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The Devolution of Panama City Nightlife

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Written by Matt   
Wednesday, 17 September 2008 08:13
Panama NightlifeThe best place in the world to retire, sildenafil the number one investment hotspot in the hemisphere, unhealthy the top banking and shipping center of the Americas, view blah blah blah. As partly a result of claims such as these, residents of Panama City may soon realize that it's OK to be great, but you never want to be the Best. Some might look at the changes to Panama City as necessary or natural, seeing as though time, money, and foreign influences generally lead to this sort of evolution. But as the days of quirky apartment rentals and eccentric late night hang outs are slowly fading into monotonous ones of glamorous high-rises and imitation nightlife haunts, one has to ask where the old Panama City has gone.

It seems like a small blow, but about a year ago Calle Uruguay lost the legendary Unplugged, a college-radio-station type bar with live rock music and an adoring heterogeneous crowd. Unplugged was a dump, but it's hard for me to put into words what an important dump it was for the fabric of Panama City nightlife. It didn't matter your age, race, social bracket, or income: everyone had drank a few beers at Unplugged. Now the footprint is home to Pure, a Miami-wannabe nightclub with white linen curtains and overpriced shots. The live music has been replaced by a DJ, and with it has fled a portion of the areas' character.

A few years ago we'd spend lazy afternoons that'd segue into late nights at our local haunt La Terraza, a shit-hole-of-a-bar in El Cangrejo where beers cost a dollar and the people watching was free. The bathrooms were often flooded and the bartenders regularly miscounted drinks, but that was what made it amusing. Until (that is) the space was razed to make room for a new high-rise, the same type of high-rises that will soon occupy the entire city block which used to house a fifty cent carwash and a two dollar café.

Drunk driving checkpoints are now routine on Avenida Balboa on weekends, while jackhammers and creaking cranes litter the cities daily soundscape. More people than ever try to bottleneck through Frederico Boyd every day at six, nice hotels in the city rarely ask less than two hundred bones, and when you leave a waiter 15% he's often left rubbing his fingers with discontent. The same bars and clubs get extremely boring after a while, not unlike waking up next to someone you don't like one too many times.

Panama City's economy has grown exponentially over the past five years. The average cost of single-family apartments has risen radically, while the majority of the country's interior has visibly changed very little. Gone are the days of renting an apartment for $200 in the city center, which is forcing single people and families alike out to sprawl regions like Arraijan and Chorrera where crime is on the rise. Prices, as expected, are beginning to increase rapidly although oddly enough a cab ride still only costs $1.50.

Many facets of Panama City, save its slum areas which are getting slummier and its low-income barrios which are expanding, appear to be evolving into a tribute of being cool. Nightlife is homogenizing, the dining scene is turning complacent, and the city skyline is growing generic. Through brochures, TV spots, and word of mouth the very act of cool in Panama City has been packaged, marketed, and repackaged leaving little room for anyone outside its wrath. Some may say this is a sign of Panama City growing up, but others might claim it's on its way down.

Note: If you're the reader who's about to comment "if you don't like Panama City then why don't you just leave" or "why do you pick on the negative parts of Panama all the time" you can save the finger energy. It's only fair to publish both positive and negative opinions about the Republic of Panama and this, in my eyes, is certainly a worthy topic.

Article Inspiration: Thanks for Nothing, Guys by Aaron R. Pierce as in MEN'S JOURNAL, June 2008
Image: hometown.aol.com/danishfalcon/images/02-night-life-girls-new-york-city.jpg

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Before it's gone
written by Avarana , September 17, 2008
"When nations grow old, the arts grow cold and commerce settles on every tree." - William Blake

As a panamanian, I agree wholeheartly with your view, the city is rapidly losing the charms it advertises to sell the high rises: a small, warm, clean and moderately secure city, only to turn to what foreigners (and locals) are trying to run from: traffic, inflation, the plastification of leisure and death of culture.
I'm not a night dweller, but I understand your loss regarding Unplugged and La Terraza, as it mirrors the displacement of the original San Felipe inhabitants: forced by gentrification to migrate far from the city center, while the once bustling Old Quarter fades away behind boarded windows and half empty restaurants.
And maybe what really plagues Panama is the lack of a strong citizen culture, we drift with the fashions and fads, generally disregard our history and natural treasures; and while the country's interior holds because of its traditions and "distance", that is also under fire, as the all powerful forces of real state put a price on every little piece of land, history and country we might want to partake for a few dollars.

http://avarana.blogspot.comhttp://avarana.blogspot.com
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How did it go so wrong, so fast?
written by casey , September 17, 2008
I know that's lousy grammar, but man...Panama City was such a neat place that was affordable, seemingly safe and plenty o' fun. Now I'm not sure if it qualifies for even 2 of the 3. Like Matt, I still really dig Panama, but I sometimes fret that we've rained on our own parade.
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The Wild West atmosphere tamed by tube socks and geriatrics
written by Jesse , September 18, 2008
There is no question that a certain spark has faded. Three years ago Panama city and the country side possessed a certain “about to explode vibe” that trickled down through all walks of life. In my opinion Panama city is becoming a bit more generic and lonely. While the high-end clubs replace the seedy watering holes, the young crowd that was once on the front lines seem to becoming increasingly disenchanted with the way in which progress has transpired in the city smilies/grin.gif
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Overzelousness to develop destroys the attraction to the area it seeks to cash in
written by Francisco Riveros , September 18, 2008
I've got to say I agree with this candid assessment. I live in the reverted areas and I've actually marched and "manifestado" against the new "retroactive Zoning change" law that is now letting them put factories and High rises in the middle of clayton, albrook and other green neighborhoods.

