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Revista Panama Today February 2009

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									Panama Today
     Volume 1 • Issue 4 • February 2009




                              Carnival!
                      February 2009   Panama Today Magazine   1
2   Panama Today Magazine   February 2009   February 2009   Panama Today Magazine   3
                                      Carnival!
                                      Who doesn’t love a parade?
                                      Carnival has parades, fireworks,
                                      beautiful ladies dressed in the
                                      so-called man-tumblers and
                                      when you look at these young
                                      ladies, dressed in feathers and
                                      sequins and not much else,
                                      who wouldn’t fall for them.
                                      Carnival is hot, unrestrained
                                      fun, and so the water trucks
                                      that come along to cool things
                                      off -- are absolutely a necessity.
                                      Come! Enjoy! Set your wild side
                                      free. It’s Carnivaaaal!!!


 El Valle de Anton
In the heart of an extinct volcano
lies a garden paradise, known
as El Valle de Anton. About 90
minutes from Panama City this
has long been the weekend
hideaway for the wealthy of
Panama. They love to get to the
mountains, cool off and enjoy the
tranquility of this garden retreat.
Breathe that cool flower scented
 air and you may find you never
 want to leave.




                                      Embera Village
                                      A world apart. Step back in
                                      time and see how the natives
                                      lived years and centuries ago.
                                      Everything is natural and
                                      everything is as nature intended.
                                      The food and the eating utensils,
                                      the tools and the musical
                                      instruments are all made the
                                      same way they have been made
                                      by the Embera for centuries.
Contents
12         Expats in Panama:
           Jerry & Barbara Bergeron
           They have lived absolutely everywhere and
                                                             44   Visit to an Embera Village
                                                                  Go back in time and learn how the natives
                                                                  have lived for centuries.          The smiling
           if they haven’t lived there, they have visited         children, the bare-breasted ladies and the
           there many times, like 39 times to Paris.              men in thongs; this is how they have lived
           They are truly global citizens. Why have they          throughout time. Enjoy toucans and macaws,
           chosen Panama as their retirement home?                and other exotic birds. Learn to carve a piece
                                                                  of replenishable ivory. Spend a fascinating


22         Carnival!
           If you haven’t been to Carnival in Panama you
           must come. You can start on the Atlantic in
                                                                  day wth a culture completely different than
                                                                  your own. A unique experience!



                                                             51   The Colon Free Zone . . .
           Colon and then go south to Panama City and
           west through Penonome, Chitre, Ocu, Pedasi             The business hub of the Americas, This is
           and saving the best for last, end up in Las            where big business is conducted every day
           Tablas. Each town celebrates Carnival and              of the year. Stepping boldly into the wired
           each one does it a little bit differently. You         world, soon all the merchants can show
           can see them all!                                      their wares online. Contracts and dollars
                                                                  will be flying, around the world, and the


30         El Valle de Anton
           Visit an extinct volcano, for this is precisely
                                                                  need to visit in person will diminish.



                                                             58   A City with Two Pasts
           what El Valle de Anton truly is. Climb to the
           top of the walls for a vista of both oceans,           Panama City is a city of the future, with sky
           walk through the magnificent gardens that              high condo towers, set around the beautiful
           dot the valley floor. Find the petroglyphs,            blue waters of Panama Bay and yet Panama
           ride a zip line, enjoy the hikes up the                has a history of Spanish conquistadors,
           waterfalls, savor a glass of wine with some            pirates and gold. Always a center for trade
           friends. This is El Valle de Anton.                    around the world, Panama City has had two
                                                                  distinct and different pasts, which make it
                                                                  the exciting lively city it is today.




6   Panama Today Magazine      February 2009
                                                           Columns
   Panama Today
               Magazine
        http://panamatodaymagazine.com

                     Publisher
          Global Village Publications Inc.


                                                          11   Good Works
            Michael Bartlett, President
           Mary Sloane, Vice President
                                                               Take your plastic bags and get them out of our landfills
              Executive Editor
               Michael Bartlett
                                                               where they never truly break down. Recycle them into mats
        mlb@panamatodaymagazine.com                            for kids to sit on or bath mats. Or, just let your imagination
              Managing Editor                                  run wild and be creative, once you see what can be done
                 Mary Sloane                                   with recycled plastic bags.
        mary@panamatodaymagazine.com




                                                          30   Legal
               Editorial Director
                 Edward Shafer
       eshafer@panamatodaymagazine.com                         The government of Panama wants to create more tourist
              Advertising Executive                            facilities. The hotels currently run at capacity and the tourist
                 Patricia Villalaz                             attractions are often filled to overflowing. To encourage
       adsales@panamatodaymagazine.com
                 cel: 6523-4261                                the construction of more tourist related enterprises,

                 Advertising Sales
                                                               Panama is giving wonderful financial incentives to anyone
                   Dolores Arjona                              who wants to get involved in tourism. It just might be
       darjona@panamatodaymagazine.com
              cel: 6673-9910 Spanish                           your opportunity.



                                                          40
                 Jorge Viñas
       jvinas@panamatodaymagazine.com                          Investing in Panama
                cel: 6676-7097
                                                               Beyond real estate there are many excellent ways to invest
                   Will Cannava                                in Panama and everywhere opportunities abound. Some
       willcan@panamatodaymagazine.com
              cel: 6729-0900 English                           people start their own business, others buy an existing
                                                               business, still others find Panamanian partners. Some
              Graphics & Design
   Darlene Swanson • Van-Garde Imagery, Inc.                   create bed and breakfasts and others build housing
            darlene@van-garde.com
                                                               facilities for medical tourists. There are an abundance of
            Digital Flash Production                           ways in Panama to make your money grow.
             Liliana Gonzalez Garcia

                Spanish Translation
         Cecilia y Lourdes Gonzalez Garcia

                  Photography
 Dan Heinrichs, Jennifer Wolcott, Dave Morrison,
Bob Sloane • photos@panamatodaymagazine.com

             How to reach us
      Global Village Publications Inc.
             APDO 0832-1236
            World Trade Center
          Panama, Rep. of Panama
         305-517-7260 Miami, USA
    507-6414-8332 Panama (8 digits is correct)
    Online www.panamatodaymagazine.com
   Article submissions, comments or proposals
       editor@panamatodaymagazine.com
Panama Today Magazine is a monthly publication.
          Please go here to subscribe
  www.panamatodaymagazine.com/subscribe



  88    Panama Today Magazine
         Panama Today Magazine           February 2009
                                          February 2009                                                                           February 2009   Panama Today Magazine   9
                                                          It always amazes me how some people            then woven into the mats. But, Dennis




                                             Good Works
                                                          seem to be able to do really good deeds        has found a lot of mothers who are
                                                          almost as an afterthought. They just           committed to learning to weave these
                                                          seem to run into opportunities to make a       mats into seats for the youngest students
                                                          difference - and somehow they never shirk      at the schools. Kids from kindergarten
                                                          the opportunity. You met these wonderful       up to grade three are currently required
                                                          people, the Parsicks, back in January. I       to sit on the floor.
                                                          went to visit Dennis and Sheila to see how         What a perfect way to recycle plastic
                                                          they were recovering from their injuries.      bags. The mats have some real substance
                                                              Dennis is walking but concerned            and will not take on the damp from the
                                                          about the fact that he runs out of breath      cement.
                                                          so easily. His broken ribs and broken              But Dennis knows that the mothers
                                                          sternum have unfortunately impinged            also need to be able to make some
                                                          on his lung capacity but Dennis has no         money. In El Valle, they sell woven
                                                          time for recovery. He wants to be totally      shopping bags for $3.00. You can take
                                                          well right this minute. Sheila is still bed-   them to the store or market and no
                                                          ridden and the idea of getting up after        longer require plastic bags to carry your
                                                          all this time seems pretty terrifying.         fruits and vegetables home. Dennis has
                                                              Do you remember how Dennis had             a model for these woven bags and is
                                                          some of the young ladies at the restaurant     showing the mothers how they can turn
                                                          sponsored for University as part of the        these plastic bags into permanent bags
                                                          Adopt a Dream program? Well, now we            that people can take to the market for
                                                          meet the newest one to join this group.        their fruit and vegetables repeatedly.
                                                              Then, Dennis shows us his latest           This project and the “how to make it
                                                          project; he is collecting plastic garbage      work” were brought to Dennis by his
                                                          bags. “Plastic garbage bags!” I love the       friends Ann and Pete Martin.
                                                          fact that Dennis is concerned with plastic         That’s two ways to reduce the damage
                                                          garbage bags. They are so damaging in          caused by the overabundance of plastic
                                                          the land fills and, of course, they never      bags which end up in our landfills. Thank
                                                          really break down totally.                     you Dennis, Pete and Ann for these great
                                                              Dennis shows us some big bath              ideas! But, even more important, thank
                                                          mats that were made with these bags.           you Dennis for picking up this ball and
                                                          They are first turned into “fibers” and        running with it. ■




