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Why I chose and live in Boquete Panama

This post is personal and will not apply to everyone, in fact I doubt 100% of it will apply to anyone except me. Like the previous post on budget, these reasons I stay in Boquete will not be the reasons anyone else might choose to live here.

“The longest journey begins with the first step”

I needed a change in life. I was wearing down, too much work, too much stress and a bad feeling about the future.  However the primary motivator for my wife and I to leave Arizona was physical and emotional fatigue, a need for a change and an opportunity. When my youngest daughter completed High School and chose not to live at home for University, we decided this was the opportunity.

In exploring options for a change my wife and I looked at Europe and Latin America. We explored Costa Rica and then Panama.  I spoke very little Spanish, she none. Neither of us wanted heat or beaches, we needed cool and wet after almost forty years of Arizona. We discovered the expat mountain community of Boquete Panama and it was perfect for me, she reluctantly agreed.

After a year and a half the charm of Boquete wore off for my wife, it grew for me. This point is important to people considering a move to any new place for retirement. Retirement is difficult, instead of a couple sharing a few hours a day suddenly they are sharing all day and all night. Toss in a new environment and it can either forge a new stronger tie or drive a wedge. Many people arrive here as couples and some leave uncoupled, others arrive single and find new loves.

What drew me was a change.  Life in Boquete was less expensive than our life in Arizona, with less stress. The climate of Boquete is perfect for me, I love the clouds and year round temperate climate; no air-conditioning, no heating.  Here in Boquete I discovered fishing as a recreation, it is not my favorite thing but a couple of times a year I find myself on a boat with a group of friends angling for tuna. i discovered tropical beaches and learned to relax, something new for me.

As a city boy looking for a change in life, I bought a small farm. I grow my own vegetables, raise chickens, have citrus trees and coffee. Food was one of the motivators for the move. The food chain in the US is broken, the food production by a handful of companies in the US has destroyed the family farm and the quality of food. Yes, prices on food in the US can be lower than what we see in Panama, but the food itself is also lower quality. That is changing here, in October 2012 the US Panama free trade agreement will open the floodgates to US government subsidized exported foods. I suspect that as in Mexico and other countries many small local farmers will lose their battle for survival. Still, at this moment the quality of food is better in Panama. Because I have my own farm my tomatoes will still ripen on the vine, my chiles will still be harvested and roasted by me, I will still pick my own bananas and my eggs and chickens will not get antibiotics or hormones.

As all new immigrants to any place learn, immigration is not easy. You can learn a new language or be isolated from the mainstream culture. You need to deal with a different form of government and entirely different and ineffective legal system. You will need a lawyer for property purchases, immigration and who knows what else. I have been learning Spanish for six years, a little classroom time and a lot of immersion. Slowly I am getting both the language and the culture. It has been said that learning a second language as an adult is difficult, for me it is. However it has also been said that learning a second language as an adult helps prevent dementia, maybe, but even if that is not true it does stimulate the little grey cells, I like it.

When I arrived the healthcare system was not something of much concern, I was still twenty years old, in my head. Later as I used the healthcare system both for my wife, for my daughter when she visited and for myself when my heart decided to be testy, I learned a lot. I and my family received better healthcare in Panama than we received in the US. Doctors here are not yet caught up into the insurance company assembly line process. I have the cell phone number of my doctor.  I feel better about medicine here, with some exceptions, than in the US. Medicine is also more affordable if you are forced to go out of pocket you can for most things. I do pay for a high end international health insurance policy, but I would pay almost as much for far less coverage in Arizona at todays inflated health insurance rates.

I like the people in Panama. Many of the expats I have met here are people, not sheep, and they are from all around the globe. They took a risk leaving their native countries, those who stay are open to new ideas and new cultures. I try to avoid the carpet baggers who are also here being parasites on the new comers, in time people learn who they are and learn to avoid them. I like the Panamanians I know, I have developed some excellent friends who were born here, live here and work here, they also help keep me here.

