My Early Memories of the Casco Antiguo, Panama

Panama, Casco Antiguo

San Felipe

For many, the Casco is love at first sight. Everyone has
his or her own first memory, or a turning point where they decided to live, work or
invest here… Don’t be shy! Take a moment and post your story!

For me, early memories of the Casco are profoundly linked
with my family and my childhood. I hope you enjoy the opening of this blog!

Patrizia

…….

November 10th, 2007.

It’s a strange experience, to sit here and organize my
memories of Casco, trying to remember how it all started for me. Memories are filling
the room quickly, running from one corner to the other, clashing and crashing between
themselves, competing to be the very first one. It’s all a mix. But I’m pretty sure
it started on a Sunday, at an age where my size was the same as the park bench. I
can recall this because my favorite thing was to get a “raspado” near Las Bóvedas,
and I could barely make it to the top of the pushcart. Raspado Flavor: red with 10
cents of extra condensed milk. I don’t know how I survived to so much sugar. Those
family trips were not only fun but fascinating, the Casco was completely in ruins
but it was a charmer for any 5 year old, a discovery at every corner. The best of
those Sunday trips were the stories. The reason: almost all my family on my father
side was either born or raised in Casco back in the 50´s. Walking through the Casco
was a window to my father’s childhood, to my grandparent’s youth. I could sense there
was a connection, a root I liked and was part of.

My “nonnos” (we always called them in the Italian fashion
because of my mother who was Italian and because “abuelo” in Spanish sounds like an
old person…not my grandparents!!!) lived in the Casco back when it was all

Panama

had. Remember
Panama
only turned into a Republic in 1903, my grandparents were born around 1910 (my grandfather),
so they lived in the Casco in the 40´s and 50´s. At that time, the Casco was the entire
city of

Panama

, period.  They both lived at a side of the current
Canal
Museum
on

6th Street

and

A Avenue

, former “Correos y Telégrafos” (Mail and Telegraphy Office, back then the only way
to communicate with the rest of

Panama

and the world) and both worked as Director and Manager at this important office. My
father and aunt (Adolfo and tía
Isis
) where raised in an apartment on the first floor, playing on Plaza Catedral and many
other corners of the Casco. So every Sunday visit, my father would point out the house
and remember: “and this is the balcony where we lived, and right beside it is the
apartment of Doña Laura, the teacher. She used to have a big apartment full of books
where we sneaked in to do our homework.” Incredibly enough, Doña Laura is still living
there, on the same apartment. She is almost 90 years old now. I met her early this
year. When I introduced myself as the daughter of Adolfito, the son of Fina, her eyes
glowed and started asking for my aunt, my nonna and everybody.

One of the best anecdotes was the shot-on-the-balcony
story. It was during one of the three presidencies of Arnulfo Arias Madrid. The military
had just carried out their famous coup (1951) and my father must have been 5 years
old. At that time my grandmother was actually working at the

Presidencial
Palace

as a secretary (back when there were only six people in the entire Presidential Compound,
counting the President) and because of the political unrest she had just quit and
was home with the family. There were shooting on the streets and in Calle 6ta were
some “rebels” were shooting from the roofs. My grandfather went to the balcony to
close the doors and someone shot in his direction. Luckily, the balcony received the
bullet. The mark is still there today, as we noticed this past weekend during our
Sunday stroll with him.

My next clear childhood memory is at the National Theatre.
We were at a ballet performance from the National Ballet Company.  Later
on, at age 9, I started studying ballet with the

National
School

, but this memory seems to be prior. The theatre vault and its great surreal painting
(by master painter Roberto Lewis) always impressed me. That night I remember clearly
it was Gloria Barrios and Andrés Nieto (later on I had the honor to dance on the same
stage with them) on a piano piece I later on learned it was Chopin. Andrés was playing
the musician while Gloria was his ethereal muse. Going to the Theatre was a fantastic
treat and my parents always took my brother and me whenever they had an opportunity.  I
would return to this theatre later over and over as a dancer with the National Ballet.
For a while it was the headquarters of the company, so I got to be in the Casco every
day. So in more than one way, the Casco is full of personal landmarks, some made even
before I was born!

I hope you had enjoyed my first blog attempt and had encouraged
you to write a bit of your own experiences!

Here are some pictures for you:

My grandaunt and grandmother, doña Laura, the building they lived in, the ceiling
painting at the theatre.

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