10   Panama Today Magazine   February 2009                                                                February 2009   Panama Today Magazine   11
Expats in Panama                                     Jerry & Barbara Bergeron
Take a look        at this picture of the world. See all    to do more and more with less support, fewer
those little pins? Barb and Jerry have either lived         materials and far less time to devote to individual
in those places or visited them - and spent enough          students.
time there to know something about each of them.               Someone mentioned International Schools to
They are currently living in a lovely home on the golf      them and so they decided to do some research.
course at the Royal Decameron Golf y Villas Resort          Once you get to know Jerry and Barb, you know
and Residential Community (Try saying that fast).           they did a lot of research. They soon discovered
    So, I had to know what it was like to travel all over   that there were International Schools all over the
the world and what inspired them. Barb and Jerry            world - certainly everywhere there was an American
met in teachers’ college in 1965 and they taught in         Embassy. Candidates interested in positions at
the US until 1987. But they were both becoming              these International Schools went to recruiting fairs
more and more perturbed with the attitudes of the           held in Canada and the United States - and now
students and their parents. In addition, teachers’          at various international locations. The beauty of
salaries were decreasing at the same time as the            these recruiting fairs is that teachers and school
class sizes were increasing. Teachers were expected         administrators can interview for several positions
                                                            at the same time. Also, the heads of these various
                                                            schools can meet with several candidates at the
                                                            same time and place.
                                                               Armed with this knowledge, Jerry and Barb

     In case you wonder what’s an expat?                    headed for their first ISS Recruiting Fair in
                                                            Washington D.C. It would be their first job interviews
     An expat (expatriate) is someone who was
                                                            in 15 years. Many of the candidates were young
     not born in the country where they live. An
                                                            with good credentials but had little experience and       4 abacus put
     expat is someone who moved from another
                                                            were mostly single. Barb and Jerry were exceptional       together form
     country, to, in this case, Panama. There are
                                                            for their excellent experience, but the challenge was     the lamp base
     many expats moving to Panama; the rich and
     famous and the average Joe. We want to tell            they were married so they needed to find a school                         Bench from China red and
     you their stories. These are folks just like you.      willing to hire both of them.                                                black art is original
                                                               They were really impressed with the first fair. They


12     Panama Today Magazine     February 2009                                                                                           February 2009      Panama Today Magazine   13
Expats in Panama                                                                                                                                                                                                        Expats in Panama
received several job offers but felt that nothing was           had been teaching French, offered him a sabbatical
quite perfect for them. So, they headed for a second            to study Spanish. When Jerry was able to enroll at a
recruiting fair in New Orleans where they accepted              quality language institute in Lima and they found out
their first international teaching positions in Lima,           that the school where Barb was going to teach was
Peru. They learned then that schools generally prefer           considered one of the best International Schools in
to hire teaching couples - but it can become a truly            South America, they were even more excited about
logistical nightmare for the administrators. They may           their new adventure.
have the perfect job for one spouse - but the other                 They found a three bedroom apartment in an
one’s position can be less certain or less than ideal. The      upscale neighborhood of Miraflores that was just
challenges soon became apparent when the position               four blocks from the ocean. Their housing allowance
for which Jerry had been hired just vanished.                   of $350 a month nicely covered their rent, part time
   Having been forewarned of this possibility, Jerry            domestic help and their utilities. Barb went back
and Barb sought to solve the problem by finding an              to teaching the same courses she had taught for
opportunity for Jerry to go back to school at the same          years in the US, Jerry studied Spanish and tutored
time as Barb taught. Although Jerry already spoke               students, housewives and business executives on
and taught French he was really anxious to advance              how to improve their English.
his Spanish language skills. The ideal solution was                 Here, they discovered the fantastic non-monetary
found when the school in Massachusetts, where he                benefit of international work. On weekends they
                                                                could get away to the famed cities of Peru - like
                                                                Cuzco, the original site of the great Inca Empire. They
                                                                could visit Machu Picchu, Arequipa, Sacsayhuaman,
                                                                the Amazon jungle, Iguitos (the region’s capital city),
                                                                plus so much more. On longer vacations they could
                                                                visit other South American countries like Argentina,        drop the master’s program and rush into this new
                                                                Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Paraguay. They          lifestyle so they decided to wait another year. In 1991
                                                                were now hooked; there was no going back to the             there were many budget cutbacks and so both Barb
                                                                US to teach. The pupils were interested and a joy to        and Jerry were able to take early retirement. They sold
                                                                teach; the parents were supportive - and anxious for        a lot of their personal belongings, got things in order
                                                                their children to get a good education. Plus, Barb          and began to seriously look for another International
                                                                and Jerry had found the love of their lives - travel to     School.
                                                                different places.                                               They were now known to the International School’s
                                                                    Although contractually bound to return to the           administrators so job offers came from all over. They
                                                                Massachusetts school which had generously offered           accepted one at the American Embassy School in
                                                                him his sabbatical, it soon became clear to both parties    New Delhi, as it was - and still is - one of the most       Gramaphone from
                                                                                                                            prestigious International Schools in the world. They        India would have
                                                                that Jerry’s return would be for the contractual period
                                                                                                                            had some misgivings about India but the school’s            been imported
                                                                only - so the school board voted to release him from
                                                                                                                                                                                        from Britain
                                                                his contractual obligations. Now, he and Barb were          prestige persuaded them to give it a try. In fact, it was
                                                                free to travel the world - and so they did. In 1989 Jerry   not really affiliated with the American embassy at all
                                                                began work on a second master’s program, this one a         but its beautiful campus sat directly across the street
                                                                Master’s in Teaching English as a Second Language. In       from the American embassy - and so it got its name.
                                                                1990 they attended the recruiting fairs and received            Barb taught Math while Jerry taught French and
 Barb and Jerry in front of their lovely home in Costa Blanca   several job offers but nothing felt perfect enough to       English. After one year he was asked to assume


14    Panama Today Magazine       February 2009                                                                                                                                                         February 2009   Panama Today Magazine   15
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Expats in Panama
                                                            the role of Coordinator of the Foreign Language                                                                                        one year of contract extension, Barb
                                                            Program - which included French, Spanish, English                                                                                     and Jerry were, this time, truly ready
                                                            as a Second Language and Hindi. They stayed for                                                                                     for retirement. But where?
                                                            three years and immersed themselves in the 5000                                                                                       Their last year working had allowed
                                                            years of history and culture, legend and folklore                                                                                them to do some more research into
                                                            that makes India the exotic country we conjure up                                                                               possible retirement destinations and
                                                            in out minds when we hear the word ‘India’. Again,                                                                              they had realized that Florida was just
                                                            they traveled widely and their diaries read like travel                                                                         not their kind of place. They considered
                                                            books. India opened the entire Asian and European                                                                              Thailand, France, Portugal and Mexico
                                                            continent to them and so they saw it all.                                                                                      - and then suddenly, up on the radar
                                                                The premier International Schools provide flights                                                                         popped a country they had not visited . . .
                                                            to and from your home country of record. For a little                                                                         Panama.
                                                            more money, Barb and Jerry turned these 8 weeks                                                                                   They had no sooner gotten themselves
                                                            periods into round the world jaunts. It was during                                                                            and all their belongings back to the states
                                                            one of these jaunts that they went into Thailand                                                                             than they headed to Panama for a two
                                                            - which figured high on the list of countries they                                                                           month period of exploration. Before the two
                                                            would retire to when the time came.                                                                                        months ended they knew they had found their
                                                                Their International School adventures continued,                                                                    new home.
                                                            bringing them to Singapore, where they got to                                                                            So I had to ask one final question: Why
                                                            spend time really getting to know lots of Asia and                                                                  Panama?
     Above and below: Barb and Jerry collected miniature    Australia.                                                go that easily and administrators from around the             “Friends, proximity to family, cost of living and
      houses as they traveled. Right: Chinese Alter Table       They then accepted positions in the mysterious        world kept asking them to come to some pretty             an ideal setting”
                                                            kingdom of Saudi Arabia where, whenever they              fabulous positions in interesting locations. Finally,         Friends: Barb and Jerry explained that they had
                                                            left the school area, Barb was required to wear an        they accepted jobs in Doha, Qatar. The school there       close friends in Qatar who had lived in Panama in the
                                                            abaya - a floor-length, long-sleeved robe - and Jerry     was looking for someone to rebuild the language           late-80s and they talked a lot about possibly returning
                                                            had to don the head gear of the sheiks. Despite           program - Kindergarten through grade 12 - and Barb        there to retire. In fact they visited Barb and Jerry last
                                                            these minor inconveniences they were permitted to         was offered a fantastic Math position. They were          year and within three days had contracted to build
                                                            see some places that very few people in the world         hooked - but they stipulated right at the beginning       a home at Costa Blanca/Royal Decameron. One of
                                                            are permitted to see. Travel into and out of Saudi        they would only say two years - and off they went.        Jerry’s former Spanish teachers in Singapore left his
                                                            Arabia is not exactly an open situation, and even if          Qatar borders Saudi Arabia and its population is      teaching position and became High School Principal
                                                            you get in, you may travel only with permission and       primarily Muslim - but there the similarities end. In     of the International School of Panama. His plan was
                                                            with your keepers. However, they took most of their       Qatar, there are no dress restrictions and women are      to remain for three or four years. When Barb and Jerry
                                                            holidays outside of the “Magic Kingdom” where life        allowed to drive. Alcohol may be purchased freely         came to explore Panama, they visited him as he was
                                                            was not so restricted.                                    and there are bars, nightclubs, theaters, bowling         completing his eighth year in Panama and loving it.
                                                                Finally, in 2001, Jerry and Barb decided they         alleys and open restaurants. Also, religious freedom          Ideal Setting: Jerry and Barb have always
                                                            should pack up their pencils and notebooks and            is granted. The five Muslim prayer times are followed     enjoyed the challenge and adventure of living
                                                            retire to a condo in Florida which they had purchased     faithfully by most of the Qataris but businesses          overseas, Panama offered both. They have always
                                                            for exactly that purpose. They moved in, but quickly      were permitted to remain open and activities were         loved the beach and were anxious to play golf…
                                                            decided they needed more, and so they built a             not restricted. While they really enjoyed their time      so what better than a beautiful home on a quality
                                                            beautiful home on a golf course in Brevard County.        in Doha since it allowed them to spend more time          golf course with a short walk to a lovely beach by a
                                                            But, the International Schools were not letting them      in Asia and the Middle East and to visit friends, after   warm ocean.



