Carlos Jimenez

Bocas del Toro Travel Blog

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A taxi rank with a difference.
Name: Carlos Jimenez

Age: 46

Nickname: The Toothless Jackal

In one line...: In relentless and utterly futile pursuit of blonde, gringo women

Personal description: A 5´4" Panamanian of Amerindian heritage.  His balding pate shimmers in the disco lights as he dons what he views as his best clothes for cruising bars.  He sports 80´s baggy-look jeans held to his waist with a canvas belt bought on a trip to Panama City with his brother.  This night, one of dwindling collection of leisure branded t-shirts is worn loosely and tucked into his jeans.
Jetty urchins to show it aint just Yanks, y´all.
This arrangement fails to hide his expanding paunch. The t-shirt´s white phosphoureces in the blacklight of the club, a vacant "Adidas" writ large across Carlos´s decaying chest. He looks a little like a younger, unfitter version of Mr Miyagi. His smile is quite charming, although the effect is lessened by a missing upper incisor.  His eyes sit under rounded brows and mix determination, desire, a slight amusement and a mild panic associated with his advancing years.

History: Carlos was born and grew up in the town of Chinguinola which squats on the Caribbean coast of Panama. His father, Pedro, worked as a local banana plantation worker.  Carlos and his four brothers spent a little time in school, spending the rest of the day scouring the streets for anything of value or use within the home.
Wizard Beach is, erm, wizard.

At 13, Carlos got a job.  He was skilled with his hands and had the right mind for mechanics.  His small size was useful aboard a boat, so he was taken on by a local merchant who supplied the various islands in the Bocas del Toro archipelago, as well as other larger towns on the coast. By 15, Carlos had been entrusted to the boat by himself after impressing with his seamanship and trustworthiness. Carlos worked hard and became a valuable employee in the company.

During a company celebration, Carlos was introduced to Maria Fernadez-Anderson, a resident of Bocas town whose father owned a small shop onthe island of Colón.  Carlos and Maria were encouraged to get to know one another, but in truth, this encouragement was unnecessary; they had fallen for one another immediately.

To Maria, Carlos represented a good prospect.
Towards Gringo central - Red Frog Beach.
  He was strong, intelligent and was clearly valued by friends and family.  He was kind and treated her differently to the other boys she had known.  For his part, Carlos was entranced by Maria´s light hair and skin, courtesy of her American mother. Maria was an exoctica in Panama.  Their real strength came in their ability to compromise.  Both held strong views on life that were rarely apposite.  Carlos had found a woman whose views he respected and was deeply attracted to her ability to reason her points of view. Maria saw a forthright man, yet he listened to her and seemed genuinely pleased that she had her own thoughts and ideas.  Sometimes they simply gave way to one another, at other times they agreed to disagree.  Rarely did they argue.

So their love grew and when Carlos was 19 and Maria 18, they married.
My ironic statement on development.
  Even as Maria grew older, Carlos always saw the Maria of her early 20´s: beautiful, strong and loving. Maria helped define the man Carlos became.

Maria sudden death when Carlos was 40 resulted in the death of part of Carlos. Now the owner of his own business in Bocas, Carlos was wealthy.  To their sadness, Maria and Carlos had been unable to conceive, so they had spent money on other things instead. Maria had been visiting some family in Alimarante.  The bus on which she was making for the taxi rank met a tanker travelling too fast around a bend.  It jack-knifed and careened sideways into the bus, hitting it headlong and exploding. All 17 people involved in the crash died.  

Carlos was inconsolible.  His sought help through Panama Jack, mixing it with pineapple, coconut or mango, or sometimes drinking the rum neat. Beer helped smooth some of the edges. But Carlos saw the vision of Maria in her twenties.  He lost interest in his business, just at the time when westerners swept like locusts onto the island. More and more blonde foreigners entered the burgeoning bars of Bocas and so Carlos went in search of Maria in the American, Australian and European faces.  Every night he searched and every night he went home alone, shunned by the newcomers, unable to understand why Maria spurned him time and again. 
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These islands are gorgeous and, as we speak, are being sold bit by bit to American (and the odd British) property speculators. Now, I am not going to bang on about the rights and wrongs of this (for the record, I fall in the wrong camp), but I am going to have a rant.  If you have sensitive ears, start reading again where it says "And Rest"..

