This year, Casco Antiguo – Panama´s colonial quarter – has seen the opening of at least 15 new businesses. Not bad for a town of only 3 avenues and 15 streets. Out of those 15 (maybe 20 at this point) at least 5 are Venezuelan owned and operated.
Most of them food related, they are exploring actively to open new niches and inject their energy into the eclectic historic area. Businesses range from informal cafés such as Tomato (soups, salads, wraps and breakfast) and Aromas Café, to Mexican food (Tequila´s Restaurant). Neighborhood hang outs like Mayal´s at 8th street and fusion cuisine at 9th street.
Other investors are looking into development opportunities and investment opportunities. Their preference: to own commercial space either to rent or operate themselves. They view Casco Viejo as one of the areas that has the biggest potential in Panama City due to its historic and tourism character. Regard it as something unique and authentic.
However, it is also a neighborhood in transition where things take time and active involvement in community programs is part of business life. Not too long ago, AVACA, the neighborhood association organized a beach cleanup with the community. Venezuelan restaurants, along with Italians, Panamanians, Americans, Brazilian, Colombian and many other nationalities helped raise funds for the event. It was an enthusiastic day, enjoyed by all participants.
If nothing else, Casco Viejo seems to be the heart of what mixed neighborhood is all about, and is part of its attraction. Not only old patina blends with restored buildings, and architectural styles are interesting, but nationalities and businesses are joined by a vision of building a quality brand called Casco Viejo. Throughout its history, Panama has been the crossroad of the Americas, joining oceans and continents. And since 1673, Casco Viejo has welcomed every nationality to make a living.
With the right language and cultural backgrounds, Venezuelans seem to be set up for success.