Santa Fe Panama is charming little town surrounded by a vast national park, roughly a four hour drive out of Panama City. It is located in the centre in what appears to be an old crater although it has no volcanic origin. Santa Fe lies at an altitude of around 450 meters or 1350 feet, and due to its proximity to much higher mountains it enjoys a year round temperate tropical climate with warm days and cool nights. About 2,800 people live in or around the friendly little town that functions as a commercial centre for the fast and sparsely populated region.
History of Santa Fe Panama
After the Spanish conquered the America’s, the present day Veraguas province was awarded to Columbus’ grandson Luís, who launched several expeditions to subdue the native population and firmly establish control. He sold his rights back to the Spanish crown after the attempts proved unsuccessful. The Spanish crown then established the Veraguas province and made Spanish captain Fransisco Vázquez, survivor of a dramatic El Dorado expedition, its first governor in 1560. Santa Fe was founded shortly thereafter for the purpose of gold mining. Very little is known about its early days, the town remained rather insignificant and isolated up till the 1950′s when rebels tried to instigate a Cuba-like revolution in the area. Fortunately their revolution failed in its early stages.
At the time local peasants had all reasons to revolt since the town had become dominated by a few powerful families who controlled most of the resources in the valley. Contact with the outside world was severely limited due to the absence of any paved roads, which made it impossible to travel to the much bigger town of Santiago during most of the year.
The situation started to change with the arrival of a Catholic priest from Colombia by the name of Jesús Héctor Gallego Herrera in 1967. Gallego began to organize the peasants into co-operations, thus bypassing the monopolies of the elites. By 1971 his popular peasant movement had grown well outside the bounderies of Santa Fe and Gallego was viewed as an adversary by the countries´ populist dicatator Torijiros. With the help of one of the local families Gallego was arrested one night and ‘disappeared’.
The victory was short lived: Santa Fe had been opened to the world and its residents could no longer be dominated. The cooperativa that Gallego had founded continues to function to this day, and produces amongst other thing the region’s well known Cerro Tute coffee.
Santa Fe Panama Today
After the success of Boquete and Bocas del Toro, and the with an average growth of 5% per year, many believe Santa Fe will be the next hot spot. Certainly the village has developed a lot in the past 5 years and the number of hotel beds is growing steadily. Yet thanks in a large part to the recession in the US and Europe, Santa Fe Panama has been spared of the real estate boom and development frenzy that could otherwise have spoiled much of her charm. All of the hotels in town are small scale operations and no attempts have been made at large real estate developments, golf courses let alone shopping malls. Santa Fe is set to grow surely, but it will do so in a mellow and sustainable pace.