Why are so many people interested in Panama?

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Yesterday we greeted visitors to this blog from the United States, Canada, Thailand, Mexico, Panama, United Kingdom, Japan, Greece, Costa Rica, Japan and Australia, and that’s a pretty typical mix of where visitors come from on a typical day.

Why this great interest in Panama?  

Well Panama has always been at the crossroads of the world.  Geographically, but also in terms of its strategic and political importance.  Yes, today it is bolivar_arturo_michelenalargely because of the Canal and one of the largest international hub airports in the Americas.  But even before the Canal … during the Spanish conquest, as Spain started sending back the treasures of the New World, most of that went through Panama City, then “the richest city in the world.”

The great liberator of Latin America, Simon Bolivar, once said, “If the world had a capital it would be Panama.”

Today the attraction of Panama is …

  • It is at the “crossroads of the world,” “the hub of the Americas.”
  • It is a neutral country, a peacemaker on the world scene not given to stirring up conflict and anxiety.
  • It has one of the most, if not the most, robust economies in the region.
  • It uses the US dollar, calls it the “Balboa” but it is in fact the US dollar, still considered by most to be one of the most secure currencies in the world.
  • It is outside the hurricane zone.

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  • It is safe and peaceful.
  • It is still in many ways relatively affordable.
  • Although officially a Christian, Roman Catholic country, it has total religious freedom with large groups of Jews, Muslims, Evangelicals and many smaller faiths.  It is home to a Mormon Temple and a Bahai Temple.
  • Because it has been at the crossroads of the world, Panama is composed of a rainbow of people from different cultures and backgrounds.  Panamanians come in all shapes and colors and live and work happily together, and in fact Panama has scored as one of the “happiest” countries in the world.
  • Anyone can own property in Panama.

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  • For most people, assuming you have no criminal record and you come from one of the many of Panama’s “friendly nations,” it is easy to get permanent residency and after five years you can get a Panamanian passport.
  • It is tropical, with lush foliage, no snow, no big time changes, and tropical climates ranging from hot & humid to the cool, year-round Spring-like climate of Boquete and Volcan.
  • Panama has beautiful beaches, snorkeling and diving, and some of the most fantastic fishing in the world.
  • For 27 years Panama has been a thriving democracy. [Presidents are limited to one 5-year term, then must sit out 10 years before being able to be re-elected.  Politics are grass-roots.  People are elected based on party and program and not TV ads and robocalls.  There are three parties with passionate followers but no great political divide, since everyone pretty much wants the same things and it’s just a question of which group is going to pocket the money for the next five years.  Candidates are typically all slightly right-of-center business people.  When elections are over everyone just works together to move the country forward.  Once in a while there is a fist fight on the floor of the Assembly, which may actually be a better way of resolving differences than perpetually blocking all progress.]
  • Panama is not a one-pony economy but has strong international banking, is home to many of the world’s largest corporations, has registry of about 25% of the world’s ships, has the world’s second largest free trade zone, is a rapidly expanding airport hub of the Americas, and has a booming tourist industry.
  • And, oh yes, did I mention … The Panama Canal.

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Thinking about Panama?

  1. Get my book THE NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE all about our experience moving and retiring in Panama.  As my expat neighbors say, “Richard tells it like it is!”
  2. Check out the Welcome To Panama List of Friendly Nations
  3. Come on down and check it out for yourself!  Panama is not for everyone, but it just may be the Paradise you are looking for!

 

Panama Outside Hurricane Belt

My heart goes out to all those folks in Texas who are without power, in flooded areas, and some who have lost everything. Now, a double whammy! No to take away from the two great Panama Canal videos I posted this morning, but there are now over 5 million people who are being devastated across the Caribbean by Hurricane Irma. These are wonderful “Islands in the sun” that I have enjoyed visiting over the years. Before it’s done Irma will likely hit Cuba as well, where I’m headed in a few months. And depending … it may veer North and add more devastation to the South Eastern US.

One of my big concerns in picking Panama as a place to live was that it is outside the hurricane belt. I understand that no place is perfect. Yes, I live on the slopes of a volcano that may, or may not, show some life over the next 5,000 years, but being Panama that may mean the next 10,000 years, 20,000 years, or never. “Manana!” Not today. Possibly sometime in the future, maybe never. Just like the guy who has promised to come and fix something around your house! Being on the “Ring of Fire” we get tremors as the earth stretches and tectonic plates shift. We get lots … lots! … of tremors, most of which you can’t even feel. But for me, theologically that’s a good thing. It means that God is still creating and isn’t yet finished with the earth. Thank you Jssus! And if he’s not finished with the earth, he’s maybe not finished with me … so there is hope.

So … nothing perfect, but PANAMA IS OUTSIDE THE HURRICANE BELT. We may catch the outer fringe of a tropical depression giving us more rain at times than normal, but no hurricanes!

Here it is … the historic tracking the world’s brutal storm systems. And you see that little squiggle of land between the North and South American continents? That sliver surrounded by blue? That’s Panama!

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Bloom where you are planted, or . . . move!

Vine aThere is a beautiful vine growing on our farm.  It grows and blooms like crazy and it is beautiful, but it hasn’t always been beautiful.

We got a start of this plant years ago when there used to be a little Greek restaurant in Volcan.  The owner gave us a start and we had it this struggling little plant in six different places for about four years.  It never died, but it never grew.  Now my horticultural philosophy with plants is to try a plant in a few different places and if it decides to grow, fine, if not . . . it’s history.  Not only did it not grow, it barely hung on to life.  Many times I almost tossed it.  When we first bought our coffee farm, before we started building or redeveloping the coffee farm, tired of seeing this sick thing around, I just stuck it in the ground on the farm.  I told it . . . I do talk to plants . . . and to myself . . . and to God . . . “Plant, it’s now or never!  Grow or die!”

And it has grown!!!  Wow, has it grown.  I admit that it’s grown so well that it requires a lot of trimming and we stick the trimmings in the compost pile and they start growing!  All producing spectacular purple flowers.

Now if I were still preaching, I would have a sermon “illustration” here.  For those of you unaccustomed to pews, a sermon illustration is a little story stuck into a sermon to wake people up and hopefully make a point.

Yes, generally I think the “Bloom where you are planted!” is a good strategy.  But there are times in life when you find yourself “planted” in the wrong place, in a place where you can’t grow, where whatever it is that you need to grow and flourish just isn’t.  And it’s at those moments I think when you need to have the strength and courage to pick up and move and try growing in a more conducive environment.

Growing is what life is all about!  I think it was Bob Dylan who said, “When you stop growing you start to die.”  If he didn’t say it, whoever said it, it was a good thought.  If you aren’t growing through life, then something is wrong.  You can just sit there and take it, or you can do something about it.

Thus endeth the lesson of the vine.