Then there is the opportunity to grow personally. City boy turned farmer, businessman turned writer and at times a social gadfly. These are all positive changes for me. Many of my peers came here to retire and created new adventures either in business or for the good of the community. Just like any community in any country there are vast needs in Boquete Panama and both expats and locals have banded together to tackle some of those needs. We are a community.

The summary for me is that I moved from the city to the country, I could have done that in Arizona.I found a perfect climate in the mountains a couple of hours from tropical beaches and fishing, not possible in many places. I can swim in both the Pacific and the Caribbean in one day, if I wanted to. I forced myself to learn and grow intellectually both with a new language and a new culture. I learned patience, any Type A personality coming to Panama needs to learn patience or die trying. I enjoy the diversity of geography, language, culture and opportunity. Those are the things that attract me to staying here. Equal are things going on in the US that repel me from returning, but that is another story.

 

Rehashing an old post for a new wave

In June 2008 I wrote a post called “Don’t Move to Boquete”.  I updated this in September 2009. In light of the current influx of people to Boquete Panama I need to once again publish this, updated version.

If you are considering a move to Panama from the US for only economic reasons, don’t come here.

Not everything is cheaper here, it never was. With the decline in housing prices in the US, you might be able to buy well there; if cheaper is your goal, stay there. Electricity costs more per kilowatt hour in Panama, ignore the fact we in Boquete do not need heat or cooling. If the cost of electricity is the deciding factor, stay there. Imports of all kinds including cars cost more here, fuel costs more here, so if those are the factors stay there.

If you like second class healthcare at the highest prices in the world, stay there. If you need to go to see a doctor in Boquete expect to pay $7 for a consult, if you need health insurance expect to pay less than in the US. If you do need a hospital the closest is in David. If you need a world class hospital you need to go to Panama City. If you want to wait in an overcrowded emergency room, stay there.


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Tuesday Mornings in Boquete Panama

When I arrived in Boquete Panama in 2006,  there was a Tuesday Morning Networking Meeting held in Panamonte Hotel. In the community it was called the Gringo meeting, because the English speakers came together weekly to discuss and share information about their experience in Panama. Each Tuesday had a speaker and some discussion, local merchants often trumpeted their products and services. For as long as I remember the meeting also featured Irene selling used books for a group of local charities.

I stopped going regularly after a few months, it became an un-event, with un-information and I became uninterested.

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In time the meeting moved first to the Fundadores Hotel and then to the Boquete Community Players (BCP) facility on the Jaramillo side of the Feria Bridge. Although still having a weekly speaker and still allowing announcements of interest the meeting has become something more.
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The transition came from the idea of allowing people to sell goods and services at meeting. It started with a handful of expats selling food products and slowly evolved. I went again Tuesday, I seem to go every Tuesday now,  not to necessarily to heard the speaker, but to buy some bread and other foods. I took some photos to show how much things have grown.

The most important change is the increasing number of local, Spanish speaking residents who are showing up and selling everything from produce, crafts, jewelry and other foods. I bought some outstanding pineapple preserves from a local woman and suggested she needed a sign to help her increase her sales. I am not sure she realized her market did not speak Spanish.

This is a very exciting evolution for all of Boquete. A new community market, by the community, for the community and inclusive of the entire community. The market it one more example that Boquete is growing into a homogenous community.

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Richard of Sugar and Spice

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Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

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Chiropractic Care
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Water purification
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A new purse made by Barbie

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Most believe “retirement is over”

I was not looking for this, in fact I wanted to write about the Boquete Tuesday morning meeting, and will soon. This just kicked me in the teeth. Although from the UK this article echoes what I hear from people in the US and Canada and because two of my children are  visiting and their world is not the same as mine.

“Nearly three quarters of people believe retirement as we currently understand it will not be possible in the future, a BBC Newsnight poll has suggested.

Some 70% of the 1,000 asked thought it would not be feasible for people to stop work then live on a pension for up to 30 years, the ComRes survey found.

