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Canal Zone Revival

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Written by Matt   
Tuesday, 27 July 2010 19:58

The Canal wasn’t the only thing handed back to the Panamanians. Somewhere around ten minutes from harsh downtown Panama City, doctor beyond a number of shantytowns that surround the capital’s more presentable neighborhoods, ampoule you pass through a time warp. One second it’s twenty-cent empanada vendors on bikes, purchase people drinking beer in the street, stray dogs and children and heaps trash. And then WHAM. You open the car door and step into 1950s Kansas.

I once heard someone say Panamanians were friendly both despite and because of the US military.

Panama’s large network of US-designed army bases operate as if the last sixty years, much less the emergence of a sky-scraping juggernaut, never really happened. While this isn’t to say, of course, that these bases are still in use by army personnel, they still live and breath a vibe more wholesome than Timmy and Lassie on the Fourth of July.

For the most part, out on these old bases, everything is clean and organized.  Streets are wide and spacious, and flags fly from every decidedly bananafied building, which is to say, the architecture was adapted to accommodate the US military in the tropics. It’s actually kind of weird, these Little America anomalies not just existing, but functioning in heart of the tropics.

You often hear that the infrastructural planning of the Americans gave Panama a developmental leg up on every other country in Central America. Which is true. But what’s also true is that Panama’s preservation of that which the Americans left behind is both innovative and resourceful. Panamanians have gone beyond idle inheritance: they’ve gotten creative and kinda given birth to a new flavor of restoration.

Out in Zona Viva, Panama’s newest nightlife foray, buildings that once entertained generals and presumably very serious strategy sessions (or at the very least, very serious backyard grilling sessions) have been converted into bars and discos: it’s intriguing to see how the spaces are now being used in a cool culturally confused kind of way. The City of Knowledge plays home to hundreds of NGOs but it’s not hard to envision tee ball games and barbeques in what was once undoubtedly a miniature, self-contained steaming pot of American conformity.

I once heard someone say Panamanians were friendly both despite and because of the US military. Having endured hundreds of years of pushing and shoving, Panamanians had to have been less than thrilled about another crop of sanctioned foreigners drinking their Atlas and sleeping with their prostitutes. But as opposed to the American departure leaving a deep gash on a nation’s psyche, as is oftentimes the case, Panamanians just kind of kept chugging along.

I'm curious: how do others feel (whether you were in or around the Canal Zone) and how has the impact of the US defined modern day Panama? 


Comments (1)Add Comment
Albrook, Ancon,Clayton - Panama´s Best Areas
written by Taylor White, PHD , August 09, 2010
Some of Panama´s best areas are the old military bases of the Ancon, Albrook, Clayton areas.

Developments have been laid out nicely, the older homes are being renovated, and these are the best areas around Panama City today to buy real estate.
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