Habla Ya – #2 Why The Spanish Lost The New World

And why the Spanish Armada was defeated in 1855 … which, of course, is why many of us speak English and not Spanish. Why?

Simple, the Spanish were too busy with the complexities of their so-called romance – Romance? Is Spanish guys depended on language and not just their machoness they’d never get to “first base”! – language to rule the world or defeat the English.

OK, now that you have my take on world history … how is my struggle with Spanish going? After 10 years of murdering Spanish in Panama, not counting my time murdering the language at every McDonald’s in Southern California, nor six years of working in the Puerto Rican section of the South Bronx … outside of prison my Puerto Rican street Spanish isn’t real helpful … I have … finally! … decided to bite the bullet or maybe swallow the poison pill and take Spanish lessons at Habla Ya, Panama’s well-known Spanish school in Boquete where I live, with locations also in Bocas del Torro and Panama City.

So here’s the report on Week One …

Although it was Holy Week, which is a general excuse for most of Panama to take a week off, not for church, but for the beach, when I walked into Habla Ya at Los Establos Plaza in downtown Boquete, they were expecting me, as was my smiling, very positive instructor, Yaira Munoz. Yaira wasn’t intimidated by my poor language-learning background, nor, when I told her, that I would be reporting on our mutual progress over the coming weeks.

Engraving The Confusion of Tongues by Gustave Doré (1865)

This is a one-on-one class which I really like. I don’t have to worry about appearing stupid, or mispronouncing things, and I can ask as many questions as I want. When you’ve been stammering around with a language for ten years without any guidance you’ve obviously learned a lot of things wrong, or misunderstood things, or discovered that a lot of words I use somewhat regularly don’t mean what I thought they meant. Oh.

Anyway kudos to Yaira for being on time and for getting off to a good start. We spent 1 hour 50 minutes together last Monday and Tuesday, I did my homework, and learned a lot … and am still confused about the language of grammar. Why haven’t people just used terms that say what they mean? It’s still early … but I am learning things and figuring out lots of stuff. I like being able to write, read and talk, and not just talk. Writing helps me see visually. Habla Ya has always impressed me from the outside as being well-organized and, from the first two sessions, it seems as if there is a natural progression of things. Yaira promises me that we will go little by little and that this will work. I get a little frustrated when a word “oracion” that I “know” is used in a different way. I know oracion as “speech” or “prayer”, but no in a class teaching Spanish grammar, it is also “sentence.” So how do you know what it means? The context. A little disconcerting but exactly the same as it is with a ton of English words.

I appreciate the emails and comments of encouragement you’ve sent. My teacher is optimistic and so am I! So “dale!” Now that’s a word a hear used a lot, which I’m told means something like, “go”, “onward”, “forward”, “ahead”, “continue” … but I can’t find it in the dictionary. I’ll have to ask Yaira. The other thing that’s frustrating, until you stop to think about it, is that there are words in Panamanian Spanish that don’t mean the same thing as in Puerto Rican Spanish, or Spanish Spanish, and even words in Chirqui, where I live, that folks from Panama City don’t understand. But then it’s the same thing in English. Getting “knocked up” in Australia means something entirely different from getting “knocked up” in the States. And a “fanny pack” in the US is very different from a “fanny pack” in much of the world.

Habla Ya- #1 With Fear & Trepidation

Habla Ya – #2 Why The Spanish Lost The New World

Habla Ya -#3 Hiatus With Lots of Tarea

The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1563)

On The Road With Panama Relocation Tour

For most US Americans we’re coming up on April 15, tax day, and, just in case you haven’t noticed, Uncle Sam wants it ALL! So it’s a great time to talk about escaping to Panama and the Panama Relocation Tour.

Occasionally Jackie Lange, who created the Panama Relocation Tour invites me to tag along.  Jackie gives all tour participants a copy of my book, THE NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE: OUR EXPERIENCE LIVING & RETIRING IN PANAMA.  And the original NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE actually helped Jackie make the decision to leave Texas and retire to Panama.  She says, “Moving to another country is a big decision but Richard’s book helps you think through all the benefits of moving to Panama.  ESCAPE TO PARADISE is the best information I have found anywhere about relocating to Panama.”

