The last eruption of Volcan Baru took place long before people inhabited the Western Hemisphere, let alone the area in and around Boquete.  The volcanic effect on the region’s history has, however, been a significant influence upon the town’s past as Baru’s remnants combined with tropical conditions and landscapes to lend surrounding grounds rich and fertile soil for growing things like coffee beans, the tourist town’s favored export.

Settled originally by the Ngobe-Bugle—also known as the Guaymi—these indigenous people still live in the bordering hills and work in the coffee economy.  Europeans from Switzerland, Slavic countries, Sweden, Germany, and the United States would explore and settle the area, and whites now comprise the bulk of the town’s population of 17,000.

Founded in 1911, Boquete’s name derives from the Spanish for ‘gap,’ the term white newcomers had used to describe the city’s service as a northern short cut to the Pacific.  

The town’s history has always been tied up with that of greater Panama, a country whose twentieth-century history has, in turn, been intertwined with that of its namesake canal, which the United States controlled as a strategic locale for Cold War economics and deterrence politics.

Ruled by a dictator for much of the century’s second half, Boquete, along with other Panamanian cities and towns, suffered under the belligerence of Noriega and celebrated the re-nationalization of the Canal in 2000.  Today, its future lies in coffee and tourism, as the population inches to greater numbers and the demographic shifts increasingly towards elderly people and vacationers.