Everybody loved living in the easygoing "zona canalera" because of the greenery, but they'll destroy a lot of the added value of the real estate in the area in their desire to "develop" it.

If you drive through albrook and stop near the korean church, you'll see the new apartment buildings that have taken the place of a beautifully maintained park that took up that block. If you drive the Clayton main road, you'll find a section that has a kind of dirt road covered in Zinc so you can't see what they're doing behind it.

There are trucks coming in and out all the time. They're building behind the cover of the few trees still standing by the side of the road, and all that foresty growth that used to exist is being cut down. That's the site of some 12 30 story high apartment buildings.

The beauty of the canal zone was the fact that there weren't ever any buildings you could see over the tree tops. what's more, most roads meandered in such a way that you'd almost always have 70% vegetation and just 30% human construction visible from any one pov. If you go to the areas that haven't changed as much, like La Boca, or Pedro Miguel you could see what I'm talking about.

it's a tragedy that the people in charge of the projects in the area don't try to even incorporate the "canal zone" look or architectural philosophy in their designs. The home owners in Albrook did, and they made albrook into a showroom of good taste and class... and now big business is going to make that hard work go down the drain.

There's a billboard that I find really ironic at the stop light for Albrook, Clayton and El Dorado. It says something like "Live with nature at your feet" with a nice colorful lizard in the foreground and huge high rises in the background. I'd rather live with nature growing all around me.

Anyone that wants to live in a 20th story apartment to feel "closer to nature" is missing the entire point of living in the
"zona"
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Here's your answer!
written by Okke Ornstein , September 18, 2008
http://www.bananamarepublic.co...y-miami-cl
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My beloved chinito
written by Mateo , September 18, 2008
OK so I used to live in Cangrejo and across the street was the most bizarre little chinito (convenient store) ever. There were always hilariously weird things being said, sold, consumed...etc and I always enjoyed having my $.25 Coke and observing what Casey referred to as a STAR WARS ambiance as you never knew what you might see. Passing it today, I noticed it has been torn down in place of a new apartment building. Tear.
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Concrete Jungle
written by Jeffb , September 22, 2008
I just returned from a too-short trip to Medellin, Colombia. I found the city to be beautiful and vibrant.

One thing they are doing right; they've passed a law that for every tree that is cut down for a new building project, the developer must plant two more, subject to regulations keeping the new trees in the same general area, eg, they can't plant two trees out in a province somewhere.

Also, for every four blocks of buildings, one block needs to be developed as a park.

Panama City is turning into a concrete jungle, and this is simply a reflection of the short-sightedness and greed that is consuming the Panamanian government and business sector. Just walk through Marbella, Bella Vista, or Obarrio or virtually any other area of Panama City and watch the green disappear.
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Party at your place, Matt?
written by RK , September 26, 2008
You know Unplugged has moved to Via Veneto, right?

Check out Casco Viejo, it still has some of what you like. Also, Via Argentina has some nice places without too much neon lighting.
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a city has a soul and it can lose it
written by Lamer , January 06, 2009
This is refreshing. I guess I am a bit older than the bloggers on this page and a woman, so I don't feel I can go by myself and party at night in Panama City. But it doesn't matter. I can see the points you make here. I strolled through Casco one day and I was very hungry. I went inside a "hole" kept by a Chinese guy because the guard I was chatting with entered that place. The food was cheap and didn't look that clean, but I loved it. There were a few locals and guards eating inside. A very basic, no fuss place that should stay in Casco along with the fancier (and cleaner) restaurants. A city is a living thing: it has a soul...and it can lose it. One good thing about the global economic crisis: it will stop the high-rise frenzy in Panama City will put things into perspective: down to earth, perhaps more community oriented, one would hope.
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Good Days Gone
written by DMorgan , June 09, 2009
As a resident in Panama City from 1987 to 1995, the good vibe then is long long gone. Case in Point: the Balboa Yacht Club. Was much better than the now defunct La Terraza. Panama was "undiscovered" and had much more genuine charm than the highly touted Costa Rica which was then being discovered. But like Costa Rica, once discovered -- unique, interesting, and real gets replaced by foreign influences and the drive for the dollar. That's the transition now in Panama City and places like Pedasi, Boquete, etc. If you're now discovering Panama, you're too late by a longshot.
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Last Updated on Wednesday, 17 September 2008 08:16
 
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