I rented the house in Boqueron without the slightest idea of what the town looked like. In a lot of ways it really didn’t matter. What DID matter was that I needed to find a place that would give me a six month lease. It had to be furnished with a functioning kitchen consisting of at least a working refrigerator and a stove with an oven. It had to have easy and close access to transportation and fit within my limited budget.
One place I looked at would actually be in sight of where I’m living now if it wasn’t for a line of trees in the way. It’s right across the street from where I catch the bus to go down to David and Dolega.
I’ve always liked this house with its attractive landscaping and when I was told that it was furnished and available for $175 a month I couldn’t wait to take a look at it. Well, it gives meaning to not judging a book by its cover. The interior left a lot to be desired. What pass for rooms are more like cubicles. The walls, made of painted cement block, extend up from the floor to a height of about seven feet and there are no ceilings. In fact there are no ceilings at all, simply the tin roof topping everything and there’s no telling what it must sound like in the nearly daily deluges we get here. The kitchen, such as it is, consists of a refrigerator that probably saw better days a couple of decades ago and the cooking arrangements are a two-burner contraption similar to what I kept in Fort Lauderdale for hurricane emergencies. To get to the toilet you have to go out the back door to a facility that could only have been an after thought. Not exactly an out house but pretty damned close. The front and back doors are secured with padlocks. And there is no hot water, either.
Fortunately I was able to beg off giving an answer right away by saying, truthfully, that I had made an appointment to see the house in Boqueron the next day and since I’d given my word I had to go.
Today I decided to go check out the town where I’ll be living. The transportation situation is a bit better from David to Boqueron than it is to Potrerillos Arriba. Here there’s a bus once an hour. The buses run from the terminal in David to Boqueron on the hour and half hour. It costs me 90¢ to take the bus from here to David. It’s 45¢ down to Dolega. From David to Boqueron is a half buck with the Jubilado discount. There are some alternatives if I wouldn’t want to wait for the bus that goes directly into Boqueron. I could take the buses that go to La Concepcion, Puerto Armuelles or La Frontera and get off at the intersection where the road from Boqueron meets the Interamerican Highway. But then I’d have to take a cab to the house which is about two and a half kilometers from the main highway.
I was pleasantly surprised by what I found Boqueron to be. It’s slightly smaller than my favorite, Dolega, with a population of about 1,500. Like Dolega, the place is clean. The residents obviously take pride in their town. You won’t find huge, gringo-style homes here. Rather they are generally medium-sized, well maintained and, once more, would fit right in with most middle-class residential neighborhoods in southeast Florida.
As in Dolega, the streets off of the main drag have a rural feel to them.
Incidentally, about an hour later, waiting at the bus to go back to David, I talked with the girl in the photo. Her tee shirt said something about being an English student. She’s been studying for about a year and does quite well. She says she writes English very well but has a problem with the spoken word since none of her fellow students want to speak it outside of class. She wants to be a teacher and apparently it is now a requirement in Panama for teachers to be able to speak English.
I kind of like the idea of City Hall being called a Palace…
There were two paintings on the face of the building:
God – Country – Work
For the Benefit of the World
In the first crest there’s a reason for the machete. The things are everywhere. Riding on the bus the Indian men often have one as they go to and from work. And they are artists with them, too. Over the weekend two Indians chopped back the vegetation around the house and they accomplished it in about a third of the time, or less, than it would have taken me to do with the weed whacker. A while back there was a youngster on the bus going to some pageant, apparently, dressed in traditional country garb and sporting a toy machete stuck in his sash. But I’m wondering if the book over the machete in the crest is trying to send a subliminal message like: “get an education or you’re going to be using one of these for the rest of your working life.”
The central picture on the second crest is obviously the Canal the country is so rightfully proud of, but what’s with the Hell’s Angels motorcycle patch in the lower right?
Right next to the Town Hall is a covered basketball court. As it was noon time when I was there, several municipal workers were sitting on the bleachers having their lunch.
Down the road aways, and though I didn’t visit it, there is a baseball stadium.
Naturally the center of every town here in Panama has a church. The one in Boqueron is modern and, I think, quite attractive. Unfortunately there was no way to get a shot of the whole church and its bell tower without those damned electric lines in the way.
Of course no town would be complete without a central park and I think the one in Boqueron is pretty nice.
Down a pretty steep hill, which I didn’t try to negotiate today. is the town’s Fair Ground but I’m curious what Club Lazo is about. Anyway, they’re waiting for us.
There are a couple of small “tiendas” in the town as well as the local “Chino’s.” Most of the small markets in Panama are owned by Chinese. Here you can get most of the staples you need, a limited supply of veggies and meats. For major shopping you need to go to David, or, most likely since it’s closer, La Concepcion.
Naturally, since Boqueron is only 300 feet above sea level it’s going to be a lot hotter than it is up on the side of the mountain. But not to worry, there’s plenty of cold suds at Bar Beny. Wonder if the Jets drink here?
Overall I think Boqueron is equally as attractive as Dolega, but there are warts to every thing of beauty. In this case I found it at the bus stop waiting to go back to David.
I didn’t spend a whole lot of time in Boqueron today. It was clouding up fast and I wanted to get out before it started raining. I managed to avoid it until I got back up on the hill, but I never leave home without my umbrella. I’m looking forward to spending the next six months in this pretty little town.
2 responses to “A Quick Peek At Boqueron”
Thanks for showing me around my own country. Even though I lived in Concepción for many years, I never got to visit Boquerón. It seems to be a nice lay-back small town. It has all you need as your pictures show.
FYI, a “Club de Lazo” is a sport similar to rodeos in the U.S. It involves cowboys and cowgirls riding horses and lassoing in young calves and other similar activities. This is very popular in the countryside, specially in the Province of Chiriquí.
I hope you find the house you are looking for at your planned budget. Thanks a bunch for the wonderful narrative and pictures. I’m now a tourist in my own country.
Glad you enjoyed my little tour, Omar. I’m sure that Boqueron was barely a blip on the map back when you were living in La Concepcion. I’m really looking forward to living there, and, according to the owner of the house, I’ll be the only Gringo in the neighborhood. I know there are a couple of others in the town, but I’ll certainly be an oddity. And I have found the house and it’s definitely in my budget. I’ll be sure to check out the Club Lazo…mmmmm cowgirls. I’ll bet that Lazo is some sort of word play of the similar word “Lasso” that we use in the States after the cowboy’s lariat.
Benny and the Jets…. 😉
It’s a nice looking town – enjoyed the tour tremendously. Interesting that there are Chinese shopkeepers – I’m always comparing to my experience, and the Lebanese were our small merchants. You just never know what groups you’re going to find – the Italians were deeply involved in building Texas railways.
I especially like the two paintings on the municipal “palace” – and it looks like the municipality got a deal on that green paint! Buildings, fence, basketball hoops, signs – trust me, it’s better than the awful faux “sand” that the motel chains are using around here now.
When’s the actual move?
The actual move into the new house will probably be the 15th. The owners return on the 14th and I’ll probably spend that night here though I will have moved my stuff before then.
I’m surprised about the Italians building the railroads in Texas. I’d think the Irish would have been put off by that.
Panama’s a pretty interesting place and the ethnic mix is, in a lot of ways, similar to that of the States. People came from all over the world to build the Canal, and many stayed when it was done. And the Chinese dominate the small market segment of the economy here. The province of Bocas del Toro was where a lot of the Canal workers who came from the Caribbean islands settled when the Canal was finished and the island lilt is prominent in the English spoken there to this day. Also, the President of the Republic is Ricardo Martinelli, certainly an Italian name.