Port Charlotte, Florida is home to an organization of Panamanians that has been operating as the Sociedad Panameña de Port Charlotte for nearly twenty years. The group, headed by Tyrone and Yolanda Peters, offers its members a unique opportunity every year to board a cruise ship and “return home” for Patriot month- November- to partake of and enjoy the festivities.
More than a real boost for Panama’s economy as the cruise and tour includes over 1,200 passengers who often spend a few days out of the week long venue in Panama or Colon proper, it is also an opportunity for Panamanians living in the United States to connect with home again. These Panamanians, most of whom are of West Indian descent, and their friends, have developed even stronger patriotic fervor for their homeland than many Panamanians who never left the isthmus.
Some of them return to march in the many parades during the 3rd, 4th and 5th of November celebrations. From there they board their cruise ship again to continue on to make short stops in the Caribbean costal cities of Aruba, Colombia and Venezuela. Off course, this large group of Panamanian West Indians injects a great deal of money into Panama’s economy as much in the hotel sector as in the many retail establishments and restaurants in our fair country.
They also have a social mission behind their organization in “giving back” some of the prosperity that many of them have worked so hard for. When the group unites in the different localities in the states and Latin America they raise funds for the school children of Panama who are in great need. A small contingent from the Sociedad travels every March just before classes begin in the Republic to buy school supplies and distribute them to children all around the country who are in need of pencils, paper, uniforms, backpacks and many other things to start the school year off right.
In past years the group has been treated to a welcoming ceremony and típico show in the Hotel El Panama, but this year they were hosted at the newer Hotel Riu on Calle 50. We had the opportunity to meet with some dear friends who were part of the tour at the four star Riu itself.
It’s lobby seemed comfortable and spacious and it was abuzz with attendees returning from the traditional Sunday Mass to pray for the poor children of Panama to then prepare to board roomy air conditioned buses headed for Colon’s Port to board their ship and continue on their tour to Colombia (Cartagena). The rooms were cozy as expected for a hotel of this type with modern accommodations and they provide an awe inspiring view of Panama’s skyline from the large picture window that graces every room.
Looking out at the scene of towering structures before us, travelers could see just how their little ‘ol Panama had grown and been transformed into what we were told is the “Dubai of Latin America.” We are hoping for every potential traveler all over the world to add to this bright outlook for our small but beautiful country so rich in resources.
I’d say that the Sociedad Panameña de Port Charlotte has built up their organization into a resounding success story. They also offer an easier payment option for travelers on a budget who can pay for their $1,300 ticket (cost of the tour per person) in two years so that by the time the tour rolls around they are all paid up; a kind of travel lay-away which is nice for people struggling to stay connected with the country of their birth in our ever tighter economy.
This was a year we have been able to see for ourselves how the group of travelers was mostly Panamanian born retirees and old friends who have made the yearly cruise a tradition. We are hoping that in future cruises the attendees will have included in their itinerary a visit to the Silver Corozal, Mount Hope and Gatun cemeteries as an added tourist attraction. This hope will be made possible with the passage of our Silver People Law #348 which is presently in the National Assembly of Panama.
We congratulate the Sociedad and wish them many more years of success. You can contact them at LSPPC@aol.com.
Take a look at our photo gallery of the Riu’s features just above our post. Enjoy the tour!