16    Panama Today Magazine       February 2009                                                                                                                                               February 2009   Panama Today Magazine    17
Expats in Panama
    Cost of Living: However, all of this had to be
affordable and that was what they found when they
visited Panama. Portugal and France are still beautiful
countries have become prohibitively expensive and
Mexico could not match the opportunities, the sense of
security and the friendly people they found in Panama.
    Proximity to Family: Thailand has always been a
major attraction to Barb and Jerry however it is very
far from the U.S. where their 90-year old mothers
and other family members still live. Getting to and
from Thailand requires many hours of travel.
    Although Barb and Jerry loved their days of
endless travel, they knew that those days were rapidly
coming to an end. Panama is but a short flight to
their “home” in the northeast U.S. After exploring
the Pacific coast, they were convinced that they had
found their little piece of paradise . . . and two years
later they still believe that to be true! ■


     Below: Water Vessel from India with stylized painting




18     Panama Today Magazine      February 2009              February 2009   Panama Today Magazine   19
20   Panama Today Magazine   February 2009
Carnival!                                    There is no event in Panama
                                             that is more loved than Carnival.
                                             Every year since the early 1900s - on the four days
                                             leading up to Ash Wednesday - the Panama Carnival
                                             takes place. Though Carnival is not an official
                                             holiday, it is the most celebrated festival in Panama.
                                             Should you have the chance to experience it, you’ll       can see through when it gets wet. For most people,
                                             take away a lifetime’s worth of memories.                 the idea is to wear that something that doesn’t get
                                                Even though there are supposed to be only four         ruined when it gets wet…and it will get wet!
                                             days of Carnival - starting Saturday morning and              After Friday’s festivities, the mojadera starts
                                             ending Tuesday evening - you will find many parties       about 10 in the morning - if there is anyone up by
                                             and festivities on the previous Wednesday night,          then. A parade of the Queens follows in the early
                                             again on Thursday, and then things really get going       afternoon - with bands, lots of music and much
                                             unofficially on Friday. In fact, Friday is the night of   revelry - until about 5 in the afternoon. At that time,
                                             “Choosing the Queens”, a formal event followed            everyone heads home to rest, eat and change into
                                             by parades. After the parade there will be lots of        their finery so they can return for the night parade
                                             music, dancing and both public and private parties        and more partying.         It is considered very poor
                                             lasting into the wee small hours.                         form to spray someone with water at night when
                                                In most towns and cities there are two Queens          they are dressed in clothes designed for partying.
                                             chosen - one from Calle Arriba (High Street) and          Drinking and dancing parties are everywhere and
                                             one from Calle Abajo (Low Street) and there are           the merriment doesn’t stop until Tuesday.
                                             many events to determine who has the best looking             The different days of the carnival have their own,
                                             Queen, best floats, best fireworks, best bands - and      more or less, standard themes and features. Sunday
                                             on it goes. There is a friendly rivalry which leads to    is national dress day when the women appear in their
                                             many shouting matches and water fights which are          beautiful, handmade polleras, or the appropriately
                                             called “cuelcos.”                                         named tumba-hombres (‘man-tumblers’). The men
                                                The main arteries of the cities and towns are          also dress in their finest clothes - their gaily colored
                                             closed for parades and the “mojaderas”, where             “montunas.” Roads throughout the cities of the
                                             eighteen-wheeler water trucks with fire hoses on top      country play reluctant - but acceptant - host to
                                             spray the crowds with water. This is very welcome         endless truckloads of boys and girls singing, dancing
                                             since Carnival takes place during the dry season in       and throwing confetti and water at each other.
                                             Panama when it is very hot. These water trucks each           On the Monday night of carnival week, the
                                             play different music and are thronged by masses           suspension of everyday norms even extends to
                                             calling for water. If you think you’re “hot stuff” you    the sacred bond of marriage! Settled husbands
                                             will more than likely wear something which people         throughout Panama take the opportunity on this


22   Panama Today Magazine   February 2009                                                                           February 2009   Panama Today Magazine   23
Carnival!
                                             night of the year to ‘howl’ and
                                             roam freely so that any unmarried
                                             women out there can look for
                                             rings of the man who has come
                                             a-courting.
                                                 The height of festivities takes
                                             place on Carnival Tuesday — Queens
                                             Day — the choosing of the Queen of
                                             Carnival and ends in the early hours of
                                             Ash Wednesday with a ritual known
                                             as El Entierro de la Sardina — the
                                             Sardine Burial. This ritual originated
                                             in the mid 19th century by students
                                             from Madrid who formed a funeral
                                             cortège (presentation) presided by a
                                             sardine which symbolized the start        We learned that Ernesto booked 10 rooms a year              was suddenly doused heavily in water as an entire
                                             of fasting and abstinence on Ash          in advance and then, as his numbers became more             pail was poured over her. Holy smoke! When they
                                             Wednesday.                                certain, he let rooms go to be quickly filled.              say all rules of decorum are forgotten they are not
                                                 The French, who started Mardi             We had no idea what to expect except that we            kidding and getting soaked is serious. Two minutes
                                             Gras celebrations in New Orleans,         were told to dress in clothing which could get soaked,      later, it was me that was soaked. It was a bit of a
                                             were mostly Catholics. Carnival is        at least during the day time. Part of the fun of Carnival   shock, but a couple of minutes in the hot sun and
                                             also big in Brazil and the rest of        is getting soaked. Since the usual rules of decorum are     you are dry and yearning for more water. The square
                                             Latin America, where people are           relaxed, the young are permitted to take big water          is constantly visited by the Mojaderas or water trucks
                                             also mostly Catholic. It’s basically      pistols and hose down their parents and grandparents,       and you see people run up screaming “Aqua, Aqua
                                             a last chance to let it all hang out      their aunts and uncles - something these children,          Aqua” or “Water, Water.Water”. Standing on these
                                             (so to speak) before entering into        brought up to respect their elders, would never             huge tanker trucks of water with fire hoses the water
                                             40 days of fasting and reflection         ordinarily do. I loved seeing the three year old take a
                                             leading up to Easter. The rules           big water pistol and shoot three drops of water at his
                                             of decorum are ignored with the           Abuela (Grandma) and run to her to give her a big hug
                                             blessing of the church and there          and kiss. Then back to the gun to see how his Abuelo,
                                             are many, many births in November         (Grandpa) dealt with a few drops of water.
                                             - count the months from Carnival.             Our first stop was Los Santos. This is a relatively
                                                 We did Carnival in the interior
                                             and we did it by bus. Seven
                                                                                       small place but the entire town and their whole
                                                                                       families and all their friends were obviously out in
                                                                                                                                                    Dancing at Carnival
                                             gringos, a Panamanian tour leader         force. We were told to take no valuables with us             video
                                             and a Panamanian bus driver.              and were encouraged to take a plastic case which
                                             What a scene! Ernesto Chong               we could hang around our neck with a bit of
                                             had organized the hotel in Chitre,        money so that we could buy cerveza, (beer) or other
                                             Hotel Versailles. It was clean and        goodies. A big hat and water-proof sunscreen were
                                             lovely, with a swimming pool and          a must. We’re off to enjoy Carnival. My first shock
                                             restaurant that served terrific food.     was when my older friend standing quietly beside
                                             It was also swarming with people.         me, watching the road to see what would unfold,