Some 72% of those in work were also worried about not having the funds to live as they would like in retirement.

More than three quarters (77%) thought younger people would get a worse deal.

And more than half (54%) thought it was unfair that younger generations would be worse off than those currently approaching retirement age.

Pension changes

The poll of a cross section of adults this month follows a number of changes to retirement announced by the previous and current governments against a backdrop of an ageing population and public spending cuts.

“ Whereas it used to be the case that up and coming generations tended to be more prosperous than their parents, now we’re going to be in reverse ”
Historian Jeremy Black

The coalition government confirmed in July that it was planning to scrap the default UK retirement age from October 2011, which means employers would not be allowed to dismiss staff because they had reached the age of 65.

Ministers hope the change will encourage people to work for longer, easing the strain on public finances as more people continue to pay tax.

The coalition also plans to raise the age at which people are eligible to draw the state pension faster than the previous government planned to do. Labour had proposed to raise the state pension age to 66 in 2024, with the pension age eventually reaching 68 by 2046….. “

BBC Link

As a parent with four adult children all trying to survive this quote strikes terror.

“ Whereas it used to be the case that up and coming generations tended to be more prosperous than their parents, now we’re going to be in reverse ”
Historian Jeremy Black

Pensionado Jubliado Discounts

Back in the days of the Military dictatorship, Panama created the pensionado discount. I have heard two stories about why. The first was to push some of the increasing cost of supporting retired people onto the public sector by reducing their cost of living at the expense of businesses. The other was to encourage Canal workers to remain in Panama by sweetening their pensions, a precursor to what is now called residential tourism. Either or neither might be the truth and I welcome any comments to better explain the origin.

If I was in the hotel or restaurant business, I would despise this law. It forces business to raise prices to everyone in order to subsidize jubilados. It seems even more onerous to businesses when many of the new retirees here receive pensions many times the average wage of a Panamanian.

Still this is the law and whether you are a citizen or a permanent resident, these are discount you can request. The law has teeth and a government agency to handle complaints.

The following discounts are for retired or pensioner, males older than 62 and females older than 57 years, in accordance with what the LAW No. 6 of June 16th of 1987 dictates:

  1. 50% discount of the prices charged in recreational and entertainment activities such as movies, theaters, sport and other public shows. This discount is not applicable to charitable activities where the earnings are to benefit children, injured and other programs duly authorized for the competent authority.
  2. Discount in public transportation according to the following classification: City buses, 30%; b. Trains, 30%; c. Boats and Ships, 30%; and d. A 25% in air transportation of public companies or local and foreign private companies.
  3. A minimum discount in the regular hotel, motel and pension rates as follows: 50% from Monday to Thursday, b. 30% Friday, Saturday and Sundays.
  4. Discount of 25 % on personal food intake in any restaurant, with the exception of those considered “fondas”, [inn, cheap restaurant] that do not require an operation permit to operate.
  5. A discount of 15% in fast food restaurant with national and international franchises.
  6. A discount of 15% in the total bill for services in hospitals and private clinics.
  7. Pharmacy discount of 10% in medicines purchased with medical prescription.
  8. Discount in the following medical services such as: a. 20 % in doctor fees for family medicine and medical and surgical specialist; b. 15 % for dentist services; and c. 15% for optometry services.
  9. Exoneration of the valorization rate of your property as long as this is your only property and that you live there. From the property transfer, this can be subject to works valorization tax for Works executed during or after such transfer.
  10. A 50% discount on Passport value.
  11. A 25% discount in the monthly electricity bill, from a public or private entity up to six hundred kilowatts hours [600 kWh]. Normal rate will be applied to any amount in excess of 600 kHz.
  12. All properties of associations, federations and Retired and pensioner´s confederations that have been organized in accordance with the law, will enjoy the discounts granted to retired and pensioners such as: electricity, water, telephone, postal box, valorization fee, real estate tax and any other benefit granted to non-for- profit organizations according to what Panamanian law dictates.
  13. Discount of 25% on the fixed basic charge of the telephone line as long as: a. the telephone contract is in his/her name, b. the contract is for residential telephone line, c. the charge is to only one telephone. The normal rate will be applied to any amount in excess of this.
  14. Discount of 25% on the water consumption from a public or private entity, as long as: a. The water consumption does not exceed thirty balboas [B/.30.00], b. The contract is in his/her name, c. The contract is for residential use and for his/her residence. The normal rate will be applied to any amount in excess of this.

