Monday, January 28, 2008

Gringos Moving to El Valle

There's a new restaurant in town, a little burger & hot dog joint called Massiel. I haven't tried it (not my kind of food) but it's often busy at lunch time. We also have a new pharmacy that has a pretty good stock of drugs and various magazines and snacks.

By the way, I know that many tourists and newcomers stay and eat at Los Capitanes Hotel, but let me just say that it's by far the most expensive restaurant in town and not any better in quality than the other much more affordable eateries in town. Do yourself a favor and go to El Rancho (formerly NiƱa Delia), Mar de Plata, Don Pepe or Bruschetta.

Gringos (North Americans and Europeans) continue to move here to El Valle in a steady stream. Whether this is good or bad I don't know. Let's examine the pros and cons:

Pros of Gringos Moving to El Valle:
  1. Gives us (Laura and I) a larger pool of potential friends and more people with whom to trade English language movies and books.
  2. Supports new businesses and restaurants here in El Valle.
  3. Provides employment for some jobless locals in areas such as construction, maids, gardeners, etc.
  4. Gringos here organize services such as ambulance service for El Valle, movie nights at the library, a cooking school for retirees, and my own wife teaches an English class for Panamanian children at the library.
  5. Real estate prices continue to climb, which would benefit us if we sell. We are told that our house is worth significantly more than we paid in 2006.
Cons of Gringos Moving to El Valle:
  1. As locals continue to sell their properties to "wealthy" gringos, it changes the nature of the town. Right now there are not enough gringos here to fundamentally alter the character of El Valle, but I would not like to see a "Boquete-zation" take place here, where El Valle becomes an insulated gringo enclave.
  2. The jobs created are primarily service jobs, which means the locals become a population of maids and gardeners in their own land. I know that this bothers some Panamanians. It's no one's fault, but it's a disturbing dynamic, even if it is an alternative to poverty for many.
  3. Spurs inflation. Restaurant prices in El Valle have gone up in the last year, and one restaurant (Bruschetta) has even decreased portion size while raising prices. Of course some of this may be due to the declining dollar and increased costs.
Do you have any arguments in favor of - or against - the increasing numbers of North Americans and Europeans in El Valle or in Panama in particular? Please share your thoughts.

1 comment:

ksolo said...

just visited el valle last week and stayed at a B&B there run by a gringo / american expat. here take on it was that el valle would likely be spared of 'boquete-zation', b/c there are so many wealthy panamanians there as well that would always keep the balance of native panamanians and gringos in check....

i'll be posting my pics, travel diary soon. hope u'll stop by for a visit!