I don´t mind you sitting in an American-owned restaurant eating your American-styled food and speaking in your strangely familiar drawl.  I think it is cool that older people have the gumption to get up and live in another country.  But, the reason land values and rents are rising so much is because of you and your ilk, you moaning, whinging gits.  "Y´know, you used to be able to get an acre plot out on Bastimentos for $5,000.  It´s more like $75,000 now!"  Ask yourself why, twat. 

I hate it, the way that people who buy land or property purely to sell it talk about money all the time and then whine when their "profit" is not very much, or it costs too much to continue their speculating. I hate the fact that they take over.  The "local" magazine (repleat with a thrilled new American owner) had the temerity to run an editorial suggesting that people should stop complaining about newcomers because of the vital additions they make to the local economy.  An economy, that is worth pointing out, that has been totally changed due to the influx of foreigners.  The paper than continues with articles about the state of the roads (even thought they all have precious 4x4´s) and the difficulty of dealing with the Panamanian government.  Not really like "back home" is it?  I want to swear more, but my Mum might read this one day.

And Rest
Right, back to the real business of writing. Sorry about that, I had to get it out of the system.  Regardless of this Caucasian Invasion, Bocas is a lovely place.  Indeed, one of the American bar owners I met was a lovely chap.  If you ever drop into the Blowfish bar, tell Joey I sent you.  Look at my review and explain the singing.

The islands have "developed" into a hedonistic playground.  Given that I needed a holiday, it was fine by me.  Despite my polemic above, the increase in tourism has certainly helped some locals make some money.  But one gets the feeling most of it is being siphoned out of the islands.  I stayed in a lovely hotel called Hotel del Parque (strangely adjacent to the large park in the middle of the town).  It was quite out of my normal price range, but as I said it was holiday time.  In true English style, I spent that time drinking.

The archipelago of islands is beautiful.  The snorkelling is pretty good (even if mangroves are a little scary) and some of the beaches are magnificent, such as the one pictured herein. Nightlife is as you would expect - dominated by Westerners with a few locals chancing their arm. 

Getting about in Bocas is fun.  The main island has the aforementioned shit roads, so I hired a bike one day to ride to a distant beach.  Said roads, in places, are vast, muddy puddles. By the time I arrived at my destination, I felt like Pig Pen out of Charlie Brown.  Washing in the sea was fine, but clearly I got dirty again getting back.  My idea of cleaning the bike in a cove by the tarmaced road was fine for cosmetic purposes, but probably not good for the bike´s longevity.   The other way of travelling in Bocas is via boat, or lancha to be more correct.  These whizz around between all the different islands and to the main land.  The journey between Changiuola and Bocas is fab, involving sweeping through rivers and swamps and across the open sea, although I have a slight concern over the environmental considerations.

I met some great people, one of whom was a writer. Eurome and I were discussing an older Panamanian bloke on the dancefloor, the outcome of which is the next entry into the journal.  The writer inspired me to think about the people I see and write some back stories - Carlos is the first (and maybe last...)
A taxi rank with a difference.
A taxi rank with a difference.
Jetty urchins to show it aint just…
Jetty urchins to show it aint jus…
Wizard Beach is, erm, wizard.
Wizard Beach is, erm, wizard.
Towards Gringo central - Red Frog …
Towards Gringo central - Red Frog…
My ironic statement on development.
My ironic statement on development.
Bocas del Toro Sights & Attractions review
I can´t think of many better ways of spending a day.  Get there at 9:30, pile aboard and meet some new people, then spend an hour or so with t… read entire review