24   Panama Today Magazine   February 2009                                                                                                                      February 2009   Panama Today Magazine   25
Carnival!                                                                                                                                                                                                              Carnival!
suppliers are only too happy to comply, and spraying    evenings are pleasant, so the water in the daytime is      at best. The Queens and their elaborate floats again
the crowd with clean water is a regular event.          very welcome. It is considered extremely bad form          circle each one, looking for the most applause and
    Then the parades start. There are a number of       to spray someone with water once they are dressed          the biggest cheers. Once the Queens have passed
bands - but they are mostly drunk so the sound is       for the evening. Some rules are ignored, others are        by the real parties begin. The Queens will of course
not quite music. They often leave their positions       very important. If you want to have friends then           visit the parties organized by their supporters – and,
in the parade and return at will. But everyone is       don’t violate the “no water in the evenings’ rule.         if an opposing Queen shows up, well they are quickly
singing and dancing so it is all good fun. Waves            We go back to our hotel to swim, eat and rest.         sent on their way back to their own parties.
of people pass from one side of the square to the       We enjoy dinner and then we are off for the evening            We are sort of party poopers and shut it down
other and back and forth. Then the Queens parade        parades and excitement in Chitre itself. The evenings      early. Panamanians love their parties and most of
by on their highly decorated floats.                    are different as everything is in artificial light. You    them will still be dancing - if they can still stand - at
    Once the parade of the Queens is over, the beer     realize that this is primarily a family get together and   4 or 5 in the morning. Now we know why there are
gardens open and the real bands - who take their        it is fun to watch. You see all the cousins, brothers      the afternoon and evening carnival sessions – but
music seriously - start to play. People dance, party    and sisters getting to know one another again. The         no morning ones.
and talk and generally have a wonderful time until      big ones look after the little ones and everyone has           The next day we are off to Ocu to a private party.
it is time to go home, rest up and get ready for the    a wonderful time.                                          1500 of this family’s closest friends and relatives
evening partying.                                           There are bands and dancing and then the               have been invited to come and party. Their “Queen”
    The big difference between daytime carnival         parades get underway again. The bands circle and           will be showing up to dance with everyone about
and evening carnival is the water - although the        play but the songs are simple - otherwise the bands        1PM. They have their very own water truck to keep
truth is that the daytime carnivals are hot while the   would get into trouble; these are weekend musicians        the crowd cool.
                                                                                                                       We wander up to the main square where there
                                                                                                                   is a serious party taking place. The families – kids,
                                                                                                                   parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and all the
                                                                                                                   cousins - are having a wonderful time. Beer gardens         or something a little stronger. The music is playing
                                                                                                                   abound, so you never have to go thirsty.                    and people are dancing, this is a giant party that
                                                                                                                       Back at the house party they have set up a big          just goes on and on and on. Eventually, it is time
                                                                                                                   dance area so the family and their friends are all up       for us to go back to our hotel to get ready for the
                                                                                                                   dancing. Everyone has known these dances since              evening carnival; we are going to Las Tablas.
                                                                                                                   the time they were very young; they circle the dance           Las Tablas, a provincial town about l30 miles
                                                                                                                   floor in elegant dresses, with the men in formal            west of Panama City, is considered by many to be
                                                                                                                   costumes as well. Eventually, the Queen and her
                                                                                                                   retinue show up - several princesses of various ages
                                                                                                                   and men in costume.
                                                                                                                       The Queen dances with the older men - she
                                                                                                                   knows who her sponsors are. The men dance with
                                                                                                                   the ladies, here too the older women are given lots
                                                                                                                                                                               Las Tablas Video Here
                                                                                                                   of attention. As the dancing continues, the crowd
                                                                                                                   becomes younger and younger.
                                                                                                                       Next it is time for the Queen and her party to go
                                                                                                                   and get ready for the afternoon parade so we head
                                                                                                                   up to the square to take in the festivities. There are
                                                                                                                   lots of street vendors selling food, fruit and water.
                                                                                                                   The beer gardens are always available for cervaza

26   Panama Today Magazine   February 2009                                                                                                                                                  February 2009   Panama Today Magazine   27
Carnival!                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Carnival!

Calle Arriba in Las
                                                         side cafes where you can sit and enjoy a glass of           exquisite work she is doing. She then shows us             day kept us amused but of course we had to see the
                                                         wine and watch the festivities. The bands here are          how she makes these intricate stitches. We chat            final crowning of the Queen in Chitre.

Tablas Video Here                                        an improvement on what we have been experiencing
                                                         so far and there is great music coming out of many
                                                                                                                     for a while and learn that in Pedasi there will be
                                                                                                                     a wedding where the entire wedding party will be
                                                                                                                                                                                    We missed the sardine burial but trust it went well.
                                                                                                                                                                                The next day we headed home, tired but definitely
                                                         nearby doors and spilling into the street. The crowd        in polleras. She says it will be like the weddings of      with a host of memories to last us a life time.
                                                         is definitely more restrained and the dancing is            old and she invites us to come back and see it. We             There are other types of Carnivals in other towns.
                                                         mostly confined to the bars.                                would love to, but the distance is great and so we         In Penonome, the capital of Cocle province, the
                                                             Finally, we can see the first huge float with the       know we won’t be back.                                     celebrations are held largely on the water as a river
                                                         first Queen coming around the corner. The floats                Now it is time to find Pedasi and the next Carnival.   runs through the city. In Panama City, the activities
                                                         are beautiful and there is much gold and glitter.           Pedasi is a beautiful, small town in Los Santos            are all a little more organized and a great deal
                                                         The crowds swarm out from the bars and the streets          province, and of course Carnival takes place in the        larger. On Sunday there is a formal Pollera parade.
                                                         are filled with music and swaying bodies. As the            main square in front of the church. To us, this looks      So, no matter where you are, Carnival is a lot of
                                                         Queens pass, the noise swells so you can tell where         a lot like all the other Carnivals, so after the Queens    fun, with many memories to take away with you.
the best place to celebrate Carnival - due largely       the supporters for each of them are massed. There           parade past, we decide we should see some beaches          So, when you see women dressed up in ‘man-tumblers’,
to the inter-town rivalry. The “High Street”(Calle       is much shouting and much playful fighting, but no          instead. Head in any direction from Pedasi - except        water-cannons and sardines being buried in little coffins,
Arriba) and “Low Street”(Calle Abajo) factions here      water now, as everyone is dressed in party clothes.         back to Las Tablas - and you will find beaches.            you know it can only mean the annual madness of...
compete aggressively with each other to see whose        Finally, as the parade winds down, the Queen steps              We spent the day finding beautiful beaches, and        Carnavaaaal! So, for an excuse to get soaking wet in
floats and costumes are best. As such, witnesses are     down from her float and starts to make the rounds           by the time we found our way back to Chitre that           public and dance ‘til your feet won’t dance any more,
treated to some of the most creative entries found       of the various parties where her supporters await.          night, we had no more energy for Carnival.                 you know where to head. PANAMA! ■
anywhere. Each group offers up their own Carnival        The crowds in the square return to their partying.              We found we were really partied out; it takes some
Queen and arranges their own parades and side                At about 11PM, the fireworks start and again the        stamina to party and drink with the Panamanians.
activities. Live concerts, food booths, games and        merry-makers come out of the bars to dance on the           So we enjoyed the pool and getting to see more of
fireworks are standard on each side.                     streets amid the explosions of color that light the sky.    Chitre. We went down into Arena and found beautiful
    We get to Las Tablas and there are lots of street-       While many revelers will carry on for hours, we         pots and pottery pieces. Poking around there for the
                                                         are ready for bed. Our faithful bus driver takes us
                                                                          back to our hotel.
                                                                               The next morning we are off to
                                                                           another town to see the pollera
                                                                           makers. Here in Azuero there are
                                                                           many pollera makers in the various

                                                                                                                     Calle Abajo with Queens
                                                                           tiny villages. Stephanie knows of
                                                                           one who won first prize for the best
                                                                           pollera last year, so we are off to see
                                                                           if we can find her.
                                                                                                                     on Parade Video Here
                                                                               Once we find the town there
                                                                           is no difficulty finding the house -
                                                                           there is a huge poster in front of it
                                                                           showing the beautiful pollera and
                                                                           the model wearing it, in all of her
                                                                           finery. The lady is not working as
                                                                           it is Sunday and Carnival time, but
                                                                           she but brings us out some of the


