Santa Fe Community Clean Up – May 3rd, 8AM

TerminalCome join the town of Santa Fe, Veraguas for the FIRST (of hopefully many) monthly clean ups or limpiezas!

When: Friday, May 3rd 8AM

Where: Start at municipio de Santa Fe.  Brindis (and chicha) to follow.

Who: Anyone is welcome.

What to bring: Yourself.  Trashbags will be provided by the municipality.

What if I wasn’t invited: You are WELCOME to come anyway!  Please feel free to give my husband (the instigator), Celestino, a call 6988-0921 if you’d like more information.





Reasons why moving to Santa Fe, Veraguas may be for you.

This post is part of a two-part series  on buying real estate and retiring in Santa Fe, Panama from the point of view of people who, aren’t involved in the industry.  Why? Sometimes it’s nice to have another point of view.  Here you get two.

I tend to think that the prices are high, infrastructure is scarce, and there are unintended social consequences (read entire article), while my husband Cele thinks it could be a good idea for the adventurous, friendly, and younger retirees.

Here are Cele’s top  reasons for retiring in Santa Fe:

1) Great weather

Turtle hanging out, waiting for breakfast
Flowers near walkway

If you’re looking to retire in Panama, you can’t beat Santa Fe’s weather.  At a bit over 2,000 ft, Santa Fe’s  weather is noticeably cooler than the baking heat of the lowlands. We like that it is warmer and sunnier than Boquete.  Lately, highs have been in the 80s and lows in the upper 60s to lower 70s.  It rains quite a bit, even in dry season, so our landscaping and surroundings are green, lush, and happy.  The climate helps with our gardening.  We have passion fruits trellacing our inn’s walls, pineapples in the yard, mango, and of course, coffee plants.

2) Friendly Community

People tend to be friendly and welcoming.

3) Outdoor Adventure

You can’t get a better location for the outdoors. We’re next to the National Park, but lower in elevation, so the climate is warmer and less cloudy.  You could easily grab a 4×4 and head up to the park, or go for a hike to the rivers, swimming pools or waterfalls.

4) You want to take a risk and make an investment in a developing area.

There are more people buying in Santa Fe.  Prices are not cheap, but the area is growing.  You could make an investment, and if the area continues to grow, re-sell.

5) You want to do something a bit off-beat

We recently had a guest who wanted to establish a sustainable organic farm,  live off the land, without modern conveniences.  She found the perfect location for doing this in the mountains surrounding Santa Fe.

Top 5 things to consider before buying real estate in Santa Fe, Panama

Celestino and I don’t sell real estate – nor are we selling any property, but we have had several guests come to explore the area for potential investment / retirement.  To date, we’ve kept out of the discussions and business surrounding real estate in Santa Fe as our primary interest is our inn and ecotourism.

We do get several questions and thought we would take a stab at expression our opinions. This article is part of a two part series with opposing view points from Cele and myself on the expanding focus on the real estate market in Santa Fe. I tend to think that people don’t know what they’re getting in for, while Cele thinks it could be a good move.

Santa Fe is a small village in the mountains of Panama.  It is a rural and beautiful area.  The poverty level in the district is high, it is remote, and there are few foreigners.  Most people in Santa Fe are nice, but wary of foreigners and the influence of land value, jacking it up beyond the reach of many locals.  There has been a sign spray painted “gringos vayanse” or gringos leave!, on the entrance to town.  Others welcome tourists, but say that they want the tourists to go back after they finish their visit – no to gringolandia.  It’s not so simple as that, and development is bound to happen.

My husband and I don’t sell real estate, aren’t looking to sell.  We understand why people might want to move to Santa Fe, but from people with no horse in the race, these would be my top considerations.

So you’re thinking of moving to Santa Fe, Veraguas…

1) There is no healthcare or emergency care near.

In town, there is a Centro de Salud, which is about as helpful as the nurses cabin when you were a boy or girl scout at camp.  Got a cold – no problem.  Need to check your temperature or blood pressure- got that covered.  Anything else, you’ll be making a two hour round trip to Santiago.  Over the past weekend, there was a severe traffic accident in Santa Fe.  It took about 2 hours from when the accident occurred to when people reached medical help in Santiago, one person died in route.

In Santiago itself, medical care isn’t that complete or great.  For example, after my father-in-law’s stroke, he was taken to the Santiago hospital.  An internal medicine doctor could not see him for two days, as he is stationed out of Aguadulce and only travels to Santiago 2 or 3 times a week.  It’s true that the cost of health care is cheaper, but there is a reason for the cheaper health care – less service.

2) Are you thinking of moving here because of the cost of living? If so, it probably isn’t the best reason.

I’ve heard people say that the cost of living in Panama is about 60% of the states, we find it about 75%.  One of the killers for us is gas. During March, Cele and I spent over $450 in gas with the trips to Santiago, which is the nearest place to buy many supplies.   Our electric bill is about double that in the states.  Locally grown food is cheaper as is cable, internet, and trash service. However, food that is not locally produced can be twice the cost in the states (example $5-6 boxes of cereal).  Taxes are higher.

