By Ruth Ann Ruiz
The Post Newspaper Features Editor
They say the eyes are the window to the soul and looking into the eyes of Jaime A. Sosa, Consul General of Panama, I sensed a warmth of a man who has a love and passion beyond his career. As he shared with me on his computer screen maps and photos of his hometown, Panama City, Panama, I learned my observations were correct.
Skyscrapers have replaced his childhood neighborhood, but he can point to the exact spot of his former home.
Sosa grew up in Panama City before it was a mega corporate center with skyscrapers. He played all the sports that were available, but “I didn’t excel in any one sport,” said Sosa. He and his friends, siblings and cousins enjoyed life going to the beach, practicing sports, and just hanging around.
In the summertime he spent a month at his maternal grandmother’s home in a small town five hours away from Panama City. “We’d spend the summer there hanging out down by the river playing baseball with my cousins. We could spend all day just playing and going out for ice cream,” remembers Sosa.
“I came from a typical big country family,” explained Sosa as his mind wanders back to his homeland.
He pulls up the map of Panama on his computer screen and pointed to the area of his grandmother’s home.
Next, he shared with me about his first adult home in Panama City, which was an apartment, and he was able to locate the point on the map where he and his wife, Nuri, enjoyed their early years as a couple.
Living in the city in a small space without a yard was okay but he longed for a country home. So, 20 years ago he and his wife invested in a getaway, second home nestled in the mountains with a creek on the property. Their second home is about 80 miles outside of Panama City,
The skyscrapers are a source of great pride for Sosa. In a half-circle shape, they hug the Pacific side of Panama. Panama City is known as the skyscraper capital of Latin America. Economic growth occurred quickly over the past several decades and with economic growth came the tall buildings.
Jaimie Sosa is not a career diplomat, he is in fact a very knowledgeable person on beverages, the kind that are sold in liquor stores in Texas and the kind that are grown in bean pods in his homeland. His first position out of college was in marketing for a brewery in Panama.
Panamanian beverages sold at liquor stores are not that impressive in the Texas market, according to Consul General Sosa. One beverage from his homeland that is soaring in its price and demand is Geisha coffee beans.
Sosa explained that the area the coffee is grown has breezes and moisture that comes in from both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea combined with volcanic ashes that gives the coffee its rare flavor. Reports are that the coffee has the aromas of peach, mango, lime, and bergamot along with an intense floral aroma.
The beans themselves originated in Ethiopia and were mixed in with other coffee beans growing in Panama. That was until the early 2000’s when there was a discovery of a variety that looked different and was very disease resistant. At that point, the producers separated the seeds and began growing the now very exquisite coffee.
Last year Geisha coffee sold for $2,500 a pound. In 2017 the coffee was sold for a mere $601 per pound. “We don’t set the price; it goes out to bid. The open market sets the price for the coffee,” explained Sosa.
Sosa and his wife have been living in Texas for three years. He was sent to Texas to build the business relationships with the great state of Texas, the University of Texas at Austin, and his homeland.
Though he misses his homeland, he likes Texas and the friendly spirit of Texans. But he doesn’t like the traffic in Houston.
Back in Panama City he is accustomed to hopping on the train system to get where he needs to go. Houston’s traffic is not something he enjoys. “I don’t like driving on the freeways. It’s kind of stressful. I prefer the surface streets, but my GPS takes me onto the freeways,” shared Sosa.
A truth that Sosa might not know is that a whole bunch of people in the Houston metropolitan area feel the stress of Houston’s freeway traffic.
His first-time visiting Texas was not as a diplomat but as a college student. He graduated from UT-Austin with a degree in business. In fact, he first heard about Texas’ higher education while his older brother attended Texas A&M.
His two sons are also UT-Austin Alumni, his grandson is currently a student at UT-Austin and his granddaughter is a graduate student at Rice University.
Sosa is evidence that “The Eyes of Texas” are always watching all who walk through the halls of UT. He had already retired from his career when he was asked to serve his country as consul general in the great state of Texas.