Finding Home-Country Connections in the United States

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Finding Home-Country Connections in the United States

When 2005-2006 Humphrey Fellow Orlando Acosta (Rutgers University – Natural Resources, Environmental Policy, and Climate Change) learned that he would be attending a pre-academic English training at the University of Oregon, he sought to learn more about the state’s local history. Once he began his research, he was delighted to discover numerous connections between the city of Eugene, which is home to the university, and his native country of Panama. Orlando explained:

When I reached Eugene in Oregon I had an urgent feeling to try to answer [the questions], “What brought me here? What are the links between Oregon and Panama?How unbelievable that just as I began my first eight weeks in Oregon I made such “local” discoveries.

Orlando discovered that the Oregon and Panama were first linked in the mid-1800s, when gold was discovered on the West Coast. Americans’ desire to move west and discover their own fortunes caused entrepreneurs to look for faster, easier transportation methods between the two coasts. This led to a number of developments and expansions, including the Panama Railroad, the city of Colon in Panama, and the University of Oregon.

The West Coast wasn’t the only place Orlando found traces of Panama. In fact, he found them ensconced all over the U.S. from Eugene, Oregon to Denver, Colorado to the cities of the East Coast.

My cultural and universal world expanded when I stepped at the East Coast of USA.  The opportunity to visit the most important museums of the world in Washington DC, Pennsylvania, Boston and New Jersey were some of my greatest experiences.  I was surprised when I found that the Panamanian Pre-Columbian treasures were the stars among the art collection in places like Princeton Museum of Art, at the Denver Museum of Art and Boston Fine Arts. Again, my personal reference became universal. 

Orlando enjoyed sharing his knowledge about Panama to the other Humphrey Fellows during his time in the United States. Upon returning to Panama, Orlando found that he wanted to share his stories from his time in the U.S. as well. He became a Board of Directors member in the Panama Fulbright Association. He is a skilled photographer, and recently presented a 24-photo exhibit representing his experience and travels during this Fellowship, as well as the relationships he developed along the way. And though he has written more than seventeen articles about his experiences, which were published in local newspapers and magazines, he’s not quite finished. “Some of the topics are still on my mind, waiting to come out,” he explains. “I am planning to write a book.”