3) Will you be comfortable being an outsider?

I lived in rural Veraguas for two years without being married to a Panamanian.  I speak Spanish.  I have the advantage that my husband is Panamanian – but people will judge me and think of me as different because I’m not Panamanian.  One of my husband’s pet peeves is that Panamanians always tell him how lucky he is to have married me (which, of course is true 😉 ) but not because of my character (which is the reason I would chose) but because of the appearance of hey, he’s got it good now.  I find it insulting as well.  (Of course the argument, no, he is NOT lucky to have married me -doesn’t get me very far either).

It annoys him to no end that he built our inn – was there every day, mixed the concrete, hired and oversaw people, while I was working, and people in Santa Fe think it’s mine – not his, because, well I’m white.

People will have perceptions of you, whether they are true or not, whether they see direct evidence to contradict it, because that is their perception of the world.  And that includes you as something different.  Not the same.  An outsider.  Your friendships will likely always be different than that in the states, and it can be lonely.

As for expats in remote areas in a foreign country, Panama does have it’s share of people running from the law or running from themselves.  Of course, that’s not everyone, and not everyone who runs is bad.

4) Do you speak Spanish?

If you don’t speak Spanish, you should before considering moving to a rural area of a Spanish speaking country.

5) What does your family and spouse think?

Will your family be on board with a move to a rural area in a foreign country.  Sometimes we tend to marry the opposites of us, as we see beauty in the difference, an outgoing person marrying a shy one, a loud person, a quiet, an agreeable person, a contrary one, a risk taker to one that likes careful planning.  The last one is Cele and me. You are as happy as the least happy person in a couple, which may be why that we’ve seen many expat couples break up or leave.  If you think it’s a good idea, but have a spouse that doesn’t speak Spanish, make sure that they will be comfortable making such a move.

Finally, remember, as in all of Panama real estate, people do actually lie.  The prices are pretty high, you can buy in Miami for cheaper, and if it’s not titled, don’t do it.

To come, from Cele: Why moving to Santa Fe could be a great idea!

Signs of Spring – Or the Wet Season

Spring Chicks

MaaracuyaOur passion fruit (maracuya) almost ripe  on the vine, and a bird Cele calls a catana who unwisely decided to make her nest right outside of our office window.

Unwisely because Celestino has a passion for his plants and doesn’t let a little thing like baby chicks stop him from watering.  Perhaps that’s why the momma bird is giving him a particularly suspicious look (flood today, no thank you!).

Would a frog by any other name…croak as sweet? Amphibian life in Santa Fe

Rhaebo haematitcus,  on the Mulaba River.  Recently hatched.
Super tiny Rhaebo haematitcus, on the Mulaba River (about the size of a thumbnail).
Waterfall, Mulaba River, Parque Nacional Santa Fe
And the waterfall in Santa Fe National Park, Mulaba River

Alright, I admit, I’ve gone on a nature streak in my recent posts.  Yesterday Cele went on a hike up the Mulaba River that has its headwaters in Santa Fe National Park.  Found an amazing waterfall and this cutie of a toad.  What was most surprising was how small he was – about the size of a fingernail.  According to Heidi Ross, of the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center,   he is a probably recently out of the water, and will grow to be about 3-4 cm long.  His call (termed vocalizations by people in the know) sounds rather like an alarm clock – check it out from the Smithsonian Recordings


What’s amazing about amphibians in Santa Fe?

First, there is a lot of diversity of species and even some morphs or forms that are specific to the Santa Fe region!  For example, there is a type of poison dart frog (Dendrobates auratus) that has a specific color pattern that’s only been found around Alto de Piedra, near the west end of Santa Fe National park.  There is the same species, but with other color patterns found around Panama.  But here, it’s unique – that’s very neat!

Alto de Piedra Morph of Dendrobates auratus, Poison Dart Frog, . Source:

 What’s the deal with conservation of frogs in Panama?

Like with the example of the poison frog above, there have been noticeable declines in species.  While habitats are changing, there is a specific culprit that many point to – the Chytrid fungus.   Amphibians infected can slow down, not look for refuge, and die.

Once again Africa takes the wrap. As with the origin of much life, the fungus is thought to have originated in Africa, and spread throughout the world, particularly in the past 30 years, though theories vary.

Why now?  Some scientists hypothesize that the exposure to pesticides make amphibians less resilient to fight off this infection others point to the increased traffic and imports leading to contamination of uninfected individuals.

Locally, in Santa Fe, scientists believe that the locally observed declines in populations such as the d. auratus above are primarily due to this infection.  Read more about Chytrid here

 How the heck do you protect a species against something you can’t even see?

So, let’s admit it.  If a population is declining due to a loss in habitat -it can be fixed if people want it badly enough.  At least, conceptually you say, ah, we need more habitat.  But what do you do about a fungus?

In Panama, the Amphibian Rescue Committee  has started a couple of programs for captive breeding of amphibians.  They also have a lot of info on their site about the different types of frogs and toads in Panama.  Check it out!

What do I want to do?

I’m going to see if I can find the different types of frogs known to occur in Santa Fe while we’re out and about.