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  • What’s in a Name?

    Isla Palenque, Panama

    For those of you who might be wondering, it’s pronounced EEZ-lah Pah-LEN-kay. One of our minor marketing challenges is that our name is foreign and unfamiliar-sounding to North Americans (who will make up our primary customer base). In our early planning, we thought a lot about changing it to something more comfortable, mainstream and, well, US-American. Here’s why we didn’t:

    Authenticity: Part of the inspiration for this project came from the personal frustration we experienced when traveling to Thailand a couple of years ago. Amble Resorts‘ President Ben Loomis and I had difficulty finding comfortable lodgings that weren’t Westernized (homogenized of any cultural authenticity until they have all the local color of a Holiday Inn). Oh, there was plenty of authenticity to be found in hostels and guest houses, but as we approach middle-age we are no longer game for the backpacker experience. (Personally, I need a bit of A/C and a good mattress or it’s not a vacation.) We decided the world needs comfortable, even luxurious travel experiences that retain the feel of the place and the people we’re visiting. So, if we want to retain an authentic sense of place… shouldn’t we retain the authentic name of the place? The answer was yes. To do otherwise felt like adopting a ten-year-old boy from a foreign country and telling him his name is now Steve.

    Story: The name “Isla Palenque”  in particular has mysterious traces of story attached to it. The most literal definition of the word Palenque is “palisade.” In Central America’s Colonial period, native people sometimes escaped indentured slavery in the Spanish mines and formed small island sanctuaries. They defended themselves from the colonial forces by surrounding the coast of the islands with palisades: fences of sharpened stakes. These islands became known as palenques. No one knows when or how Isla Palenque got its name, but we like to think that it was one such sanctuary.

    History: Isla Palenque may have even played a small part in US American history. It is a fact that Panama’s Chiriqui province was Abraham Lincoln’s choice as the place to relocate freed slaves (before he realized that relocation was not an option).  Since palenque means slave sanctuary, and Isla Palenque is the only place in Chiriqui Province with that name… dare we suggest that our island was the exact site of this proposed relocation? It’s possible.

    After doing the research and learning all this, the name began to take on a sense of romance and history to us. We’d like to pass this feeling on to you. Perhaps everyone won’t remember the name Isla Palenque, and certainly everyone won’t take the time to learn how to pronounce it, but for the traveler looking to be a part of something more than just a beautiful beach, something greater, something unique, it’ll be worth learning to pronounce it.

    Let’s practice. All together now, EEZ-lah Pah-LEN-kay!

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    Post by Frances Limoncelli

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    13 Responses

    1. Kevin Thomas says:

      Pam your information is so interesting

    2. Pam says:

      YES, but that agreement never came to past, the costal area was highly populated with free Spanish speaking slaves since 1817, who will rebel against Blacks from America, till this day in Panama they don’t like the idea of English speaking free slaves taking their land away after their ancestors paid the price to the Spaniards with their lives. They made a vow to fight the American Slaves to the death. They did not want them their on the coast from Chiriqui up to Almirante Bocas del Toro was all Mulatos slaves descendants of Spaniards who will those lands to their free slaves and to their children I am at descendant of General Jose P Antonio de Fabrega and the De la Guardias who are were the founders of the New Nation of Panama 1821. My book should be out sometime next year I will keep you posted.
      Thank you,
      Pam Depass
      Afro Latino Historian

    3. Frances says:

      Hi, Pam — thanks for your comment. What you write here about the escaped slave fortresses is exactly what I tried to explain in my post. I’m sorry if I didn’t do it as well as I should have, so thank you for clarifying it for me and our readers.

      You are right, there are several places called Palenque. There is one near Colon, and there are more throughout Central America, including a rather well known Mayan ruin in Mexico. There’s no way I know of to tell for sure, but I think its safe to speculate that they all probably share a similar history as escaped slave fortresses, and that’s how they got their names.

      I would love to learn more from you about Palenques and Palenquitos. I’ve only been able to find a tiny bit on the internet. Can you recommend a book or website about them?

      I do have to disagree with you on one point: The Isla Palenque connection is pure speculation on my part, but the Chiriqui Resettlement Plan is a fact. Lincoln was exploring several resettlement options for freed slaves before he decided on Liberia, and Panama’s Chiriqui Province was one of them. You can read about it in books about Lincoln and many history websites. Just do an internet search for “Chiriqui Resettlement Plan” or see these examples:
      http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v13/v13n5p-4_Morgan.html
      http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/jala/14.2/vorenberg.html
      http://www.mrlincolnandfreedom.org/inside.asp?ID=34&subjectID=3

      The Chiriqui Resettlement Plan is just one of many historical connections Panama and America share. Since most of our readers are Americans, I thought they would enjoy hearing about this fascinating little chapter in our shared history. I hope you enjoyed finding a new little fact about your home country that you can now add to your wealth of historical knowledge.