These discounts are lawfully valid and if they are not made you can file a complaint to the Autoridad de Protección al Consumidor y Defensa de la Competencia with fines that goes from fifty balboas [B/.50.00] to five thousand balboas [B/.5,000.00].

I would like to thank Julio Espinosa, Attorney in Boquete for the information and translation

Note:

The comment below by Susan Guberman-Garcia is correct the ages are 60 and 55. The discount on medicines is 15% is incorrect, as Don Ray indicated the correct discount is 20%.

This is a link to the law as last amended in Spanish it is a PDF file and will download to your computer.

A Helpful tip to anyone in this Area

I have lived in Boquete Panama for four years.For four years I have had an ongoing battle to reduce my property taxes; yes I pay property taxes. I know many people selling Panama tell potential buyers there are exemptions, there are. The exemptions are on new construction, but not on land valued at more than $30,000.

My tax issue is a bit of confusion in the Catastro files. Catastro is the office that deals with tax records, in those records my house is located on another property. Someone else has been getting the exoneration for my house for four years, and I have been paying taxes. It took my lawyer, a good lawyer, about two years to untangle confusion as to why I was not getting the exoneration.

Once discovered he wrote a detailed letter to Catastro to explain their error in data entry and request that they repair the problem. A year later nothing had happened and I asked why. I was told it would cost some dollars to an employee in Catatro to have the change made, I refused to pay.

Enter Jorge from Restaurante Mana in David. I did an interview with Jorge for a Panama Newsletter I write. In that interview Jorge explained that listening to the needs of restaurant clients spawned a new business. Jorge who is a US educated, native Chiricano, understands the frustrations many new immigrants have dealing with government and other entities in Panama. In that interview Jorge told me he started helping restaurant customers untangle one mess after another and that that evolved into a business. For $10 an hour Jorge will help with cultural and language intervention.

The language was not my obstacle, Mayra speaks native Spanish. However figuring out who, what, where and when was a real problem. I assembled all the documents from my lawyer and gave them to Jorge. In a week he knew, who, where and what. We went to the Catastro office in David, they could not find the prior request from my lawyer, nor, remarkably, could he find his copy. We resubmitted the documents, they provided me a stamped, signed receipt and said it should be resolved in about a month.

The clock is still ticking, but I feel for the first time that a resolution is the stars. Three cheers to Jorge and a strong recommendation from me for his advice and cultural engineering interface to Panama. I recommend his services without hesitation, you can email him at jlca.mana@yahoo.com or better just stop by the restaurant for lunch when you in David.

Applying for US Social Security from Panama

I looked at the calendar and discovered I am rapidly approaching my 62nd birthday. This despite the fact I have been assured by family and friends I am looking younger each year I live in Boquete.

Friends reminded me that I can apply for Social Security at 62. I did the calculations and determined that considering the improbability factor of life span, I might recover more of my forced $200,000 investment in Social Security, if I start early than if I wait and start later. The issue was how to apply.

There is a simple way, online at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/applytoretire/ and I made it through until they asked me to enter a US residence and swear to it. I do not have a US residence. My mailing address although in Florida, is Mail Box Etc and I do not live there among the cartons and packages.

I then followed advice given on Boquete.ning.com and contacted the US Embassy who happily provided a list of what is necessary for their assistance. The list included such things as an Original Birth Certificate, Marriage Certificate and other documents that I do not have and are costly and difficult to obtain without being in the US. Link to Embassy list.

