New Book on Residential Tourism in Panama

Hello all,

I would like to announce the recent publication of my book which explores the social, cultural, and economic impacts of residential tourism, or expat communities and foreign development, in Central America.  Below is a brief description of the book:

Residential Tourism: (De)Constructing Paradise is a newly released, award-winning book that explores the social, cultural and economic impacts of foreign residential growth and development in western Panama. In particular, the case study of this book focuses on the district of Boquete, where, as many of you may well know, land values and foreign residents have both increased significantly within the past decade. What makes this book unique and especially insightful is that it is based on years of research and in-depth interviews that the author, who is currently a doctoral student in geography at The University of Texas, has been conducting in Panama since early 2005. Based on his many years of research in the area, Mason McWatters presents a clear and balanced analysis of residential tourism’s local impacts – both positive and negative – as viewed from a variety of perspectives within the community. Regardless of whether you are interested in learning more about how western Panama is promoted abroad, why foreigners choose to move to the area, or what native residents really think about all the foreign growth and development, Residential Tourism is a worthwhile read. The author offers English speakers valuable insight into the fascinating history of the region, as well as an intimate glimpse into native residents’ thoughts, conversations, and feelings about the dramatic changes taking place in the region. For more information, please visit the publisher’s website below. Copies of the book are available for purchase at most online bookstores, including


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Congrats on the publication!

Congrats on the publication!

makes sense

Your comparison makes sense.  It seems that the immigration policies, then, influence significantly the ultimate relationships people have with Panama: when the immigration policy (and economy presumably) supported one type of immigrant seeking labor, now they support a different type of immigrant, and not surprisingly, that is what they get.

I hadn't realized that the Chinese had been there so long, but as you explain it it seems to make sense.  But I do remember one Panamanian telling me that it was only in the last 10 years that the Chinese stores had put the Panamanian stores out of business.  Are these the same old wave of chinese, or a more recent set of immigrants, who are involved in retail in Panama now?

Panama's diverse population

Good question!  Due to Panama's unique history and geography, the country's population is a diverse mix of indigenous, European, Asian and Afro-Caribbean ancestries.  Most of the Chinese influences in Panama came about as a result of railroad - and later canal - construction workers who were recruited from China towards the end of the 19th century and during the beginning of the 20th.  So, in general, these Chinese influences have been present in Panama for over a century, all the while blending with other ethnicities and cultures in Panama.  They are an established presence in Panamanian culture. 

On the other hand, there are many Anglo Europeans and American families and ancestors who have been a part of Panama for just as long as the Chinese.  Some of these American, Italian, German, British and French influences were the result of explorers, wayward gold prospectors, farmers, railroad and canal engineers, and military men.  Like the Chinese, their influences have tended to acculturate into the pan-ethnic culture of Panama. 

Finally, there is a distinct "new wave" of foreigners (mainly from North America) who have only recently moved to Panama within the past decade and certainly post-Noriega.  In contrast to the earlier foreign influences I've discussed above, these individuals tend to be older and married (i.e. little probability that these individuals will marry into the local population or reproduce within Panama).  Additionally, the majority of this "new wave" of foreigners are consumption-oriented rather than labor-oriented; this is to say, they flock to Panama not to work but rather to consume and enjoy lifestyles of leisure.  For these reasons, I argue in my book that this new wave of foreigners are less likely to assimilate and acculturate into Panamanian life, less likely to speak Spanish fluently, and less likely to establish longterm ties or an enduring legacy within the country.  

Looks interesting

Congradulations on publishing the book.  

Since we've been learning about Panama lately on the website, it's perfect timing.  Perhaps you could offer a few words on: what is the different effect of Panama's US gringo population, versus Panama's Chinese population?

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