Jackie & Jorge and the brand new motorcoach ... in the travel biz it is never a "bus" but always a "motorcoach"

Jackie & Jorge and the brand new motorcoach … in the travel biz it is never a “bus” but always a “motorcoach”

There are lots of reasons I like and endorse Jackie’s Panama Relocation Tour, and one of them is that the groups are small, usually only around 20 people, and travel in comfort and style on Jackie’s new bus with her fantastic driver Jorge. There is lots of room to spread out on the bus and unlike those conferences and seminars where you sit in a hotel ballroom in Panama City all day to hear folks who’ve paid to present you “investment opportunities” … nobody is selling anything on Jackie’s tour.  This is not a real Mar 15 Reloc Tour 6estate tour, or a glossed over time-share presentation, but a boots-on-the-ground opportunity to see the real Panama and meet real expats.  But the time on the bus is well-spent giving Jackie, and me when I get to go, a chance to share what you really need to know if you are considering Panama. Over the five years that Jackie has been doing the tours, 37% of those folks who’ve taken the tour are actually now enjoying their expat life in Panama.  So here are some glimpses of the tour I went on in March 2015.

First day meeting with immigration and visa attorney in Panama City, then ... no more conference rooms!  We're off to see the real Panama!

First day meeting with immigration and visa attorney in Panama City, then … no more conference rooms! We’re off to see the real Panama!

The developed beach area of Coronado appeals to many with lots of amenities and high-rise beach front condos.

The developed beach area of Coronado appeals to many with lots of amenities and high-rise beach front condos.

Others prefer the quiet, relaxed, uncrowded beach atmosphere of Chiriqui beaches.

Others prefer the quiet, relaxed, uncrowded beach atmosphere of Chiriqui beaches.

This is a relocation tour, not a "tourist" tour, although while checking out El Valle, we did stop to explore a rain forest on a beautiful day with no rain.

This is a relocation tour, not a “tourist” tour, although while checking out El Valle, we did stop to explore a rain forest on a beautiful day with no rain.

The crown jewel of Panama in many ways is the mountain town of Boquete where lots of expats, including Jackie and Nikki and I choose to live, is Boquete.

The crown jewel of Panama in many ways is the mountain town of Boquete where lots of expats, including Jackie and Nikki and I choose to live, is Boquete with its year-round Spring-like climate.

On the other side of the mountain from Boquete is Volcan, the agricultural heart of Panama.

On the other side of the mountain from Boquete is Volcan, the agricultural heart of Panama.

JUST IN  … Jackie emailed me and they have had a couple of last-minute cancellations on the May [May 16-21] and June [June 20-25] Panama Relocation Tour — May and June are ideal times to visit Panama at the beginning of the “wet” season when the mornings are glorious, and because of late afternoon tropical showers everything is turning rich green. My favorite time!

Best Places to Retire in Panama

My friend, Jackie Lange, who runs Panama Relocation Tours, gets to take people on her boots-on-the-ground tour to many of the best places in Panama to retire.  She sees them all and knows expats everywhere.  The plus of Jackie’s tour is that nobody is selling or promoting anything!  It’s just a great opportunity to get an honest view of Panama and hear un-rehearsed, un-coached stories of expat life in Panama from people who are actually living in Panama.  Here’s one of Jackie’s posts about THE BEST PLACES TO RETIRE IN PANAMA …

Did you know that Panama is the only country where you can watch the Pacific sunrise and the Atlantic sunset?

How cool is that?

Dubbed as the Crossroads of the Americas, Panama, like the rest of Latin America has that laid-back, relaxed kind of vibe. The people are welcoming, warm and friendly. In the past few decades, Panama has been one among the top countries best for retirement. Many people have been searching for the best places to retire in Panama because of one good reason: it is cheaper to live in this tropical country than in most parts of the world.

