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Casco Antiguo — a heritage legacy

November 9, 2009

“Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today,

and what we pass on to future generations.”


Whenever I walk through ancient temple ruins, visit a national park or photograph a derelict building, my respect for UNESCO’s foresight deepens. True, it’s a political organisation, but without UNESCO, how short would the number of our heritage legacies be?

A district worth visiting in Panama City is Casco Antiguo, a beautifully preserved eighteenth century district that sits on a small peninsula overlooking the Canal. It’s a place with some serious history which includes the founding of the town and relocation of a pristine church, the famous and infamous presidents who have lived here, and a café that served coffee to Che Guevara and Noriega’s men on separate occasions. I can only imagine what is must have been like to participate in this history.

by Cate

Dynamic as it was, Casco Antiguo is now a place trying to shake off its recent unsavoury past: drugs, gangs, dark streets, dangerous spaces and places.  It has taken a time to eradicate the shady elements but safety has improved rapidly over a small time. There are still the neglected streets and rundown houses but there is also sense of community around the area. Life is lived inside and outside the home. Open windows pulsate salsa onto the streets, make-shift stalls sell sausages and Panamanian fast-food to locals and professionals. Colour forms a big part of the community even if money doesn’t yet.

by Cate

by Cate

Like most historical places worldwide, the renewed interest in Casco Antiguo has attracted tourists and high-end businesses. Cafés, restaurants, boutique hotels and shops are moving in, apartments and condos continue to fill with affluent occupants. Old buildings are being beautifully restored — for a price — although I still like the dilapidated buildings, for their sense of what was but is no more.

by Cate

Despite a global recession there is a building boom in Panama City, both new and old.  Businesses have seen potential in Panama as a financial hub but UNESCO has seen a future in its heritage.

Safety precautions

I’ve heard and read some fear-mongering stories about this district. A lot is based on fear, the area is good if you stick to the centre and don’t become too curious. Although the centre of Casco Antiguo is safe during daylight, the surrounding area of Santa Ana is risky. Labelled as a “no-go zone” unless you know what you’re doing.  You can’t venture too far without coming across tourist police who will turn you around, and if they’re not there, the locals will give you a friendly warning.

Tip: Be sensible, locals will warn you when it’s necessary to, Santa Ana is not a safe district to walk around anytime.

Caffeinated Traveller

  1. Erica Johansson permalink
    November 10, 2009 11:46 am

    I also hold a deep respect for UNESCO. Without them our heritage legacies would probably be a far cry from the present number.

    And good point about Santa Ana. Things involving safety when traveling are worth bringing to everyone’s attention.

  2. November 10, 2009 4:42 pm

    Hi Erica
    Most people would have some form of respect for this organisation I guess.

    I think it’s important to highlight to point out safety since these areas tend to attract rough elements looking for easy targets.

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