28   Panama Today Magazine   February 2009                                                                                                                                                    February 2009   Panama Today Magazine     29
                                                                                                              required to qualify for such designation is $120,000
                                                                                                              - and $20,000 in the rest of Panama.
                                                                                                                 Another important feature of the tourism
                                                                                                              incentives is that filming of feature length films
                                                                                                              and artistic or sporting events will be exempt from
                                                                                                              paying income tax on any profits (unless they would
                                                                                                              be given a tax credit in their home country and thus
                                                                                                              required to pay taxes there on these profits).
                                                                                                                 Yet another tourism activity that is treated
                                                                                                              differently is the building of convention centers,
                                                                                                              recreational parks, zoos, specialized ecotourism
                                                                                                              centers and marinas. The following tax incentives
Government Incentives to Develop Tourist Projects                                                             are granted:
      Ricardo Garcia de Paredes Panamanian Lawyer email: rgarcia@cableonda.net cel: 507- 6670-1566
                                                                                                                  1. Exemption for three years from import
                                                                                                                     duties on the importation of materials
                                                                                                                     and equipment which will be used in the
The Panamanian government has decided that             bed-and-breakfasts,       apart-hotels,   campsites,
                                                                                                                     construction and equipping of the business.
it would be good for the country as a whole if         restaurants, cabins, theme parks, time shares,
                                                                                                                     This is provided that the merchandise is not
there were more tourist facilities and activities to   hostels and “Horizontal Property” developments
                                                                                                                     sold, cannot be produced in the country
encourage more visitors to come to Panama.             condo developments) where the entire development
                                                                                                                     and is considered by the Panamanian
   To encourage this, the government has designed      is focused on increasing tourist activities. Some of
                                                                                                                     Tourism Institute as important for the
a series of incentives. For example:                   these, like restaurants, have a minimum investment
                                                                                                                     undertaking of the activity;
                                                       required while others do not.
     • They will not charge duty of any sort on                                                                   2. Depreciation of the real estate for a period
                                                           There are special provisions relating to the
       goods and materials - including automotive                                                                    of ten years; and
                                                       development and preservation of General Historic
       vehicles that carry a minimum of 8                                                                         3. Exoneration from real estate tax on the
                                                       Monuments, including a minimum investment of
       passengers and imported planes and boats                                                                      improvements for a period of twenty years.
                                                       $100,000 (exclusive of the value of the land).
       (which also have some size restrictions) –
                                                           People involved in tourism which specializes           Finally, there are some very special provisions
       as long as they are to be used in tourism
                                                       in receiving tourists to Panama and showing            regarding tourist developments undertaken in
       related projects
                                                       them around the country are also offered special       areas designated as “tourist development zones of
     • No property taxes for 20 years on property
                                                       incentives. They are given an exemption every three    national interest.”
       purchased for tourism purposes
                                                       years on the importation of limousines, buses,             This law is complex with many checks and
     • No income tax on the income earned by the
                                                       mini-buses and other vehicles which will be used       balances for the state of Panama to be assured they
       tourism companies
                                                       for transporting people. If these vehicles are sold    are getting what they want in exchange for these
     • No income tax on the interest earned if
                                                       then the duty must be paid at that time. Some          various incentives. So, if tourism is something you
       money is lent to fund a tourism project
                                                       vehicles used in this sort of activity require that    would like to invest in - and possibly be involved
There are other financial incentives and they vary     their purchase is pre-approved by the Panamanian       in - then consult a lawyer who is familiar with this
somewhat with the type of tourism project but the      Tourism Institute prior to importation.                area of law and be sure you understand fully what
intent is clear - Panama wants to encourage people         Certain night club, restaurant and discotheque     is required. Failure to comply fully has some serious
to create more tourism.                                businesses may be declared to be of tourist            adverse consequences. Do it right and you will be
   A ‘tourism enterprise’ includes most of the         interest by the Panamanian Tourist Institute. But,     aided generously by the state of Panama. ■
expected tourist enterprises such as hotels, motels,   in the metropolitan area the minimum investment


30    Panama Today Magazine   February 2009                                                                                                                           February 2009   Panama Today Magazine   31
32   Panama Today Magazine   February 2009   February 2009   Panama Today Magazine   33
                                             El Valle de Anton
                                                      Nestled in the second largest extinct volcano on earth, El
                                                      Valle (The Valley) is a garden paradise. Home for years
                                                      to the wealthy Panamanians who loved to get out of the
                                                      city, cool off in the mountains and enjoy the breathtaking
                                                      beauty, El Valle is quickly becoming a Mecca for expats.


                                             El Valle is famous for its market, where the artisans of   mountains all my life and this road is safe, well
                                             the area gather to peddle their wares, the gardeners       marked and very drivable. Sure, I sometimes get
                                             sell their plants and the farmers trade their delicious    trapped behind a bus or truck, and like any good
                                             fresh produce.                                             North American, my first reaction is frustration.
                                                 Driving to El Valle always fills my heart with joy     ‘Too slow’ my mind yells, but then I remember why
                                             as the drive into the mountains is spectacular and         I moved here - an opportunity to slow down, smell
                                             the scenery is amazing. I stop at friends on the way       the coffee and drink in the view. Then I enjoy the
                                             up to drink in their view which stretches back to the      whole trip and at a slower speed I can really enjoy
                                             ocean overlooking the green, green landscape and           the magnificent scenery all around me. I remind
                                             then over the homes and condo towers of Coronado           myself that it’s the journey, not the destination,
                                             to the Pacific ocean itself. You can never get enough      which is most important.
                                             of that view.                                                 As I climb into the hills and then up into the
                                                 Continuing up the winding road, some people            mountains the temperature outside my car cools.
                                             complain of the curves, but I have lived near              Soon I can open the window and drive without the


34   Panama Today Magazine   February 2009                                                                          February 2009   Panama Today Magazine   35
El Valle de Anton                                                                                                                                                              El Valle de Anton
                                             air conditioner. As I come over the crest and head       have been in season now for a couple of months.
                                             down into the valley, I feel at home and at peace.       Watermelon and papaya are usually available and
                                             My wonderful friends - Becky and Larry from              - unlike the papaya you often see in North America
                                             Washington State - live here and run a bed and           - these ones can be huge, 5 lbs or more, and over
                                             breakfast, the Golden Frog Inn. I immediately head       a foot long. Did we say “Watermelon?” There
                                             there for a great cappuccino and my connection           are often new fruits to try and new vegetables
                                             with their paradise. It is like spending time in your    to learn about. Sweet potatoes are usually here
                                             very own Garden of Eden.                                 (ask for manote) and the berries often need
                                                 Driving around El Valle, I always have to stop       some explanation. You can even get the fruit that
                                             and take another picture and view another piece          the cashew nut grows from. Did you know the
                                             of paradise. Behind the fences of the private            cashew nut is poisonous until it is cooked? It is
                                             estates lurk amazing gardens. I often leave my car       always fun to learn more about the food we eat.
                                             and amble down the road. El Valle is a place made            But the El Valle market is well known for far more
                                             for walking, or sitting and listening to the birds,      than its produce. Many artisans from the various
                                             and just enjoying nature.                                native tribes bring their wares. There is the Kuna -
                                                 Of course, no trip to El Valle is complete without   with their beaded leg wraps, bright tops and little
                                             a trip to the market. I always fill my car with the      kerchiefs on their head - they have children and
                                             fresh produce - the tomatoes and the squash, the         molas galore. You can find the beautiful, woven
                                             fresh lettuce and the great sweet peppers. Celery        watertight containers of the Embera and you can
                                             and onions, both red and yellow, are plentiful and       see the beautiful clothes of the Ngobe Bugle. There
                                             their green onions are small and very flavorful.         are beautiful wooden platters decorated with
                                             You can find hot peppers if you look and the fruits      amazing painted animals, birds and flowers. There
                                             are fantastic. Usually there is fresh pineapple and      are even local artists who do their work on canvas.
                                             coconut, and there are lots of different tree fruits.    I keep threatening to buy this one picture of the
                                             From March through July and sometimes into               Harpy Eagle with his talons outstretched, but my
                                             August there are mangoes. Since there are about          husband assures me the house is already full of
                                             20 different kinds of mangos you will not run out        pictures. He does have a point, but boy am I going
                                             of new mangos to try any time soon.                      to be disappointed when that picture is gone!
                                                 Oranges are currently in season and tangerines           Then, at the other end from the artisans there




36   Panama Today Magazine   February 2009                                                                                                                     February 2009    Panama Today Magazine   37
El Valle de Anton                                                                                                                              Carnival!
                                                                                                                                     El Valle de Anton




