, who each threw down in their own way to make our holiday together perfect.

We even had a little family drama, but that’s both another story and to be expected. No Thanksgiving is complete without it.


Celebrating Thanksgiving in Panama photo credits by Sierra Leone Starks and Unsplash.

About Sierra Leone Starks

Sierra Leone Starks is a multimedia journalist, fashion blogger, and social media junkie. Her work can be found on the print and web pages of some pretty fabulous women’s and lifestyle magazines and her footprints have graced numerous states and landed in several Latin American countries. Following her last extended stay abroad, she now lives by the motto, “If I made it through Panama, I can make it through anything.”

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