      Thanks again for your comment. I would love to learn more about the region’s history if you have more to share!

    4. Pam says:

      I am native from Panama, I am a descendant of the city of Palenque in the province of Colon. Isla Palanque is not the only place in the Republic of Panama with that name. The Panamanian slaves who are descendants of West Africa, by the Spaniards called it Palenque it means the slave fortress. This name has nothing to do wiI th Abraham Lincoln, he created Liberia in West Africa for the Blacks in America to returned to Africa. Run away slaves in Panama will armed themselves with stakes and weapons on of any types that nature will allowed. They knew about the poisonous plants and herbs. They fought their slave masters until they left them alone. Any run away slave will make his way to the Palenque. In this city of refuge they could live out the rest of their lives in peace and provide for themselves and their families. We know the truth in Panama you can’t change our past by creating your own story.
      Pam Depass
      Afro Latino Historian.

    5. We just now found this post on the history of Isla Palenque, but we are so glad we did! We really appreciate the information behind the name of the island, and we are personally so very glad you did not change it to something more ‘American’. We look forward to following the future of Isla Palenque, especially the positive steps you are making to ensure the sustainability of the land!

      Best,
      Casey and Dan

    6. Scott Sandler says:

      Wow, Isla Palenque looks like an exciting project. I am looking forward to hearing more about the project and your company tomorrow by phone. I am interviewing for the Director of Finance Position.

      Best Regards
      Scott Sandler

    7. Frances says:

      I hope that’s a good thing, Lee!
      Yes, we do offer a feed to our blog. Click on the link on the top left of the page that says: Subscribe To Our RSS Feed.
      Thanks for your comments.

    8. Hey! I was wondering if you offer a feed to your posts.

    9. ELC says:

      A well researched site, I’ll link to it from my site thanks

    10. Scotty from Harvard says:

      I just wanted to thank you very much for this illuminating article. I have already bookmarked your site, when I have more free time I am going to have to do some further reading. Well back to my dreaming of Panama or back to the books – I wonder which one is going to win out. :)

    11. Frances says:

      Thank you, Barton. We plan to raise the bar and be an excellent example for resorts everywhere. Thanks for your faith in us, and we’ll work hard to be true!

      The right kind of development can actually sustain the land, not deplete it. Our environmental experts told us that our land will actually get healthier now than it was previously. Small farmers cutting old growth trees, eating endangered animals, and raising pigs and cows that erode the soil can do more damage than you’d think! That’s why working to educate and train local workers is an essential part of a sustainability effort like ours. See Dave’s blog posts on the subject
      here: http://amble.com/ambler/2009/10/sustainable-forestry-solutions/
      and here: http://amble.com/ambler/2009/09/deforestation/

      The Nature Conservancy does a lot of great work in Panama and we hope to connect with them in the future to see how we can collaborate to protect and sustain our beautiful little part of the world.

      Thank you again for your comments. Keep letting us know what you think!

      Frances

    12. Barton says:

      P.S. It would be great if you could take this one step further and follow “The Nature Conservancy”. They purchase eco-sensitive land and sell off small portions to developers that agree to sustainable standards of construction. This clever business idea allows them to preserve large swarths of land. The profits from selling small portions of their land are used to buy and preserve more land in the same manner. I think your business model is well suited to such an idea.

    13. Barton says:

      I just happened to stumble on to your website by way of Craigslist. Your resort is a very interesting concept.It is apparent by browsing through your website that a lot of thought has been put into reducing the impact of development. While there certainly is an argument to having zero impact by not developing virgin land at all. There is a very compelling argument in that if you are successful, you could very well change the way resorts are developed and remodeled.I hope that you are able to stay true to your vision. Good luck!

