Cuba plus Panama: A Powerful Combination

Obama is lifting finally parts of the Cuban embargo. While you are thinking on traveling to Cuba, read this first….

Since colonial days Panama and Cuba have had strong bonds and almost similar development. They where both the “trade” places of excellence during the Spanish Gold (and slave) trade, which attracted people from all around the known world to make business. If you look at both historic cities, Havana and Casco Antiguo (also known as Casco Viejo) they are the only two “colonial” cities in the region that display a wide range of architectural styles. Everyone else is pure Spanish Colonial (Cartagena, San Juan, Antigua, just to mention a couple). This was not pure luck, it was the reflection of the people who lived in them.

Panama´s Casco Antiguo is a vibrant and more accesible mini jewel version of big Havana: colonial buildings sit wall to wall with Caribbean wooden houses, with Art Deco buildings, Republican buildings from the time of the Panama Canal and even fusion: there are several buildings that are French- Caribbean and so on. For the last ten years, the old Casco Viejo has been undergoing a revitalization

The Cuban - Panama culture
The Cuban – Panama culture
Music. This is a picture of Casa de la Musica in Havana.

process, which allows you to own a piece of history in the form of a charming restored condo or a commercial space. Casco Antiguo is business friendly place, welcoming all entrepreneurs to open bars, hotels, restaurants and much more. And is only a few minutes away from a cosmopolitan city and from primary forest.

Cuba and Panama are both defined by the word crossroads. This has shaped both cultures the same way: deeply Caribbean. Dance, food, speech, superstitions. Panama´s geography turned it into a business hub, more likely to be described as Costa Rica meets Hong Kong. With a conservative banking system, a Canal and diversified economy, it lead the region for the last couple of years growing at incredible rates comparable only to China. Even in this market, it will continue to grow over 3%, leading the region. Democracy is steady, a dollarized economy.

Watching photographs of people from Cuba and from Panama you´ll get a sense that you are looking at the same DNA pool. And probably you are! Panamanian and Cuban relations grew stronger – strange enough – during our military regimes. Both Omar Torrijos and Fidel Castro where great friends, and Cuban troops

Old Havana
Old Havana
Colonial city of Havana. Only Casco Viejo and Havana have this mix.

would visit Panama to train in our jungles. Roberto Duran, Panama´s most famous boxing glory visited Castro flying in Torrijo´s private plane and was welcomed and invited to dinner with Castro himself.

One of the main differences in our cultures, though, is product of a simple fact: Panama´s history never had any violence in its upbringing. None of our independences or separations where product of a big or long revolutions where thousands of lives where lost in a conflict that lasted several years. This seems to be the case of every Latin American and Caribbean country. When thinking about it, Haiti´s case comes to mind. While the first country to declare independece from its colonial state, it has sunk into the deepest of poverties because of its prolonged state of civil war. Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and many islands of the Caribbean followed the same path… with the same unfortunate results. Cuba had its Cuban revolution and a prolonged period of being on “survival mode” because of the US Embargo which Obama is finally lifting slowly. But Panama had none of that. Therefore, our people are non violent, non confrontational. While we might be loud as any Caribbean guy would be, aggression just isn´t part of our culture.

Playful Style
Playful Style
Buses in Panama and in Cuba show the playful culture of the Caribbean

We are the “happy go lucky” of Latin America, and is a lucky country indeed as everything Latin America has, Panama has it as well… just in a “boutique” portion. From rain forest to cloud forest, from abandoned crystal clear beach (and rocky tan beaches too) to a caotic modern Panama City with restaurants offering great cuisine, from a 300 year old colonial quarter to a rustic town in the country side where homes are still made of clay with a technique that gathers the entire town in a celebration in order to build it, Panama is where everything can be experienced one bit at a time in less than 5 days. From here, you can take a direct flight to Havana and transport yourself to the past. Dance at Casa de la Musica (please, do not visit Tropicana, is not worth it), eat at any Paladar or walk the Malecon. And between the two you´ll get the most complete understanding of what the best of Latin Culture has to offer.


Casco Viejo Panama
Casco Viejo Panama
Panama´s colonial city is vibrant with businesses, festivals and welcomes new residents. You can buy a fully restored apartment, some of them property tax free.
Art Events at Casco Antiguo
Art Events at Casco Antiguo
Colegio del Cuerpo during Dance Festival Sobresaltos.
Children at school trip
Children at school trip
Casco Antiguo is an outdoors classroom where Panamanian children learn about the country´s history and their own roots.
Where to Stay in Casco Viejo?  What to do?


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