There is a perfectly good reason why this is indeed the crossroads. You can use Panama’s airports to travel either to Central or South America or hundreds of destinations around the world.

Panama is categorized as a tropical country but the weather is not hot, it is warm. From May to the end of the year, expect a much cooler air as the wind from the mountains come flapping down to the lowlands, cooling and relaxing people on the beachfront. Much like its people, warm sand beneath your foot is an indication that you are in beach paradise. Beaches are only part of the Panama scene. The nightlife is also vibrant here that every night you can go to different clubs and bars to your heart’s content.

It is not just the geographic location or the innate natural beauty that fascinates people to live and retire in Panama. There are many perks that one can come across an expat in this amazing country.

Panama is really made for retirees. With health care a fraction of the cost when done in the US, be rest assured that you have high quality health care provided to you. With certain hospitals affiliated with top hospitals in the US (like Johns Hopkins), you can get results but may cost you cheaper. Many of the clinicians are fluent in English so it won’t be difficult for you to communicate. In addition to this, Panama has adopted the US dollar as its national currency. If you’re from the United States, you don’t have to worry about exchange rate reductions in your spending power!

One of the perks you can enjoy after relocating in this country is that you can become a legal resident here. Retirees who chose to become residents can avail of the pensionado program which entitles one to discounts, even when owning your own real estate property. Women over 55 and men over 60, qualify for these discounts:

One time Duty tax exemption for household goods up to a total of $10,000.
Duty exemption for importing a new car every two years.
50% off entertainment anywhere in the country (movies, concerts, sports)
30% off bus, boat, and train fares
25% off airline tickets
50% off hotel stays from Monday through Thursday
30% off hotel stays from Friday through Sunday
25% off at restaurants
15% off at fast-food restaurants
15% off hospital bills (if no insurance applies)
10% off prescription medicines
20% off medical consultations
15% off dental and eye exams
20% off professional and technical services
50% reduction in closing costs for home loans
25% discounts on utility bills
15% off loans made in your name
1% less on home mortgages for homes used for personal residence

The consistent efforts of the government of Panama at positively improving and engaging retiree policies ensure retirees that they made the right decision to live and retire in Panama.

What are my relocation options?

Located in the Chiriqui, one of the most fertile provinces in the country, relocating here means you get to experience a cooler climate, ranging from 70-80 degree Fahrenheit. This may be up in the highlands but you would not really be living bucolic. Boquete has a developed expat community so you settling right in is not hard.

What makes Boquete unique is its fog-like rain that creates an ethereal blanket over the area. Actually, this has a purpose – keeping everything fresh and sustainable. With coffee as one of its produce, be enticed in your sensorial feels.

If there is one lace in Panama where you don’t have to learn Spanish, it is this place. Majority of the people here can speak English fluently, partly due to the foreigners calling this their home

Activities You Can Do Here

With the Volcan Baru at the backdrop, and the waters of Rio Caldera running through the city, feel free to enjoy water rafting, if you are the adventurous one. If you miss hiking, feel free to go horseback riding or bird watching. There are plenty of outdoor activities to do here.

The Catch

Depending on the location, accessibility to utilities, cost of property varies. If you are in the outskirts where there is no line for water, electricity and the likes, real estate property can be cheaper. If you wish to be in the town area, expect land prices to soar.

Also, don’t look for the roaring waves of the beach. This province perches 3,400 ft high up the mountains. Also, Boquete is not readily accessible from the capital city. You need to drive to David then fly for 40 minutes to get to Panama city.

Santa Fe

With hills teemed with luscious green, Santa Fe in Veraguas is another highland city great for retiring in Panama. You don’t need to acclimatize to be in this city. Somewhat lower than Boquete in altitude, you can still duck the humidity of the lowlands yet experience warm days that seems to make breathing much easier.

Activities You Can Do Here

Because the biggest draw of Santa Fe is its outdoor appeal, there are many activities you can enjoy. Wild orchids and exotic flowers are abundant. Visit the Santa Fe National Park to check the various species for fauna to marvel at. Butterflies and toucans can also be found in this part of Panama.

