Black Expats in Panama (BEIP) was started as a Facebook Group by Charlotte Van Horn in May 2019. She is a part-time expat in Panama. Charlotte was looking to connect with other Black Expats in the country and to become more immersed in the Black culture of Panama. However, when she looked at other Panama expat groups on Facebook, she found that the group discussions did not resonate with her. Although basic information was plentiful, she did not find much in terms of Black culture and diversity. She says “some may not understand, but the Black experience and perspective on many aspects of life and travel is unique. When it comes to relocation, we will want to know basic information, but we also want specific information such as what the Black culture/history is like; is racism a significant issue; do we need to fear the police; where do we get our natural hair done; are products available for our hair; are there Black churches that will make us feel welcome and nourish our soul; what is dating like for Black women/men?” When Charlotte saw a lack of information, she started BEIP.
The group grew slowly, approximately 200 members between May 2019 and June 2020. The Pandemic, George Floyd, “Karen in the Park” and the weight of the hostile political climate collided and more Black people started to seriously consider living outside of the U.S. A new version of “Blaxit” emerged. The group membership skyrocketed! As the group began to grow, she started to recognize the needs expressed. Primarily, many wanted to know about the Black culture of Panama, admitting they never thought of Panama having a Black presence. It occurred to Charlotte to reach out to the Destination Management Company, ITA Global. She had entrusted her previous group trip “Sisterlocked in Panama 2020” to the management of ITA Global and was SO blown over by the top-notch service that she and Chris DePew (President, ITA Global) and created another Black culture trip to Belize "We Travel We Connect". She told Chris of the developments with the Group and asked if he might be able to customize a trip similar to the first Panama trip, whereby they showcased the Black culture/history.
“Black Expats Explore Panama Tour'' which is a Cultural/Relocation Tour, was created to meet the needs of the Group Members. It’s a 5 Day “Taste of Panama'' tour that takes guests to different areas within driving distance to Panama City. It showcases a variety of new, pre-existing and pre-construction housing development options in the city, suburbs, beach/rural locations and allows guests to get a feel for local areas and correlating price points. The tour adds a unique element of Black culture and history told by native Afro Panamanians, a visit to the West Indian Museum (SAMAAP), Colon and Portobello where we experience authentic cuisine, Conga drums and Black Christ and a relaxing afternoon on Isla Mamey (itinerary subject to change). Even in the throes of a pandemic with uncertainty swirling about, the first trip sold out quickly, so subsequent trips were added. The month of May was chosen for the first tour because it is the month that Panama celebrates Etnia Negra (Black Ethnicity).
Black Expats in Panama, LLC partnered with ITA Global to create Black Expats Worldwide™, which aims to recreate what was started in Panama in other countries of interest to Black Expats. ITA Global’s Graphic Design Department created beautiful logos for BEIP and Black Expats Worldwide and added respective T-Shirts to its online apparel offerings.
As of May 2021, the Facebook Group has grown to more than 2,200 members. The Group hosted Zoom Meetups during the Pandemic, and a few in-person meetups since the pandemic protocols have relaxed a bit; including a Single & Soulful Salsa Night event for the singles in the group currently living in Panama. BEIP has also begun to build a Black Expats in Panama™ Trusted Business Directory where Members (and others) who have experienced exceptional service can recommend trusted businesses to be listed in the Directory to help Expats make good decisions about vendors and help avoid disappointment and deception.
BEIP is ever evolving and continuing to look for ways to bring value to Black Expats wishing to explore Panama as a possible option for relocation. BEIP does informative and fun YouTube interviews with Black Expats currently living in Panama, human rights activists, attorneys, and other professionals (you can find them at www.youtube.com/locks4ever). BEIP will also continue to host occasional Zoom Meetups for those future-expats who are not yet living in Panama but would like to stay connected and meet members of the Group.
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Black Expats in Panama
Written by: Charlotte Van Horn
When you are ready to book you next Panama Cultural & Relocation Tour Please contact us BlackExpatsinPanama@gmail.com