In Panamá: Boquete
Boquete is known as the Napa Valley of Panamá’s coffee region and is a top destination for adventure lovers – climb the volcano to watch sunrise, go white-water rafting, hike, bird-watch, rock climb, and enjoy coffee tours.
In the highlands of Chiriqui Provence in western Panamá, Boquete is where Barry and I spent much of our time in January. With a population of 19,000, Boquete has about 14% North American and European retirees. That fact is probably why we met people who had time to talk. Also a result of all the ex-pats is the number of Boquete interest groups: hiking groups – at least two, a bird-watching group, bridge players, and bocce ball players; these are just the ones we discovered in the 10 days or so that we were in Boquete.
The Ngäbe-Buglé (actually two groups of indigenous peoples whose languages are mutually unintelligible) have exclusive land rights and considerable administrative autonomy in their region. The Ngäbe (also spelled Ngöbe), the larger group, speaks Ngäbere, and the Buglé speaks Buglére, both members of the Chibchan language family. Collectively, they make up the largest indigenous population in Panamá of about 200,000.
According to Lonely Planet: Panamá, “Like other indigenous groups in Panama, the Ngäbe-Buglé are struggling to maintain their cultural identity, especially as foreign pressures continue to descent on the comarca (autonomous region). They predominately survive on subsistence agriculture, but they have been more successful than other groups . . . in maintaining their cultural identity and resisting the drive to modernize” (166). From what I saw, this means they are very poor and not well respected. 😦 But some Panamanians realize the importance of having traditional cultures, so hopefully the Ngäbe-Buglé opportunities will improve. Walking eight hours to pick coffee is not a good opportunity!
Our favorite places to eat in Boquete (in alphabetical order) include: Big Daddy’s, La Casona Mexicana, Mike’s International Grill, Retrograde, and Sugar & Spice. All had fresh produce, vegetarian choices for me, and wonderful cooks.
We loved the cool weather, the fair, the friendly people – local, ex-pat, and at our hostel, the travelers and Mamallena staff, the yoga and Pilates classes, the great hikes, the organized Take-a-Hike group, and good food.
We would visit again. We recommend that you go to Boquete too.
Aloha and Adios, Renée