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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Panama City, new and old


Have arrived in Panama to board a vessel that will transit the canal from the Pacific to the Atlantic.  Panama City is a modern wonder...a boomtown with far more skyscrapers than Boston, with dozens more rising upwards, topped with cranes.

But, on a promontory between the new city and the canal is Casco Viejo, a 17th century historical district built up by the French in the late 19th century during their first, failed attempt to build a canal through the Isthmus.  In a twist of fate that William Morris and the Anti-scrape would be delighted with, conscientious developers decided to rehab, restore, and renovate the dilapidated district rather than bulldoze it.  Almost immediately, artists, cafe, craftspeople, and tourists began arriving.  The process is ongoing with old, impoverished buildings, many no more than ruined shells, being beautifully restored in this UNESCO world heritage site.  Now its world heritage status is threatened by specter of a huge highway encircling the district, cutting its famous seawall, built in the 1600s to protect Panama from pirates, off from the sea.  You can read more about the local effort to stop this short-sighted plan here:
"Whether you are a Panamanian or not you are entitled to a voice on the treatment of World Heritage Sites, so speak up!"

 It all looks very French, oui?

 a work in progress


The old jails now housing art galleries and cafes.