Cuba’s ‘Si Yo Puedo’ Helps Panama Cut Illiteracy

I live in western Panama in the area that is home to the Gnobe Bugle, the largest Indigenous group in Panama, and the people who likely met Columbus when he put into the area around today’s Bocas del Torro to repair his damaged ships.  Many of our friends, neighbors, and workers are Gnobe Bugle.  And I have a love affair with the people and island of Cuba.  Pearl Cruises has visited Cuba sixteen times, and I have worked on all but the first cruise, and i will be back in Cuba again this winter.  Which is why I find this article so intersting!


The largest percentage of those who are illiterate in Panama is concentrated in the comarca of Ngabe-Bugle and the provinces of Veraguas and Panama.

Cuba’s internationally recognized literacy program, Yo si Puedo, has helped Panama reduce its illiteracy rate by half over the past 11 years.

In 2010, Panama’s comptroller demographic census revealed that a total of 148,747 people were illiterate. However, 2018 statistics compiled by the Ministry of Social Development, or Mides, show that the total number of illiterate persons has been reduced to 74,080.

In its quest to reduce the illiteracy rate, the Panamanian government adopted Yo Si Puedo, which uses numbers and letters to teach adults how to read and write. One-hundred and fifty Panamanian volunteers were recruited to implement the program said Freddy Alvarez, head of the Cuban collaborator group.

The program lasts for a period of three months and is divided into equal parts: learn how to read and write; transitory period improving reading and writing; and post-literacy or schooling, according to Prensa Latina.

Alvarez emphasized that audiovisual tools and innovative techniques are used to support classes. Each classroom is equipped with a board, television and DVD player and students are provided with pencils and notebooks.

Clara Mendes, the director of Mides, said the largest percentage of those who are illiterate in Panama are concentrated in the indigenous comarca of Ngabe-Bugle and the provinces of Veraguas and Panama.

More than 10 million people in around 30 countries have now learned to read and write through the Cuban literacy program, which currently operates in around 30 countries, from Venezuela, Nigeria, Spain and Australia. Many of the countries that have used the program have seen their illiteracy rates fall dramatically.

Si Yo Puedo is adapted specifically to the geographic areas where it is implemented. Local vocabulary is also used.

TELSUR Prensa Latina


Paraíso Tranquilo

Paraíso Tranquilo $769,000

Tired of the noise, conflict, threats, and hassle?  Time to escape?  Paraíso Tranquilo is a peaceful slice of paradise just 12 minutes up a paved road above Boquete in the Chiriqui Mountains of Panama.

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This approximately 4,500 sq ft Tuscan-inspired 3 bedroom, 3.5 bath home includes a high-ceiling living room with double-sided river rock fireplace opening out on to an expansive terrace/porch which overlooks the small valley below.  The living room opens into a dining room and a kitchen with granite counter tops and Burmese Cherry cabinets.  The open concept extends out to a huge terrace/porch ideal for entertaining. It has been called “the most beautiful house in Boquete.” The home is all one level … no steps and the master bath features a large, light-filled walk-in shower.

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The open concept extends out to a huge terrace/porch ideal for entertaining.

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The estate includes a fully furnished, charming 1 bedroom guest house which can be rented out.


A private driveway lined with beautiful king palm trees leads to the main house. The estate is located off a paved road 12 minutes from the town of Boquerte and only 35 minutes by 4-lane highway from he new, giant mall now under construction in David, Panama’s second largest city and location of hospitals and the David airport.


3.5 acres abounds with coffee, bananas, oranges, grapefruit and other tropical fruits. Enjoy your own home-grown coffee, orange juice and bananas for breakfast!


Offered at $769,000, below replacement cost. Available with or without existing corporation. Owner will accept payment US bank to US bank in US, thus avoiding cost and hassle of transferring money out of the US to Panama. Will consider trade for comparable property in Sonoma County, CA.

READ “Behind The Scenes” … everything you want to know about the cost of operating and running a property in Panama!  

Additional Estate Photos – Skype: richard.detrich – In Panama: Richard  507-6549-4736 or Nikki 507-6808-4833 – US 707-243-3454

If you are in Panama or planning a house hunting trip or would like to schedule a visit, please let us know.


Boquete Center of Panama’s Coffee Culture

Panama properties for sale and rent by owner.

enjoy-coffee-life-is-short Coffee is to the mountain town of Boquete, Panama, much the same as wine is to Napa, California. Ken Davids, writing in Coffee Review, says

“ . . . Boquete Valley resembles California’s wine-growing Napa Valley. The Boquete terrain is more precipitous than Napa’s, its river more sparkling, its farms less pretentious, but the feel of an entire community focused with passion and sophistication on a single specialty crop is familiar . . .”

dsc_0115Coffee has been at the heart of life in Boquete since it was settled by European farmers near the end of the 19th Century.  On the slopes of the highest mountain in Panama, high quality Arabica coffee has thrived in the rich volcanic soil, cool climate, warm rain, and mixture of sunny days, cool nights and sufficient cloud cover to make our coffee naturally shade grown.  We have large farms which export massive amounts of coffee to big companies, yes, like Starbucks, who blend our coffee to bring up 009the taste of their ordinary coffees.

Just down the road in Palmira, a community just outside and above Boquete, is the home of Cafe Esmerelda and Price Peterson who has developed the Geisha strain of Arabica coffee which is the second most expensive coffee in the world, second only to the stuff from Indonesia that is eaten and excreted by the civet animal.  Then someone digs through the civet poop, pulls out the beans and sells it to you at an exorbitant price.  Peterson’s coffee is far more appealing, even at over $100 a pound wholesale and tastes far better.  I can only describe it as “like drinking liquid velvet.”

Boquetdsc_0057e produces “specialty coffee” which is defined as “a coffee that has no defects and has a distinctive flavor in the cup…like wine and honey, specialty coffee has a unique flavor thanks to the micro-climates that produce it.”   Our little town has 21 different micro-climates, and just like micro-climates in wine growing regions, each produces as slightly different cup of coffee.  The old guys in Boquete  can sip a cup of coffee and tell you what farm produced it!

We have large farms and small farms.  A lot of expats, like ourselves, have, developed small farms producing coffee, some making a business out of it, selling their coffees to tourists in town or at the Tuesday Morning Market, or selling it online and mailing it to the US and Canada, or selling their entire production to upscale coffee-pickingrestaurants in North America who want to be able to serve an exclusive single-source coffee.  Others, like us, have what are essentially hobby farms, breaking even but having a blast growing, consuming and sharing exquisite coffee.    Ours has flavors of chocolate,  black cherry,  plum, blackberry, with a citrus finish.    With our coffee you never have that bitter aftertaste on the sides of your tongue that you get with many coffees.  Most of our coffee we sell “in the cherry” to the large producers, but what we keep out for our own use we process entirely.

Most of the physical work is done by Gnabe Bugle Indigenous people who have lived in this area since before Columbus arrived and are the essential backbone of all agriculture in Panama.  They are the only Indigenous group that was never subjected by the Spanish conquerors.  Most of the large farms import Indigenous folk from the Gnabe Bugle Comarca [a little like a US Indian OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAReservation except that the Indigenous live there by choice and have complete autonomy and are self-governing] but we are small enough that we use our neighbors, families who’ve now worked with us 8 years.   We’ve watched their kids grow and start their own families.  So we break even with coffee, although, the truth is I think we would gladly have paid for this experience.

When we take our coffee into town to sell it we meet neighbors with trucks loaded down with hundreds of bags, and those who’ve come in cabs to sell maybe a single bag.  It is a wonderful experience!