                                             are the plants. The orchids here are amazing. You         you back in time to days when houses were truly
                                             just have to make sure that the plants you get here       huge and elegant. The full-size concert grand in the
                                             will grow in the area you live.                           living room is wonderful. The entire experience is
                                                 Leaving the market you can go out to your car and     one you will remember for a long time.
                                             drive a short distance to the mud baths. You can rent         We linger over lunch - enjoying the flowers and
                                             a horse and go for a leisurely ride around the valley,    the beautiful setting. And we indulge ourselves with
                                             go for walk by the waterfalls or just enjoy the amazing   a second glass of wine knowing we are not driving
                                             gardens that are there for everyone’s pleasure. There     far. Finally, it is time to return to the Golden Frog Inn.
                                             is always lots to see and lots to do in El Valle.         I want to go for a walk around some of the garden
                                                 This time, my friend and I decided we would go        properties in El Valle and swim before it gets dark.
                                             to Casa de Lourdes for lunch. Lourdes de Ward is a            We are staying with Becky and Larry at the Golden
                                             revered chef who studied with people such as Martha       Frog Inn for the night so we can look forward to even
                                             Stewart and Paul Prudhomme outside Panama. She            more gastronomical treats. We will undoubtedly go
                                             returned to create her own dishes with her own            out for dinner and Becky’s breakfasts are amazing.
                                             flair, and her use of Panama’s wonderful fruits takes         I always eat so much when I come to El Valle that
                                             her dishes from good to extraordinary. The food at        I can’t imagine spending more than one day here.
                                             her restaurant is amazing, the setting exquisite.         You will just have to come and enjoy this wonderful
                                             Walking through this gorgeous Manor House takes           place for yourself. ■


38   Panama Today Magazine   February 2009                                                                           February 2009    Panama Today Magazine    39
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Investing in Panama

                                                                                                                         There are several other night       world economy in turmoil, now           vegetables - and of course they
                                                                                                                     clubs for sale. They cost more but      is a great time to get started.         prefer to buy locally. It cuts their
                                                                                                                     you really can make a lot of money      Things are costing less, so your        costs tremendously.
                                                                                                                     with them.                              initial investment will be much             So, when you hear “Invest in
                                                                                                                         Invest in an existing bar - or      smaller than it would have been         Panama” don’t just think real
                                                                                                                     restaurant and bar. The current         a year ago. As things pick up, you      estate. Come and spend some time
                                                                                                                     owner is looking to expand the          will have your markets established      in Panama and you will be amazed
                                                                                                                     business but wants a partner, not       and be able to cash in on the           at the opportunities you see.
                                                                                                                     a loan. In other words, he wants to     foundations you lay today.              However, you must understand
                                                                                                                     slow down and think about retiring          Panama is exploding with new        your hosts, the Panamanians.
                                                                                                                     - but he will show you how to run the   people and new businesses. The          As my friend Didier at LOWCOM
                                                                                                                     business in Panama. The financials      real estate boom has put a lot of       Business and Investments says:
                                                                                                                     show a steady cash flow and the         money into the economy and it           “You can’t come here expecting
                                                                                                                     owner is currently taking home          has filtered down. The cars you         to do business the way you did
                                                                                                                     about $100,000 a year in income.        see today are not the junkers we        it in North America or Europe.
                                                                                                                     He is looking for a 50% partner for     saw when we first arrived here          But, if you come and learn a little
                                                                                                                     a million dollar investment, but is     four years ago. With all these new      bit about the culture, there is a
                                                                                                                     happy if some of that investment        businesses and people coming            fortune to be made”. ■
                                                                                                                     is a loan. He expects the business      to Panama there is an exploding
                                                                                                                     could easily double.                    market for new higher end goods
                                                                                                                         Apartment hotel needs re-           and services.
                                                                                                                     novations. Panama City has about            The demand for green products,
                                                                                                                     110% occupancy of their hotels          eco-friendly services and organic
                                                                                                                     as people crash in lobbies when         produce is exploding. This is not
                                                                                                                     they just can’t find a room. This       traditional in Panama and opens up
                                                                                                                     40 room apartment hotel can be          entire new business opportunities
     Most people hear ‘Investing in Panama’ and think ‘real                                                          put in order for about $3million        for those who understand these
                                                                                                                     dollars. The current owners want        businesses.
     estate’. While real estate is good, in today’s climate it                                                       an active partner, so they are              Panama is open for business,
     is perhaps riskier than other sorts of investments which                                                        willing to put up the existing land     and while there are definitely rules
                                                                                                                     and building (appraised at $3.5         that must be followed, there is
     you can make in Panama.                                                                                         million) as collateral on a loan to a   strong support in the government
                                                                                                                     partner who will put up $1million       for investors willing to come and
                                                                                                                     cash and take on the renovation.        open up businesses in Panama.
You could buy raw land that is still    trees on the land, determine prices   helping the environment and also       You do the math: 40 rooms per               Panama just opened its new
covered with trees - maybe even         and start some selective logging.     helping to increase the income of      night at $180.                          cruise ship terminal in Colon and
hardwoods. Let them age! It is          The hardwood trees in particular      the locals in Panama.                      Start an import/export business     is now the home port for a cruise
good for the environment as trees       can be worth a fortune. Hire a           Buy a nightclub for $100,000        in the Free Zone. Check out last        ship of the Carnival line. This
protect land from the ravages of        farmer, get these trees replanted     and you could end up with a            month’s magazine for all the            opens up a lot of opportunities
rain and take carbon dioxide out of     and pay him to make sure they         bottom line profit of $80,000          benefits of a business in the Free      for new businesses as these
the atmosphere. Take an inventory       grow well. You will continue to       annually. Yes, it does exist and is    Zone. No wonder business in the         ships need a lot of things from
of the hardwoods, and any other         make a fortune - and you will be      for sale - but you need to act fast.   Free Zone is exploding. With the        cruise ship employees to fresh


40   Panama Today Magazine    February 2009                                                                                                                                                     February 2009   Panama Today Magazine   41
42   Panama Today Magazine   February 2009   February 2009   Panama Today Magazine   43
                                                                                A Trip to Visit an




Panama is blessed               with a number of native    Panamanian government who agreed to help them           the time. The men taking you to the village will wear      likely be your fingers. Enjoy this simple but quite
tribes who live alongside the Panamanians. They            relocate to a land very similar to their homeland,      very little except for a loincloth pouch - in which they   delicious repast.
interact happily and yet still retain their own culture.   but which would also provide better access to           carry all the things that they need. Be sure to bring          Don’t be shocked by the fact that the women are
Today we are going to visit an Embera village located      healthcare and education. In return, Panama asked       a swimsuit as there is a wonderful opportunity to          bare-breasted. This is their tradition, so respect it.
along the Chagres River near Panama City. This is          the Embera group to explain their way of life to        swim with the natives in their waterfall pool. Don’t       The beaded tops that they wear are beautiful - even
one of the rivers that feeds Lake Gatun, on which          tourists and to show them their native crafts. Thus,    worry, the water is warm - and as the air in Panama        if they do not fully cover their breasts.
the canal relies for the fresh water it needs to run       in the rainforest by the Chagres River close to the     is warm, you will find the swim refreshing.                    Everyone has a tattoo, and for the women, this
the locks.                                                 Panama Canal, you have the privilege of visiting this       Once you reach the village you will be greeted and     is a decoration which they wear with pride. This
    Originally, the Embera tribe lived in the Darien       very traditional Embera village.                        welcomed by the elders of the tribe to a backdrop          “tattoo” however is plant dye similar to henna and
area of Panama. Even today, this area is still a largely      You might want to bring some basic gifts such        of traditional music. The women of the tribe will          will wash off in a few days. No needles or pain are
untouched rainforest inhabited by the native tribes        as packaged milk for the village, since all shops are   be preparing the food for your lunch. This is very         involved. So all female visitors and many children
who have always relied on it for their food and way        far away. To get to the village you must travel by      traditional food, often including freshly caught           get “tattoos”.
of life. Many are still there. But one faction decided     traditional cayuco. The cayuco is a dugout canoe        fish and rice. You will likely also enjoy plantains -          The men will entertain you with music which they
that living closer to civilization offered many benefits   hollowed from a tree trunk. Unlike the natives you      which are somewhat like big bananas - and fresh            play on their instruments, all of which they have
- including far better health care and opportunities       will be given a life jacket for the trip, even though   sweet pineapple will be dessert. Your plates will          created from what nature provides in the rainforest.
for their youth. They sought the assistance of the         the river you are traveling is quite shallow most of    be banana leaves and your cutlery will more than           Take a close look at these instruments - it is amazing


44   Panama Today Magazine     February 2009                                                                                                                                               February 2009   Panama Today Magazine   45
                                                              what a little patience and considerable know-how      enjoy people-watching as the Embera live quite
                                                              can create by using just rudimentary tools and        simply - and very differently than most of us do.
      The children of the village will be scampering around   nature’s bounty.                                      Yet, there is much laughter and obviously they are
                                                                 The entire setting is one of peace and you will    very happy with life.
     while you enjoy your day, laughing and giggling. Like    have time to bird watch, often seeing quite exotic       Finally, it is time for the dancing. The men will ask
                                                              birds like wild toucans. If you show interest then    the ladies to dance. Most North Americans tower
            children everywhere they wear big smiles . . .    someone from the tribe will help you to spot these    over these short, stocky native men, but they know
                                                              and many other interesting birds. You can also just   the steps. In addition to the father, you may even get

