The History of the Bocas Breeze

The History of the Bocas Breeze by Nicholas Corea

Allene Baker (3rd owner of the Breeze)

Allene Baker (3rd owner of the Breeze)

I walked into JB Seligman’s office at Buena Vista Reality and was greeted with a huge smile, overwhelming enthusiasm and one of the most special gifts anyone has ever given me: a copy of the very first Bocas Breeze that was published in December of 2004.

What a thoughtful gift. After all, the Bocas Breeze was originally JB’s brainchild. He had come to Bocas  only shortly before that very first publication of the Breeze. He sold everything in the US and came to the island with only a duffel bag, with the idea of starting anew in what a friend of JB’s described to him as “Jimmy Buffet’s Key West, but 40 years ago.” After the vacation was over and it was time to get to work, he  began a new career as a property developer; but still had the idea of a community newspaper. Phyl MacMillan was also new in town and looking for something to do so JB suggested she start a community newspaper. Phyl, a career corporate sales manager and boss-woman, took the ball and ran with it.

Melody Burt, 2nd owner of the Breeze

Melody Burt, 2nd owner of the Breeze

Credit for the clever alliteration that is and has always been the name of this publication goes out to Keith Werle. After a group of friends brainstormed for a while, it was Keith who came up with the concept of a community newspaper that captures all the figurative “breeze” being blown around town. Nice one, Keith!

Phyl considered moving back to the US right after the first issue of the Bocas Breeze was published. Melody Burt, also owner of Beyond Bocas Real Estate, had appointed herself as the unofficial Bocas Breeze photographer just for fun and to help Phyl out. After the first issue was published, Phyl  approached her and asked her to buy the paper because she was leaving Bocas and decided Melody was the perfect replacement. As busy as she was with real estate, she couldn’t let the Bocas Breeze die.

Nico and Casie (4th owner) at the Boquete Jazz & Blues Fest, 2013

Nico and Casie (4th owner) at the Boquete Jazz & Blues Fest, 2013

Melody ran the paper in what JB recalls “very much like Phyl’s original vision of Breeze: an informative, entertaining, non-confrontational community newspaper.” Immediately she started the website and continued to grow the Breeze for the next 18 months. In July of 2006 Melody decided she needed to focus more on her other business so she passed the torch on to Allene Blaker, the owner and editor-in-chief whose door I knocked on upon my arrival in 2009 (see Editor’s Note, page 1).

Allene was the first one to have the paper published in both English and Spanish and had been at the at the helm of the newspaper for the longest (6 years). JB remembers Allene for her excellent writing skills and harder-hitting journalism. Allene’s legacy will forever be her emphasis on including content with substance; especially pieces about education and the environment. Allene’s Breeze is the first one I remember and since reading her publications, I’ve always wanted to be a part of it.

Phyl MacMillan, 1st and original owner of the Breeze

Phyl MacMillan, 1st and original owner of the Breeze

The 4th owner/editor-in-chief was Casie Dean. I started working with Casie as a journalist in August of 2012, soon after she had taken over the paper. I had finally gotten my crack at journalism while writing for a local website. She admired my writing and we began working together. I eventually went on to be the advertising sales manager, while still writing many articles for the paper. It was Casie that changed the layout and is the reason the copy you’re holding today looks so beautiful. She also increased the distribution to new places in Panama and Costa Rica. My favorite thing she initiated was “The Breeze Please,”, where people submit fun photos of themselves from different places in the world, holding a copy of the Bocas Breeze. I’d like to continue this tradition.

Thanks to everyone for their encouragement and support in this transition of the Breeze. I am honored to keep this publication going and there are exciting things to come in the new dawn of the Bocas Breeze. Any comments, ideas or criticisms can be directed to editor@thebocasbreeze.com

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Printed monthly in both English and Spanish with a circulation of 5,000 free copies distributed at airports, hotels, restaurants and various retail locations throughout Bocas del Toro, Panama City, David, Boquete and Costa Rica. Also published on the Internet on a daily basis.

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