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!