Taking a Walk Around Casco Viejo, Panama City

Casco Viejo is Panama’s second-oldest old town. (The oldest, Panama Viejo, was burned down by Henry Morgan, the Captain Morgan of rum fame.) Starting in the early 17th century, this became the center of Panama City, although it’s more the tourist center these days with stunning modern skyscrapers popping up everywhere else nearby.

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It certainly a nice place to take a walk in, given its colonial feel, which should remain given its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And it’s only a few minutes down the coast from the cluster of skyscrapers that begins in Marbella and stretches all the way out past Costa del Este.

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There’s a little craft market along the vaults above the peninsula’s furthest point.

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Many Native Americans set up their shops here, including this woman, who I believe is Kuna, and is making “molas,” the brightly-patterned panels that traditionally go on the front and back of a blouse.

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There’s also raspado, or shave ice, in the square.

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Although the vendors don’t always hustle. In the background of this photo is the famous Bridge of the Americas, the first bridge over the Pacific side of the Panama Canal. Just in front of that, you can also see the Maracana Stadium. If you’re Brazilian, no, it’s not that one.

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There are monuments to Panama’s Founding Fathers, a group who accepted U.S. help to break away from Colombia in exchange for the Canal Zone. There are also monuments to the French engineers who made the first attempt at the canal, and who failed spectacularly. Most notably, one can find a bust of Ferdinand de Lesseps, who was only spared a criminal fraud charge for his acts as the President of the French canal company by a combination of his reputation as the prime mover behind the successful Suez Canal and his advanced age and infirmity by the time charges were leveled.

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And, of course, there are the colonial churches. I’ll probably have a bit more to say about them in the future, but for now I’ll just leave this here. I assume that this is either a tourist with an interest in altarpieces or me after finding that time machine 30 years in the future.

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