46   Panama Today Magazine   February 2009                                                                                        February 2009   Panama Today Magazine   47
                                                                                                                         Embera Village
                                             a young man who is being taught the dance steps as
                                             your partner - the training must go on all the time.
                                                 The ladies of the Embera will then ask the tourist
                                             men to dance. Even young men will tower over
                                             these ladies but enjoy learning their native steps.
                                                 The children of the village will be scampering around
                                             while you enjoy your day, laughing and giggling. Like
                                             children everywhere they wear big smiles and are well
                                             fed and clean but will probably be totally undressed.
                                             The jungle has been their home and the air is always
                                             warm so there is little need for excessive clothing -
                                             and for the kids any clothing is excessive.
                                                 You can watch the men create beautiful works
                                             of art from the tagua nut. They call this nut
                                             “replenishable ivory” as the inside of the nut is a
                                             beautiful white ivory color. They can create real
                                             works of art using this tagua nut; you may see a
                                             jaguar or a pair of sloths, the beautiful colored frogs
                                             which frequent the jungle or a monkey. All of these
                                             may be seen, along with many more interesting
                                             creations made with rudimentary tools from this
                                             nut. The carving process takes many days and a
                                             carved nut of very high quality could cost $25 and
                                             sometimes more but the time involved is long..
                                                 The women weave amazing waterproof baskets
                                             from material created using the leaves of the jungle.
                                             The weave is incredibly tight and even a small basket
                                             takes days to make. They always weave intricate
                                             patterns into the basket so at the end you have a
                                             very versatile piece of art.
                                                 At the end of the day you can purchase some of
                                             these amazing creations which you have seen them
                                             making. While it is not their way to be at all pushy
                                             and you will not feel any pressure to buy anything
                                             at all, it would be nice if you did buy some things as
                                             this is how they support themselves. You will have
                                             a very memorable treasure or two to take home.
                                                 Eventually, your day with the Embera must come
                                             to an end and you will get back in the Cayuco to
                                             return to your point of embarkation. I know you
                                             will have had a wonderful day to remember for the
                                             rest of your life. ■

48   Panama Today Magazine   February 2009                                                               February 2009    Panama Today Magazine   49
                                                                                                 The Colon Free Zone

                                                   What is Free in the Colon Free Zone (CFZ)? It is the second
                                                largest duty free zone in the world - and the largest in the western
                                                    hemisphere. Only Hong Kong has a larger duty free zone.




                                             W
                                                         hat does “duty free”        Many countries rely on a sales tax      be for the goods to be repackaged
                                                         really mean? Every          on goods sold within the country        (or sold and repackaged) and at
                                                         country in the world        for a large portion of their income.    least 60% of the goods sent to other
                                             charges a duty on imported              Most countries also charge an           places - not sold here in Panama.
                                             goods. It’s an attempt to protect       “export duty” to their businesses       So, for example, if you buy 1 million
                                             that country’s own products and         when they send their products           shoes in Brazil at a very good price,
                                             services - and it’s a way to generate   abroad since they are not going         you can ship them to the CFZ, get
                                             income. If a country sets up a Free     to receive sales tax on them.           them unloaded and pay no import
                                             Trade Agreement with another                                                    duty. Then, you could send some
                                             country (or group of countries), the    Is setting up a business in CFZ         of those shoes on to Turkey, some
                                             import duty is not charged between      a “good investment”? One of             to Hong Kong or some to North
                                             themselves. This means that goods       the major benefits of setting up a      America. You can sell them on to
                                             can flow amongst the partners           business here in the CFZ is that you    other parties who will import them
                                             without duty (subject to the terms      pay no import or export duty on         into Turkey, Hong Kong and North
                                             of the agreement - such as when         goods brought in. This is subject to    America. You can even set up a
                                             certain goods are exempted).            the proviso that the intention must     retail outlet or two in Panama and


50   Panama Today Magazine   February 2009                                                                              February 2009   Panama Today Magazine   51
                                                                                                                                                                                                               The Colon Free Zone
                                                                                                                         everything – from the warehouse facilities and           never putting the banks themselves at risk. Many of the
                                                                                                                         the showrooms to the security and the computer           banks have branches in the CFZ as this is where a lot
                                                                                                                         tracking systems. It links you immediately with ships    of business is done each day. Nearly $2 billion dollars
                                                                                                                         bound anywhere in the world. There is also a train       worth of banking transactions were carried out here in
                                                                                                                         that constantly moves containers back and forth          the last year of operations.
                                                                                                                         from the Atlantic to the Pacific, allowing for the rapid     There are over 27,000 people currently employed
                                                                                                                         movement of goods anywhere in the world.                 here - many of them fluently bilingual in Spanish
                                                                                                                             Tocumen Inter-national Airport is only 90            and English. You will also find people speaking
                                                                                                                         kilometers away and serves over 38 international         many other languages as well. The Arab states are
                                                                                                                         cargo and passenger airlines - so flying cargo in to     well represented amongst the merchants, as are
                                                                                                                         the CFZ is easy. Nonetheless, the CFZ is working to      many people from Hong Kong and China.
                                                                                                                         create an international airport on the Atlantic side -       There are strict measures in place to pre-vent
                                                                                                                         much closer to the CFZ - to better serve its clients.    brand name piracy and money laundering. A special
                                                                                                                             There are many                                                                    copyright and patent
                                                                                                                         good hotels located                                                                   office was set up in
sell 25% of them that way. You will pay sales tax only      Besides Limited Taxation, what other advantages              nearby, including a            The banking system in Panama is one                    1997.
on the shoes sold in other parts of Panama. You will        does the CFZ offer? The age-old secret of “location,         Sheraton Four Points               of the best in the world and your
also pay income tax on retail profits.                      location, location” is one of its biggest advantages.        and a Radisson. The           privacy is one of their most important Where are the bulk
    Income made anywhere in Panama is taxed -               Nearly all the trade routes of the world pass through        ‘Melia’ on the Panama                                                                 of imports from and
but it can be reduced, depending on the number              here. It is at the Caribbean gateway to the Panama           Canal is part of a
                                                                                                                                                       concerns. Even with the banking crisis where do they go?
of Panamanians you employ. Income tax ranges                Canal allowing ships to come and go to the Pacific or        Spanish chain. The               that is sweeping the world in 2008                   The major importers are
between 20% (up to $30,000 annually) to 50% (on             to the Atlantic. The weather is constantly mild and          setting is peaceful and                                                               China, Taiwan, Hong
                                                                                                                                                          there are no banks here in trouble.
annual income in excess of $500,000).                       there are no hurricanes - so ships can come here in          serene and there is a                                                                 Kong, the United States
    Income received from overseas is tax free and           total safety. There are no pirates - as in the days of old   casino on the grounds.                                                                and Japan. Common
you can also send dividends to offshore share-              - so your cargo remains safely in your possession. As            You can showcase                                                                  destinations are the
holders tax free.                                           the CFZ is right next to Manzanillo Terminals (one of        all of your wares to the world from one convenient       Latin American countries - Ecuador, Venezuela,
    There is no capital investment tax and no municipal     the largest and best run ports in the world) goods are       location. If you have access to fine golden jewelry      Guatemala, Colombia - and of course Panama
(or other taxes) apply to firms in the Free Zone. There     offloaded efficiently and brought to your showroom.          from Bali or artisan products from Ghana, you can        itself.
is no Capital Gains Tax on the sale of Free Zone assets     They can then be displayed or repackaged for further         display them here, take orders, bring the goods in,
which have been held for at least two years.                shipping anywhere in the world. And Manzanillo is            repackage them and ship them out again duty free.              How do you set up business in the Free Zone? First
    So, business done in the CFZ attracts limited - or      just one of five ports that are close to the CFZ.            And all the profits are yours to keep.                         you must make an application to the Administration
even zero - tax. It is possible to pay no import or             One of the specializations of the CFZ is the                The US dollar is the currency of trade. Here                and supply commercial and bank references. Ideally
export duties, no production tax and no sales tax.          willingness of the merchants there to bring in               in Panama it is the currency also, so you can do               you should have reference letters from two banks
                                                            large container loads and break them into several            business in US dollars without needing to exchange             and a couple of suppliers who can say that you
Who can set up business in the CFZ? Anyone can.             smaller lots. This means that it’s easy for even             currencies or worry about exchange rates.                      are a reliable customer who pays your bills. You
As long as you are a real “natural” person, a lawfully      small merchants in other parts of the world to buy              The banking system in Panama is one of the best in          require a Pas y salvo (Clearance Certificate) from the
registered company or a private interest foundation,        wholesale - and duty free. These smaller lots can be         the world and your privacy is one of their most important      Panamanian tax authorities (Ministerio de Economia
you can set up a business in the CFZ. And, if you are       shipped in containers with other loads going to the          concerns. Even with the banking crisis that is sweeping        y Finanzia). If you are applying in the name of a
not from panama, this may even qualify you for a            same place allowing costs to be kept low.                    the world in 2008 there are no banks here in trouble.          corporate entity, you must supply a copy of the
residency visa (called a Macro-Business Investor                The atmosphere here is one of worldwide trade being      Each bank in Panama must be set up autonomously so             Articles of Incorporation. No commercial license is
Visa). If you only want to visit Panama a couple of times   conducted with little interference from government.          potential problems elsewhere do not follow them here.          required and no minimum capitalization is required.
each year, then the Visitor Visa is easy to obtain.             CFZ is constantly expanding and improving                Although credit is available, it is conservatively offered -   However, if you want an Investor Visa you will have


