The Town of El Real de la Santa Maria, Darién Panamá 1965

Hello!   I invite friends and family to add your memories of El Real here on the contacts form at the end of this post.  I’m sure they will be of interest to many readers.  Thanks


When I lived in El Real the town had two communities on either side of the town, Pueblo Nuevo and the school on one side and the town proper with the three streets on the other side.  The Guardia had their office and jail on this side. There were 3 stores owned by Chinese residents, a church, and a library. And three cantinas.

Scan 142

No paved roads, there was nowhere to go anyway. During the dry season, a truck could get to the farm.  During the wet season, even the horses had a difficult time getting through the on a horse and a cowboy.

The Library only had political books, no light reading! I regret not having used some influence in getting books for the library, it would have been a good PCV project or even as a resident a project I could have gotten started.  But I was young and a little overwhelmed and intimidated.

The hospital had an operating room for when the MD was there, a postpartum room but most women gave birth at home.  There was a larger sala for patients but if someone was really ill or injured they were flown to Panama City for care. Employees at the hospital lived in the hospital as I did.


Here are ladies hanging out on the steps of the hospital

I remember an incident, while The doctor and the nurses were busy with a difficult delivery and I was hanging around the sala when a man yelled and started blowing into the ear of a woman in bed, to do CPR I guessed, I took over and so I am the godmother of a child as a result.  I’m not sure what was going on there but they seemed to think I had saved her life and so as godmother to her child, I was expected to gift the child with earrings, so I did..

The residents of El Real were a mix of transient Colombian, Chinese, Panamanian and a few from the interior areas north of Panama City, commonly called ‘the interior’.  Those from ‘the interior were more likely to work in agriculture and have small farms. I definitely stood out in a crowd.  My husband had family in El Real that I sometimes visited with but my Spanish was truly terrible limiting our conversations and the support I could have gotten from them.

I’m not one to judge anyone’s morality but life was hard for many and one did what one did to survive if not thrive. There were few jobs for the residents and many government jobs were filled with people from outside the community. I didn’t get a sense of community in El Real but that may be just who I was in those circumstances.  I’ve seen photos of the current El Real and many changes have been made and I think I would feel welcome now, but of course, I am not the same person now….and now my Spanish is better!

Scan133 copy

I did form some lasting relationships especially with the mother of my daughter’s friends, a  popular school teacher, and respected leader of the community. New PCV’s sent to this area were not sent there alone anymore, just couples  The most successful couple, the Fish’s were the most active PCV’s, he was a biologist and was in jungle heaven, their projects involved the Choco Indians and they spent less time in town more time up the river.  I know that Janet still communicates with friends she made there and I am blessed to be a good friend of hers today. Thanks to Janet for this and other photos.


3 thoughts on “The Town of El Real de la Santa Maria, Darién Panamá 1965

  1. Te felicito Kathy, tienes recuerdos muy claros de tu tiempo en El Real, y ahora te felicito también por tu realización como artista, me gusta mucho ver tus pinturas, y disfruto tu éxito , estoy de acuerdo con Alexis, y con muchas personas que te conocieron, eres una gran persona, siempre dispuesta a ayudar, de eso puedo dar Fé yo, Recibe un abrazo

    Liked by 1 person

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