My Pen Pal, Gen’l Manuel Noriega

If you didn’t catch last week’s This American Life radio show, you missed something. Girl writes Manuel Noriega, correspondence (and Panamanian visit) ensue.

[show description from This American Life] Sarah York, from northern Michigan, became General Manuel Noriega’s pen pal in 1988. Here she is with the General, greeting crowds of Panamanians on a visit to Panama City when she was eleven. The building behind them, the Panamanian Defense Forces Headquarters, was later destroyed in “Operation Just Cause,” the 1989 U.S invasion of Panama. This, and stories of other very unusual pen pals.

Okay, I’m more than a little interested because my sister in law is from Panama and I was there in May, 2000. But the story, all on its own, was amazing and wonderful to listen to last night. Hear it on Real Audio

UPDATE: 2 August, 2006— In the summer of 2005 I was contacted by Caleb York, Sarah’s brother. I asked him to give his impressions of the whole thing, and at long last, I post them here. So there’s much more to read.

2 responses to “My Pen Pal, Gen’l Manuel Noriega”

  1. Bob Goodwin

    The story of Sarah York’s pen-pal relationship with Manuel Noriega was incredible. I have been searching the Internet for more information about Sarah, but have found nothing thus far. Information on Noriega, as you might imagine, is plentiful. It was interesting to see that Noriega was on the CIA payroll during the Nixon administration when George Bush was CIA director. Carter removed him from the payroll, then Reagan reinstated the payments. He received about $100,000 per year and was invited to Washington several times. Apparently, his friends in Washington decided they had no more use for him and turned against him.

  2. Susan Kitchens

    I have been searching the Internet for more information about Sarah, but have found nothing thus far.

    I remember being struck by the fact that she had, in so many words, dropped out—lives in a remote rural location, no electricity, self-sufficient, living off the land, etc. I guess she’s had as much info published on herself (from that era) as she cares for.

    Makes me wonder what the arrangements were at This American Life to interview her and her parents about the whole thing. Maybe it was at the behest of the woman (don’t remember name) who narrated the story?