Day three was a very busy day for our team. We left our cozy Holiday Inn in Panama City at about 7:00 and drove five hours out to Santa Fe. The drive wasn’t bad at all and we made a few stops for some delicious food on the way. All of the food so far, by the way, has been absolutely delicious. When we arrived at Santa Fe, we dropped the girls off at the house of a prominent community member, Senor Jacinto. The guys were driven down the road to the main restaurant, which has boarding rooms upstairs that we have been staying in. The girls joined us shortly after for lunch downstairs, where we ate rice with beans, chicken/pork (but not for me), a salad, and plantains. This constitutes the “classic” Panamanian meal. The plantains have been an interesting experience for me: they are amazing, but they are so filling that I have trouble eating more than a few. We’ve had yellow plantains glazed in cinnamon and fried green plantains.
Throughout the afternoon we met with several members of the Hector Gallego Foundation and the local cooperative. Hector Gallego was a Colombian priest who came to Santa Fe for missionary work. He taught the locals his religion and instructed them on proper business tactics so that they could better take care of themselves. Gallego was kidnapped and never heard from again in 1971, but his legacy is carried on by members of the Hector Gallego Foundation, who work to promote education and serve the community.
We toured the local coffee mill where the coffee beans are grown, sorted, ground, and sold. I’m not a fan of coffee, but I enjoyed learning more about the process. After the tour, we went to the local cooperative where we met with the Mayor and several other community members. The main departments of the cooperative are agriculture and education. The cooperative is currently working on installing a bottled water facility and a gas station in Santa Fe (a one hour drive to Santiago is necessary for fuel here). The first floor of the cooperative is the town’s main grocery store, so we all stocked up on water and Pringles.
The view here in Santa Fe has been absolutely amazing.