FEDERAL BENEFITS UNIT
Social Security Administration
Benefits
An applicant residing in the Republic of Panama may apply through the Federal Benefits Unit of the Consular Section.  The FBU will complete the applicable forms, make copies of the required supporting documents, certify the documents, and mail the entire package to the SSA.  Copies of the forms and supporting documents are kept on file.  It can take 6-8 months to receive a final decision on a new application. The most commonly required supporting documents are:
“Copia Integra” of birth certificate if you were born in the Republic of Panama. If you were born in another country you should bring your original birth certificate.
U.S. Passport or Alien Card.
Social Security Card or any Social Security Administration document reflecting your Social Security Number.
Original Marriage Certificate.
If applying for spouse or child benefits:

“Copia Integra” of the birth certificate for your spouse or child who is under 18 or disabled, if they were born in the Republic of Panama. If they were born in another country you should bring the original birth certificate. 

Social Security Number for your spouse and dependent child, if available.
If you are applying for Disability Benefits for yourself, spouse or child, you should bring an updated detailed medical report, including a list of all medications you are taking.
Divorce certificate if applying as a surviving divorced spouse.
Death Certificate (if applicable).
If you were in the Armed Forces, Form DD214.
If you receive a pension from a U.S. Federal Agency, your annuity or pension number.
If you receive a pension from a non-U.S. Federal Agency, including the Panamanian Social Security System, the award letter or resolution indicating date the pension started and amount of the pension.
Last pay slip.
If possible, any supporting document that is in a foreign language should be translated into English by an official translator.  The SSA sends all foreign language documents to their Central Translation Section which could cause a delay in the processing of your applicat

In addition I would need to appear in person in Clayton at the embassy.

The final suggestion was to call Social Security and schedule a telephone interview. I did just that, and they followed the online form to the letter. The difference was that I was able to provide a US mailing address and my Boquete residence address and swear to it online.

The message is, if you follow in my footsteps the easiest way to resolve this rather simple issue is to use the telephone not the embassy.

Panamania 21 – Cambio equals Change

The word is Spanish, cambio; change. It has been nearly four years since I moved to Boquete Panama and more than a year since I added to the Panamania Series I started shortly after I started this blog. I am writing this without reviewing my original writings, I want this note to be how I feel today without my retrospection altered by what I wrote before.

Change is the operative word. Panama has changed, but far more relevant to me is that I have changed. I came to Boquete with my wife to start a new life when our last of four children moved onto University. Within eighteen months my wife left and for many reasons has not returned; change. We purchased a small property with a marginally livable house above Boquete, compared to our suburban life in a larger home in Tucson AZ this was a massive change. The move from dry heat to wet temperate; change. The move from suburban to rural; change. From 33 years of marriage to effectively alone; change. The only course in which I ever earned a “D” in college was Spanish, now I am learning it to survive; change. Without the need for discovering religion I have been reborn, what a nice change.

During my University days I was considered a student activist, very political and aware. During my years of work raising a family I was totally focused on earning and surviving, now I have changed again. I am interested in what is going on in Panama, but I have learned to accept that I cannot change any of it. On a micro level I have had some influence but in the real world, nothing that will make a long term impact. The change in Panama is driven by greed like change everyplace in the world. The change in me is driven by opportunity and exposure to new realities.

Years ago I shook off the illusion that any of us in the polity, the masses, shaven or not, can alter the grand scheme of things on this planet. Only if you reach a position of great power and influence whether through birth right or earned, can you even nudge the direction of international greed. Stripped of the need to change the world and largely free of the rewarding shackles of raising four children, Panama has been my opportunity for personal change. It is not that I, or you, could not change elsewhere, it is just easier when everything around you is different and you must change or leave.

