Globalization in Boquete Panama

Globalization is not new to Boquete Panama, the very fact that I live here is a factoid of globalization.

According to the Levin Institute, part of the State University of New York.

“Globalization is a process of interaction and integration among the people, companies, and governments of different nations, a process driven by international trade and investment and aided by information technology. This process has effects on the environment, on culture, on political systems, on economic development and prosperity, and on human physical well-being in societies around the world. ”

The latest local example of globalization is the opening of Subway in the Los Establos Mall. Subway will be open next week and will use it’s global name to sell sandwiches to both expats and locals. The question of whether this is good or bad requires a glimpse at the international debate on globalization. Many expats living in Panama would not be here if not for globalization. Information technology allows me to live in Panama, manage people in the US and communicate with family and friends spread around the world. I could not live here if not for globalization; still I question whether it is good for the people of Boquete.

I will speculate on Subway as a microcosm of the issues I see in globalization. This is not a condemnation of Subway, I am just using them as a focus. I am not sure who owns this Subway, but it is a franchise of a US company. The owners, as investors will share both the risk of loss and if successful the profits of this store; capitalism 101. It is fair to speculate Subway will employ local people at minimum or close to minimum wage to work in the store and that the foods served will be of Panamanian origin creating jobs and profits for local people. Is there a negative impact? Maybe not, maybe the impactis so profound and accepted as to be a welcome event.

When I moved to Panama my ability to do so was driven by globalization. Without Internet access I could not live here. If not for the long term impact of the US occupation of the Canal Zone the culture of Panama might have been too alien to me. The Canal Zone was early globalization or economic imperialism depending upon which definition you chose to select.

Part of why I moved to Panama was that it was not where I came from. I sought a new cultural experience a new language, a new challange. During my lifetime the United States has become a homogenized society, a culture that lost it’s regional flavors. I would hate the very engine that empowered me to live in Panama to destroy the essence of what made Panama someplace different, someplace I want to live.

If you are here or considering living in Panama this homogenization might be just what you seek. As globalization progresses here as in other places, what made Panama a unique cultural experience might become submerged under a wave of global influence. Some might argue that Panama is already without a distinct culture, a culture of all it’s immigrants, already a product of globalization. I disagree, Panama has a distinct culture and a distinct economy. Go to a festival or learn Spanish and you will become exposed and perhaps immersed in what makes Panama, Panama.

How will Subway effect the culture and economy in Boquete? I doubt it will have much impact. Subway will divert some dining dollars out of local pockets into a franchise. Some of those dollars will go into the pockets of owners who might or might not live here and some more into the coffers of a multinational franchise. The impact is more symbolic and an indicator of change, a harbinger of things to come. If Walmart opened in David, would it be destructive or would you welcome it?

I was not a customer of Subway in the US, I doubt I will be a major customer in Boquete. I came here for the difference, not the USDA inspected homogenized culture. To quote a dear friend, “we are all hypocrites”, I am admitting my hypocrisy.

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