105 Años Young! With at least that many horses to prove it.
Happy Birthday Boquete! Last Saturday evening found us in beautiful (and raucous) downtown Boquete surrounded by revelers, all celebrating the town & district’s birthday. At 105 years old, the little town in Western Panama is as vibrant and upbeat as ever.
Multi-horsepower gives way to 1-HP as the festival comes to town.
Boquete, (gap or opening en Espanol) also referred to as valle del eterno arcoiris, town and district were officially recognized in April 1911. From its early history the area was a farming and agricultural settlement, chief among its crops being sugarcane, lettuce, onions, potatoes and coffee. Prior to its founding, back in the time of the Spanish explorers, it was a waypoint for conquistadores seeking gold and other treasures. The so called ‘gap’ provided a convenient path from Bocas Del Toro on the Caribbean, then across the mountains, a natural channel that led, eventually, to the Pacific Ocean 70 miles to the south. Since ancient times, when the Ngobe Bugle and other indigenous people made their way to these mountains, Western Panama has seen waves of immigrants. In the late nineteenth century people flocked to the area during the French effort to build a canal across the isthmus. In the twentieth century many more came, from across the Caribbean, the Americas and even Western Europe during the U.S. effort to dig and complete the canal. Since at least the year 2000 many expats have arrived, as many as 3,000, to settle into this area, the ‘Valley of eternal rainbows.’
Something for everyone at the festival of the founding, regardless of age.
2016 Gran Cabalgata de Boquete.
What’s with all the caballos? Horses have been an integral part of Boquete life for many years. Because the roads were few, and the populace farmed every hectare they could, horses became more than mere animals on the farm. Local author Milagros Sánchez Pinzón in Boquete, Valle del Eterno Arcoiris writes: ‘Las carreteras no existian, y el traslado de personas y productos se hacia a caballo…’ Until the roads came, horses were tools, co-workers, transportation and commodity. Brought to the Americas by the Spanish, horses became vitally important. Thus, in the Boquete birthday party they were a major exhibit, with nearly 200 prancing through the streets to the accompaniment of brass bands, cheering crowds and admiring visitors.
1-The Cavalry has arrived; 2- The Cavalry departs; 3-The cleanup begins
The Boquete birthday parade also demonstrates differences between cultures, subtle yet remarkable variations in style and substance between Panamanian life and, say that in the U.S. Standing on the sidelines watching, I noticed no guarding barriers, no limiting efforts between marchers and observers. People crossed in front of and behind the horses, and many riders led their steeds along while contentedly sipping beer from cans. Several had small children ensconced on saddles, and several horses were driven by very small kids.
Maria Ruiz PhD Tuesday market keynote, 4/12/2016
(Dr Ruiz.is the CEO of special projects with Casa Ruiz, S.A., in Boquete, Panama)
The ease of interaction and lack of barriers is a cultural distinction for a couple of reasons as it turns out. As keynote speaker at the Tuesday Morning Market Meeting on 4/12, Maria Ruiz, PhD mentioned horses, and the culture surrounding them, specifically as it pertains to roadways. “Roads are more than just a means of travel,” she said. “They are a social venue for people in Panama, a place to walk, to meet and to gather.” So it was no surprise to see the crowds mingling with the horses on the ‘communal property.’Speaking of cultural differences, Dr. Ruiz went into some detail about them, the various clashes that may occur, and the reasons for them. She displayed a graphic that traced the typical path of those who decide to take up residence in Panama. “First there’s the honeymoon phase,” she said. “That lasts a little while, then comes the culture shock phase when nothing seems familiar, then the adjustment phase begins followed by the mastery phase.” Dr. Ruiz claims that mastery can take years, and not everyone attains that level. (Here’s a tip: Coffee may or may not help, but it can be found in Boquete in abundance. Here’s a link to Ruiz coffee, some of the best by acclimation)
The parade moves on…so master life in Boquete, or send in the clowns.
For those who do master life in Boquete, Valley of the Eternal Rainbow, life can be very rewarding indeed.
So…Happy 105th Birthday Boquete!