My last four months have been very busy, a lot of time in Boquete, time in Panama City, time in other locations too. This week I have spent a few days in the pueblo, Bajo Boquete. What amazed me was how many English speaking people are here now.
I have often been asked “How many new immigrants are in Boquete?” My answer is the last time I spoke to the Mayor, he told me 500. In a blog post yesterday Sam Taliaferro disputed a different number published in La Prensa. According to Sam, La Prensa printed that there are 6,000 foreigners in Boquete. I am not sure if the word foreigners includes non English speakers, I presume it does. I am not sure if includes part time residents or tourists or what the source of information might be.
Sam makes it clear it cannot be so, because he as the“ largest builder” did not build enough houses for that many people. Read his words:
“As usual there appears to be some exaggerations along with the facts. They state that of the now 23,000 inhabitants of the Boquete district, 6000 are foreigners. This is a very inflated number by at least a factor of 3. There is no way that 3000 homes have been built over the last 5 years to house that number of people. I am the largest builder in the area and have only built about 100 homes in the last 5 years. Based on building permits and counting homes complete in projects I can account for less than 1000 homes which would house a maximum of 2000 couples. Certainly some have children, but at our Halloween party for foreign kids last year we counted all of 70 children.
They also claim that there are 37 hotels and 5(2) restaurants in Boquete. They must be counting every place that advertises a spare room and every kiosk selling cokes and chips to get 52 restaurants.”
Sam goes on to discuss how well his condo hotel has sold out and that he is building another; this as all other projects languish. With all credit due to Sam as the spark plug that started the migration of English speakers to Boquete, I think both he and La Prensa are wrong.
Sam misses a major point, not all new immigrants here buy nice new houses. Many people I know live in older Panamanian houses, many of which have been renovated. These people fall below Sam’s radar they might not have the money that makes them visible to Sam or other developers, or they might not want to invest in an expensive house here. There are also man people who rent here, rent new houses, old houses, rooms etc.
It many also be true that most new subdivisions are dead in the water now. There are multiple reasons for that. Many people are building their own homes outside of subdivisions to be part of the community and not have developer imposed rules restricting their lifestyles.
Of late I have been a bit of a social butterfly, flitting from party to party, to plays, to local events in different venues. After almost four years living here I rarely know more than 20% of the people at any event. I admit some people are tourists, some might be from other Panama communities, but the message is if there were only 1000 new immigrants here I should eventually get to meet most of them, it has not happened yet, not even close.
Still, if you are not here I think you should not move here. Visit, be a tourist, leave some money behind and go home. Boquete is not a good place to retire, listen to Bob a frequent negative commenter on this blog. If more people move here and build more houses, develop more subdivisions and change more of the culture, the very reason that I came here will disappear. I prefer you stay where you are and forget about Boquete. I love the vista, love the people, love the culture and slowly I am even finding food I enjoy. Remember this is not Kansas and if you need corn fed middle American culture, Kansas is the place to be.