Panama, Casco Antiguo
Casco Viejo, San Felipe
November has arrived,
’s holiday month. A good time to relax and meditate about the beginnings of our country
and what makes it and us so special. If I stop to think about it seriously,
I would probably come back again and again to the same feature: diversity.
This simple word, more than any complicated concept defines
. Diversity plus being a happy – non violent country is what makes us so special.
Everything else traces back to those two/three things.
Natural and geographic diversity. Diversity of races, cultures, languages, there is
no single Panamanian in the entire country that doesn’t have inside his veins blood
samples from all around the world. Not even the indigenous cultures are 100% originally
, since studies already tell us they all came from either the north or the south.
According to research done by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama
was the last piece to emerge in Central America, joinning the two continents for the good of all human kind (not an exaggeration,
research appoints that it was this barrier that allowed Europe to have warm
waters and to develop). So the first group of people to show up came 11,000
years ago. Meaning.. no one is really from here… but all our ancestors came
motivated by either beauty, convenience or business (or combinations of all
three) which are just about the best reasons to come to a country and make it
Everything in a Panamanian screams diversity: we eat “saus”, fried fish with patacones
(with ajichombo sauce, very Caribbean food), almojábanos (spanish food), tortillas
and chicheme (indigenous food). We dance salsa and reggae (again, caribbean culture)
and when we are tired there is nothing better than a hammock (which is an indigenous
tradition that the spanish reported as “evil” back in the colonial days because it
promoted “laziness”). Any kid in the street has innate rhythm that can turn any plastic
tank into a display of drums that make your heart beat. Our folkloric music includes
both violin and drums and our folkloric dresses are influenced by both Europe and
The list goes on and on.
Also that’s the reason why Casco Antiguo is such a special place: it was and continues
to be the witness of all that mix, each home in a different architectural style (French,
Republican, Spanish, Caribbean… even Chinese!), and it’s the main reason why UNESCO
decided to protect it: very few historic cities are such a great showpiece for a country’s
So let’s toast not only to Panama’s 104 years of republican
diversity, but also to the more than 11,000 years of cultural mix, and to the at least
3.5 million years of keeping the great American continent together.
Happy Birthday Panama!