Orlando Sentinel
February 5, 2006

1986: Couple escape New York for Central Florida retirement

Víctor Manuel Ramos
Sentinel Staff Writer

It was 1985 in New York City. Germán Colón remembers being in a break room with other Puerto Ricans in the maintenance crew at the public-housing project near the East River.

Browsing through The New York Times, they saw an ad -- it showed beautiful model homes for a new community in a place called Poinciana.

All they could tell from the ad was that it was close to Disney, where Colón was headed for vacation. The workers, weary from the pace of life and the cost of making a go of it in New York, commissioned Colón to check the place out for them.

He only found vacant, swampy land in Poinciana. But on his way back to the hotel, he ended up in a secluded area where houses were going up, forming a new subdivision. It was called Buenaventura Lakes.

The sales pitch -- a country lifestyle in a palm-tree paradise -- was so convincing that Colón secured a $52,000 home with a $500 deposit and persuaded some of his co-workers to do the same. He and his wife, Ana, moved in the next year to start their life in retirement.

They are still in their three-bedroom home, just off Buenaventura Boulevard, but it's no longer a hidden little corner in the middle of nowhere. Several roads intersect nearby, connecting it to Orlando. Shopping areas dot its major intersections. Only a few grazing cows remain.

"Twenty years have gone by," said a wistful Colón, 76. "It's not exactly the way it used to be, but New York has changed, too. You can't avoid change."