Canal Zone nostalgia at Casco Viejo, Panama

For many years, the Panama Canal has been the defining icon of Panama. It is also one of its main economic engines and one of the world´s top engineering treasures.  It was inaugurated in 1914 with the crossing of the vapor Ancon, although some quote that a French self-propelled ocean vessel called Alexandre the Valley crossed it a few days earlier.

As part of the terms negotiated, Panama gave the United States a large piece of land that would serve to place the military basis and  mega infrastructure needed to keep such an incredible venture. Many of the tropical forest that Panama has around the Canal nowadays are part of what they call the “watershed” which consists of large protected forests that provide with the water for the entire system.

In the year 2000 and as per a later treaty (the Torrijos Carter) the Canal was handled to the Panamanians along with the controversial “Canal Zone”.

While a lot has been written about it and in different tones, the truth is that it defined generations in both sides of the fence, as even Americans born in the Canal Zone area felt a bit Panamanian and created their own tropicalized culture that became known as the “zonian” culture.

Today, Casco Viejo, which back in the days was basically what was known as Panama City but is now a colonial town that gained its UNESCO  World Heritage Site in 1997 and  is being revitalized through private and government investment,   is home to the first official “zonian” memorabilia store in Panama.  It is located in the road between the two towns, as both connected through what is today Santa Ana and Chorrillo. It is also steps away from Santa Ana plaza, which was known back in the day for the famous Cafe Coca Cola and the number of bars and nightlife. It is said that the performance shows in Santa Ana (and Plaza 5 de Mayo) where excellent, and that it was here where Peron met first Evita.  Who knows!  The store is small but big in significance for this upcoming colonial neighborhood.

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