Dr. Maria Ruiz, presented a history of Boquete with the personal framework of her family and their multigenerational history here. She discussed the roots of their coffee business and the ecology of this unique valley as it effects us all. Explaining in part why the people in this community are the most ecologically activist in Panama. Maria discussed the waves of immigrants and how they have effected Boquete and used them as a backdrop to explaining Boquete as it is today. Using some wonderful anecdotal stories she painted a vision of past, present and a possible future.
The first inhabitants appear to have been the indigenous people, I use the word for appear, only because that statement comes from cemeteries and archeological remains in the Boquete area, not from settlements that existed when the next groups arrived.
The Spanish first arrived in Chiriqui at Remedios, Chiriqui and then later settled in Dolega. Dr. Ruiz explained the interaction with the indigenous people in a story that may be enlightening. As the Spanish came with their guns, horses and steel they first warred with the indigenous. A indian chieftain had what was clearly a brilliant idea. He suggested that the Spanish would not kill their own families. Since the original Spanish invaders were men he encouraged native women to engage them, literally. Hence the mixed blood lines that dominate Chiriqui. True or not, the anecdote says a great deal about the people here in Chiriqui. The first non indigenous peoples to move into Boquete came from the Dolega area.
The third group that came and actually settled this valley included people leaving from the construction of the Panama Canal. This group in the early 20th century was a mixture of North Americans and Europeans. They also left their legacy and genetics in the families and business in Boquete. These immigrants developed farms, most for coffee. Boquete has always been an agricultural community, coffee was and possibly still is the major crop here.
During World War Two Panama became a strategic point for defense of the Panama Canal. Dolega was a training ground and many US soldiers were stationed here. Most left, but many left their genetics in the next generation, adding to the diversity of the people in Chiriqui.
The fourth wave included me, and perhaps you. We, the retirees are adding to the culture and evolution, and occasionally and often surprisingly to the donor, we add to the gene pool also.
Another thread in the discussion was for all of us who live here about climate change and how it is impacting the coffee industry. Coffee is the distilled essence of Boquete Panama and we need to take notice of it and environmental impact to it. Climate change is real and it is affecting the very roots of Boquete and will continue the evolution and changes in this very special gap in the mountains of Panama.
If you missed this presentation you missed a great opportunity to learn.