The first Greeks went to Panama in the late 1800’s, many due to the construction of the French Canal. There were just a few families at the time, and they stuck together.
As time went on, more Greek immigrants who originally had planned on settling in the USA decided to try out Panama, as the States was undergoing a financial depression.
Antonio Taquis, whose grandparents immigrated to Panama from the Greek village of Dorio, explained to Greek Reporter how Greeks, “mostly from Messinia,” ended up in the Central American country.
The Greeks that moved to the USA heard that “Panama was a very American friendly country because of the Panama Canal. So they went there, they liked it, they stayed….For them, Panama was a contrasting country in terms of the language, in terms of the people there.”
Taquis said that, for those Greeks, Panama fast became an attractive country to conduct business in because of the many investment opportunities.
Even thought there are not a lot of Greeks living in Panama, the community has made its mark, with the grandchildren of immigrants integrating and contributing to society, becoming lawyers, doctors, teachers and very successful businessmen.
Taquis’ family is no different. Fotis Taquis, Antonio’s father, saw an opportunity to invest in real estate and properties in Panama.
In 1980 his father made a decision to purchase the majority shares of a Spanish bank. The family would own and run ‘Banco Transatlantico’ until 2008 when they sold it.
In 2011, Tony Taquis – as his friends call him – took the opportunity to invest in real estate and the tourism sector in Greece after the financial crisis hit his family’s homeland.
Watch our interview with Antonio Taquis about the Greeks of Panama:
“Greece is going through a transformation.” Taquis explained. However investing in the country was a no-brainer, “because the good things that Greece has overweighted the problems,” Taquis told Greek Reporter.
Today, Taquis is a shipping agent and owner of Panama Shipping Agency. He also served as Ambassador of Panama to Greece in 2009 as well as Ambassador of Panama to other countries.
The Taquis family is not alone in making their mark in Panama. The Greeks that immigrated to the country have become very involved with sharing their culture with the Panamanians.
“We have a Panama fest to show Panamanians the Greek way of having a good time and what we are all about,” Taquis explained.
During this event, the Greek Orthodox Church in Panama opens it doors and invites the locals to learn more about the Greek culture and religion.
When you visit Panama, you will see the influence and impression that the small but vibrant Greek community has had on the country.
You will even find a Greek school, Instituto Atenea, where over 1,000 students, most Panamanians, are enrolled — again, the main mission being to share the Greek culture and language with the locals.
“The best thing I appreciate from my parents is the education, and to transmit me the Greek way of living,” notes Antonio Taquis.