In doing the transition from first person to third person, from me to you, I can come to the point of this Panamania. Unless you are willing to undergo a grand transformation this is not the place for immigrants from the US or Canada. It is different here in Panama. If you intend to come here and can make the change you will not be comfortable returning to where you started, you will have morphed. If you are set in your ways, have a driven type A personality and cannot float with nothing working as you anticipate, visit for a holiday and go home.

Emigration from the US is becoming something considered by many people for economic reasons. I can live here on Social Security, that check might have covered my utility bills in Tucson. I had a significant gain in selling my house in Tucson, if I was still there and could find a buyer, that gain would be reduced. I was burned in multiple stock market cycles that cut into my retirement, I was not alone. Reality is making many people my age look at an option they never considered before, leaving the US to retire. The land of streets paved with gold is really a land of hard work and for many people, a treadmill to an early grave. In migrating to Panama or other places with a lower cost of living, people who are capable of change can live a lifestyle they cannot afford in the US; but they need to change!

If you are considering retirement in Latin America, the first and best advice I can give you to place you on the road to happiness is learn Spanish. You can never really integrate into the culture without the language, without that change you are limited to a small english speaking community. With the change the culture and wonderful people living here are open to you.

Sell your car, sell your stuff, come here to start a new life and be ready to live longer and happier. Learn a new culture, learn a new language, learn to cook with seasonal ingredients, learn to dance Salsa, learn Merengue, try some good local rum, eat Sancocho and you will also change. Dr. Andrew Weil has written about how as we age we need to keep our brains growing to avoid dementia. Here, you can try to do something new. Panama lets retirees create businesses, do a business for fun, something you always wanted to do, a change.

My life changed in Panama, my children and friends in the US say I look and act younger today than I did four years ago when I left. I like the change, I feel the change, I plan to keep changing and growing, perhaps if you can make the change it will be good for you also. If you cannot change, do yourself a big favor, try Green Valley or Sun City, don’t come to Panama, you will hate it here.

Live and invest in Panama

Much of my last week was spent in the Capital, Panama City. I was invited to a conference entitled, Live and Invest in Panama. The conference was three days long and had more paid attendees then the last conference I attended. My role was to be on a round table of expat residents in the country. People mostly from the US and Canada seeking more information about a possible move or investment in Panama. In speaking to several people I discovered that they, for various reasons, are ready for a change. I planned to voice the reality of living here, not a fantasy. After talking to people and listening to why they want to change their lives, I am once again sold on how lucky those of us who live here are.

The conference was very well done and if the sponsors, Live and Invest Overseas, do it again it recommend it to anyone considering a move. There were presentations about the law, real estate, visa options, banking, insurance, health care and more. Literally anything you might want to know before making a move, including the very real warning Panama is not for everyone.

One notable presenter was Rainalda Mata-Kelly a well respected lawyer who has spoken multiple times in Boquete. She announced that the very day of the presentation, 24 Feb, the immigration ministry made an important change. Because they are still choking on the number of applications for visas they have changed the temporary interim card for Pensionado visas in the queue from 90 days to one year. This means if you have a Pensionado visa pending, the next time you go to immigration for a temporary visa it will issued be for one year, not 90 days.

In addition Rainalda discussed property taxes, with a reminder that there is a window until the end of June 2010 to have your property reappraised, raise the value and reduce the tax rate to 1% permanently. The current rate for land and non exempt improvements varies from zero for the first $30,000 up to 2.1%. This voluntary reappraisal will lock the rate at 1%; I am in the middle of this process now.

My new appraisal was done last week by Luis Caballero, of CETSA in David ( If you want contact info email me). The cost of appraisal was $200 plus tax. I picked it up today and handed it off to my lawyer. I am not sure how they can do valuations here, there are no comps from past sales. Still due to some amazing reality of Panama and it’s continued growth the appraised value of my land increased 25% in three and a half years. Even with that increase in appraised value I will see a reduction in my land taxes. My house value more than doubled but after investing in improvements that was not a surprise, but due to the exemption on the taxes for improvements that increase in value does no damage to my tax bill. This is a win, win if you have dirt currently valued at more than $30,000.00.