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    For those of you who might be wondering, it’s pronounced EEZ-lah Pah-LEN-kay. One of our minor marketing challenges is that our name is foreign and unfamiliar-sounding to North Americans (who will make up our primary customer base). In our early planning, we thought a lot about changing it to something more comfortable, mainstream and, well, US-American. Here’s why we didn’t:
    
    Authenticity: Part of the inspiration for this project came from the personal frustration we experienced when traveling to Thailand a couple of years ago. Amble Resorts' President Ben Loomis and I had difficulty finding comfortable lodgings that weren’t Westernized (homogenized of any cultural authenticity until they have all the local color of a Holiday Inn). Oh, there was plenty of authenticity to be found in hostels and guest houses, but as we approach middle-age we are no longer game for the backpacker experience. (Personally, I need a bit of A/C and a good mattress or it’s not a vacation.) We decided the world needs comfortable, even luxurious travel experiences that retain the feel of the place and the people we’re visiting. So, if we want to retain an authentic sense of place... shouldn’t we retain the authentic name of the place? The answer was yes. To do otherwise felt like adopting a ten-year-old boy from a foreign country and telling him his name is now Steve.
    
    Story: The name "Isla Palenque"  in particular has mysterious traces of story attached to it. The most literal definition of the word Palenque is "palisade." In Central America’s Colonial period, native people sometimes escaped indentured slavery in the Spanish mines and formed small island sanctuaries. They defended themselves from the colonial forces by surrounding the coast of the islands with palisades: fences of sharpened stakes. These islands became known as palenques. No one knows when or how Isla Palenque got its name, but we like to think that it was one such sanctuary.
    
    History: Isla Palenque may have even played a small part in US American history. It is a fact that Panama’s Chiriqui province was Abraham Lincoln’s choice as the place to relocate freed slaves (before he realized that relocation was not an option).  Since palenque means slave sanctuary, and Isla Palenque is the only place in Chiriqui Province with that name... dare we suggest that our island was the exact site of this proposed relocation? It’s possible.
    
    After doing the research and learning all this, the name began to take on a sense of romance and history to us. We’d like to pass this feeling on to you. Perhaps everyone won’t remember the name Isla Palenque, and certainly everyone won’t take the time to learn how to pronounce it, but for the traveler looking to be a part of something more than just a beautiful beach, something greater, something unique, it’ll be worth learning to pronounce it.
    
    Let’s practice. All together now, EEZ-lah Pah-LEN-kay!
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For those of you who might be wondering, it’s pronounced EEZ-lah Pah-LEN-kay. One of our minor marketing challenges is that our name is foreign and unfamiliar-sounding to North Americans (who will make up our primary customer base). In our early planning, we thought a lot about changing it to something more comfortable, mainstream and, well, US-American. Here’s why we didn’t:

Authenticity: Part of the inspiration for this project came from the personal frustration we experienced when traveling to Thailand a couple of years ago. Amble Resorts' President Ben Loomis and I had difficulty finding comfortable lodgings that weren’t Westernized (homogenized of any cultural authenticity until they have all the local color of a Holiday Inn). Oh, there was plenty of authenticity to be found in hostels and guest houses, but as we approach middle-age we are no longer game for the backpacker experience. (Personally, I need a bit of A/C and a good mattress or it’s not a vacation.) We decided the world needs comfortable, even luxurious travel experiences that retain the feel of the place and the people we’re visiting. So, if we want to retain an authentic sense of place... shouldn’t we retain the authentic name of the place? The answer was yes. To do otherwise felt like adopting a ten-year-old boy from a foreign country and telling him his name is now Steve.

Story: The name "Isla Palenque"  in particular has mysterious traces of story attached to it. The most literal definition of the word Palenque is "palisade." In Central America’s Colonial period, native people sometimes escaped indentured slavery in the Spanish mines and formed small island sanctuaries. They defended themselves from the colonial forces by surrounding the coast of the islands with palisades: fences of sharpened stakes. These islands became known as palenques. No one knows when or how Isla Palenque got its name, but we like to think that it was one such sanctuary.

History: Isla Palenque may have even played a small part in US American history. It is a fact that Panama’s Chiriqui province was Abraham Lincoln’s choice as the place to relocate freed slaves (before he realized that relocation was not an option).  Since palenque means slave sanctuary, and Isla Palenque is the only place in Chiriqui Province with that name... dare we suggest that our island was the exact site of this proposed relocation? It’s possible.

After doing the research and learning all this, the name began to take on a sense of romance and history to us. We’d like to pass this feeling on to you. Perhaps everyone won’t remember the name Isla Palenque, and certainly everyone won’t take the time to learn how to pronounce it, but for the traveler looking to be a part of something more than just a beautiful beach, something greater, something unique, it’ll be worth learning to pronounce it.

Let’s practice. All together now, EEZ-lah Pah-LEN-kay!
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