The Catch

Although there is a flourishing expat community in the area, you still need to learn Spanish. If you are used to having the modern amenities, Santa Fe might not suit you as you might soon find out that you have to adapt to the true Panamanian way of living.

Expect a lot of changes in Santa Fe. If you like the simple life here, it might soon change as new roads are being created to connect the city with the coastal areas.


Each country has its own fountain of youth. Panama has Volcan. With similar climate as Boquete, you can enjoy the wafting of cool breeze day in and out. Nestled by Tizingal Mountain, Volcan is like the other places that boast of longer life expectancy. Blame it on natural food and great weather all year-long.

Volcan only have a few thousand inhabitants, including expats. This means you need to still study Spanish. Nevertheless, this city has the basic amenities you can find in a world-class city plus incredible views.

Down in the Lowlands …

Las Tablas

Las Tablas PanamaAlong the coast of the Azuero Peninsula, Las Tablas is a more laid back place compared to other beach side locations in Panama. It is also very affordable compared to other beach communities. I know expats who are renting a 3 bedroom house for $400 a month and a single expat lady who is renting a small one bedroom house for $80 per month. The actual town is about 5 miles to the beach.

The Catch

Since the Azuero Peninsula is considered the Gold Coast of Panama, opportunities are coming in. While this has not been fully realized, you can still enjoy the serenity the place offers for only $1,200 a month. It may be far from the capital city, having to travel or four hours by car, but those fine-paved roads leading to the capital city makes your travel lighter. As you would be living mostly with the fisher folks, you also need to learn Spanish.

Chitre is north of Las Tablas. About a 30 minute drive. Chitre features more shopping opportunities plus a movie theater. About an hour south of Las Tablas is Pedasi.

Panama City

Panama CityWho would have known that there is such a phrase inexpensive metropolis. In many cases, a metropolis tantamount to having high cost of living; however, slash Panama City from that list. Major corporations may be in the city but living within the city does not entail having to expensively. You can marvel at the world-class infrastructure and services without really denting your pocket.

With museums, premium shows and performances, and first-rate dining experience, you’d be surprised how affordable these can be in the capital city. Where else can you find a piece of the rain forest in a metropolis like this but only in Panama City.

The Catch

Relatively, Panama City has a bit expensive property prices, nevertheless, still cheaper compared to cities of the same calibre in the Americas. The El Cangrejo district in the city offers your picturesque neighbourhood with thriving expat community may not come as cheap but still affordable.

Bocas de Toro

Lying in your hammock tied between to palm trees and viewing the stunning coastline seems like an image out of a postcard. Situated in the Caribbean part of the country, Bocas del Torro offers island hideaways and a more tranquil uptake on the beach life.

Bocas del Toro is actually a province in Panama. Bocas Town, is a town on Isla Colon island which is in the Bocas del Toro province.

The Catch

Bocas is not easy to get to. You either have to fly from Panama City to Isla Colon or you have to drive from western Panama near David over the Continental Divide about 3 hours to get to Almarinte. Then take a 40 minute water taxi ride to Isla Colon.

If you like island like and water sports, (and don’t mind being a bit isolated) then Bocas Town and the other islands in the area would be a good choice for you.


If there is one beach community expats have been raving about for the last few years, it is Coronado. Tucked an hour away from Panama City, it presents the best of both worlds. The facilities you can only find in a cosmopolitan city and the unrestricted beach lifestyle that only Latin America offers.

What is unique about Coronado’s beach is that it is not the run-of-the-mill white sand. It is, in fact, a greyish sand, a mixture of pristine white sand and the volcanic sand, remnants of an extinct volcano. Being located in the “Arco Seco” area, aptly named because of the arc-shape of the coastline and the fact that this area does not receive much rain during the rainy season, Coronado has numerous activity-inducing facilities such as tennis courts, golf courses and the likes.

Many options are given to you in case you wish to retire and live in Panama. Its proximity to North America make this your dream destination for relocation.

Come join us on a Panama Relocation Tour to discover what Panama has to offer.