Scotia Bank was at the conference and to my surprise they told me they will lend money to Pensionados for new house purchases and even home equity loans.

One more exciting thing, good or bad is that the government is going to spend about $800,000,000 dollars on improvements in the interior of the country. This list includes making the airport in David 737 friendly for COPA and others, a possible echo of the Liberia airport in Costa Rica. When the Liberia airport was built the entire region exploded economically.

In addition I heard talk of the four lane expansion from David to Boquete and worse, talk of a road from Boquete to someplace in Bocas del Toro. Worse because if they create such a road it might be an environmental disaster as well as an annual washout. It will also encourage more people to visit Boquete, encourage more people to move to Boquete and turn Boquete in the dreaded Aspen of Panama, we have everything but the snow already.

The Ripple Effect of expatriate immigration

The disclaimer: I do not have a Phd in Anthropology or Sociology, this strictly my anecdotal observation based upon living in Boquete Panama and traveling to other locations. Feel free to disagree or agree based upon your own knowledge.

Boquete Panama is a little pond, a district of maybe 15,000 people. In my absolutely unscientific guess there are about 1000 expatriate families living here, at least part of each year. Boquete had and might still have a zero unemployment rate due to the impact of these families. Many, not all of the people who have migrated here since International Living proclaimed Boquete a best place to retire have built homes. Homes so different to the previous local houses that it has taken some time for local builders to learn how to construct them. Boquete has long been a
venue for Panamas residents to retreat for holidays, it still is, but the impact of “gringos” is very evident here.

That impact of these new immigrants is the Ripple Effect. One thousand new people entering a small community bringing new expectations, a different culture is a big stone thrown into a little pond, that causes big ripples. The effect in Boquete has been dramatic. New construction, more jobs, more banks per capita than any other town in Panama and a cultural transition. Traditional Boquete culture which has always been open to immigrants overlapping with an English speaking culture. The separation is more than language, it is also culture.

Culture in Panama is family centric, families live together in a traditional multigenerational lifestyle. They share housing, share meals, share life. There is a strong family support group on a daily basis. Much of the imported culture is of people moving here without families and when multigenerational families do relocate here is into separate homes. Many of the poorest of the people living in this area own their own homes, often built by them on land that is owned by the government but occupied by the family, Right of Possession land. New immigrants buy land (ROP), titled land, the government is trying to force all ROP land to be titled. now. The impact of that has been to make some poor but land rich families, wealthy. New wealth for those who have sold land obtained at little to no cost for huge profits.

Businesses in Boquete have profited also. Just the increase in population would help, the increase in population with increased discretionary income, helped even more. Part of the immigrating group consists of what for lack of a better word I call carpet baggers. These English speaking opportunists take advantage of new immigrants and they have fathered a new game, gringo bingo. Through practices like net real estate sales and other rip offs local opportunists have also learned the new immigrants are often easy pickings.

Taxi drivers figured it out early, a $.50 fare became a $1, then at the municipal market a pound of tomatoes doubled in price if you could not speak Spanish, then it just increased for everyone. Real estate prices increased enough to price a local person out of the market. If they sell their land they need to move from Boquete.

The Anglophones have created community theater, scores of charities some needed, some a refection of what they see as needed from their cultural lens. Many felt wages were too low, so out of the goodness of their hearts increased the wage of a maid or gardener out of the reach of local people. Some maids earn more than college educated bank managers, who can no longer afford a maid to watch their children when they work. The entire economy has become distorted.

The Ripple effect is the unintended consequence of interference in a local economy and social structure by new members of the community. Whether intentionally or not the results are the same the community is altered, often for the worse. The smaller the pond, the more rapid the change.

Boquete is a great community. I love it here, I love the people here and if you are an English speaker considering immigration to the highlands of Panama I recommend it above all other places. Boquete is being terraformed into something different, something you will enjoy.

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