52    Panama Today Magazine    February 2009                                                                                                                                                         February 2009   Panama Today Magazine   53
The Colon Free Zone                                                                                                                                                                               The Colon Free Zone
to comply with the requirements for the amount of      representative - if you are a small merchant this makes
money which you are investing.                         a lot of sense. These established merchants make all
                                                       the arrangements - from obtaining transportation to
A Permanent Resident Permit for Macro-business         receiving the goods, preparing all the paperwork to
Investors requires an investment in a macro-company    packing and repacking as you specify. They will re-
of $160,000 for the applicant. If the investor has     export as you require and will even bill and collect the
dependents, the investment must be increased by        money if you wish. You, in the meantime, retain title
$2,000 for each dependent. The company must have       to the merchandise and create your own agreements
at least five Panamanian employees on the payroll.     of sale and resale. This sort of arrangement requires
The five employees rule coincides conveniently with    the approval of the Administration who will demand
the minimum number of Panamanians you must             that at least 60% of the goods brought in are re-
employ to do business in the CFZ.                      exported. The advantages of this sort of arrangement
                                                       are obvious - minimum start up costs, no capital
There are four common ways of doing business           investment and no overheads. But you must choose
in the Free Zone:                                      your partner wisely.
1. You may rent existing premises from a private                                                                  quite helpful in making the necessary arrangements.      this consists mainly of warehouses but there are a
                                                       4. You can simply use the public warehouse to store
owner.                                                                                                                If you reside in Panama, you are really better off   few showrooms there too. France Field lies across
                                                       your goods and you can unpack, repack and re-label
                                                                                                                  purchasing what you want at a retail outlet. This        Manzanillo Bay and is connected by a bridge. You
2. You can obtain a 20 year lease on a plot of land    your goods there. This does cut costs - but if your
                                                                                                                  is because there are no warranties on the goods          will need transportation though - getting there on
and build your premises to suit your needs (subject    goods are not well known and you do not have a
                                                                                                                  you purchase in the Free Zone and you will have to       foot is just too difficult since it’s a fair distance.
to approval by the Administration).                    well established market for them, there is nowhere
                                                                                                                  pay sales tax. No one can leave the Free Zone with          If you are looking to set up business (or talk
                                                       to showcase your wares. The administration makes
3. You may choose to use an existing company as your                                                              their merchandise. So, if you are buying for use in      to someone about doing so) you will find the
                                                       money by collecting dues based on the value of
                                                                                                                  Panama, the product will have to be shipped to you       administration offices in the commercial area.
                                                       the merchandise and charging for the use of their
                                                                                                                  – for which you will have to pay.
                                                       materials and labor force.
                                                                                                                      If you are a merchant then you can contract for         How do I get to Colon and the Free Zone? You



 Insert
                                                       How can I visit the CFZ? If you simply want to             the goods you want - in the quantities you want - to     can get here by car, train or bus. You can easily rent
                                                       shop in the largest duty free area you can imagine         be shipped to wherever you wish. All the paperwork       cars at Tocumen airport - or better yet - take an air-
                                                       then tours are available - or you can make your            can be done for you on the spot and the banking          conditioned bus. Buses leave the airport every half



 Video Here
                                                       own arrangements. Hotels in the area can help if           arrangements can be made. The CFZ specializes            hour to Colon up until 11am each day. If you are in
                                                       you wish to do that. You must have a passport and          in getting the goods you want to you in the most         Panama City, there is a train that leaves for Colon
                                                       your return ticket as the goods will be packaged           efficient manner – be that by land, sea or air.          each morning at 7:15am and returns to Panama City
                                                       and shipped “in-bond” to the airport (currently                You enter the CFZ through one of about 5             at 5:15pm. You will find that your fellow passengers
                                                       Tocumen) to await your trip home. This normally            security gates. Your purpose in the Free Zone and        are mostly employees in the Free Zone - which
                                                       takes about 24 hours - so don’t try to do this on          your destination should be communicated to               means that lots of taxis meet the train. There are
                                                       the day of your departure. Even on the day of your         security prior to your arrival. Of course, you are       also buses and taxis that will take you from Panama
                                                       departure, make sure there is sufficient time before       “free to shop” if you are a commercial buyer but         City to the Free Zone. But be warned, the road is
                                                       your flight to get goods out of the customs area.          security will want to see some paperwork. Once           dangerous. It is still under construction so there
                                                           If you make several purchases, try to arrange for      through the security gates there are two main            are lots of trucks using this road every day - serious
                                                       them all to be shipped to just one company (this is        parts to the Zone. One, known as the “commercial         accidents are commonplace.
                                                       called “traspassing”). They will make arrangements to      area,” is where most of the showrooms are located           You will need a valid passport and you will
                                                       send them all together to the airport. Most of the Free    and where most of the purchasing and contracting         have to show it to security to get a pass into the
                                                       Zone merchants understand the system and will be           is done. The other area is known as France Field -       Free Zone. Taxis and rental cars are not allowed


54   Panama Today Magazine   February 2009                                                                                                                                              February 2009   Panama Today Magazine   55
The Colon Free Zone
into the Free Zone - so be prepared to walk. Wear          Lake Gatun feeding water to the Panama Canal. It
comfortable shoes instead of your best sandals as          is about 15 minutes away from the Zone by car but
there is a lot of construction going on – mud (lots of     it has its own on-site casino and they arrange buses
it) is everywhere. The dress code is casual as you are     or taxis to take people shopping in the Zone.
outside a lot - and the temperature is very warm (25-
30 degrees Celsius) with a high humidity factor.           What else do I need to know? While Colon is
     The laws governing the Free Zone prohibit             not experiencing anything like the “condo-boom”
restaurants within the area itself, but there are street   that has hit Panama City, there are million dollar
vendors selling everything from the local empanada         mansions showing up along the bay and new
(a pastry encased meat, cheese or chicken offering)        condo developments are in evidence. For the real
to hamburgers or even shish-kebabs. There is a food        estate investor, the Atlantic side offers a variety of
court located a short distance away, just outside the      opportunities and it is still relatively untouched -
Zone.                                                      unlike the Pacific side of Panama. With tides of just
     As the CFZ consists of 400 hectares of showrooms,     one foot rather than 18 feet, this would be an ideal
you may want to plan your visit over a few days.           location for a large marina project.
There are hotels such as the Old/New Washington                The first cruise ship leaves from the Colon Cruise
Hotel in Colon itself. There’s a new Radisson Hotel        Ship Terminal this December to ply the waters of the
conveniently located close to the Free Zone and a          southern Caribbean.
there’s a Sheraton Four Points. If you really want to          You can expect to hear much more about Colon
enjoy the area while you are working, then the Melia       and the Free Zone in the coming years. Although it
Panama Canal is nestled into the rainforest beside         is big already, it is destined to get much bigger. ■




56   Panama Today Magazine     February 2009                                                                        February 2009   Panama Today Magazine   57
                                             Come back with me to the time of
                                             Christopher Columbus, for that’s
                                             where our story starts. . . .




The City           with
                                             The Spanish sought gold and the conquest
                                             of other lands where there was gold to be had. They
                                             also sought to dominate world trade. Christopher
                                                                                                         commander of the largest Spanish expedition (19
                                                                                                         vessels and 1,500 men) which had ever been sent to
                                                                                                         America. He reached Santa Marta in Colombia and




  Two Pasts
                                             Columbus had a bold plan to help them in their latter       from there he ventured into Dariên, where Vasco
                                             quest. He sailed in 1492 to the Americas in search          Nuñez de Balboa - the man who discovered the
                                             of a new trade route from Spain to India. Such a            Pacific Ocean - governed.
                                             route would give Spain an advantage over its rivals            Dävila had been appointed governor of Panama
                                             in the fierce world trade battle for the spices of India.   and in 1519 he founded Panama City. In 1524 he
                                             Instead, he sailed unknowingly into the Caribbean           moved his capital there, abandoning Dariên. He was
                                             islands off North America, hence the name West              a party to the original agreement with Francisco
                                             Indies. Finally, on his fourth journey in 1502, he found    Pizarro and Diego de Almagro which brought
                                             his way into what is now known as Almirante Bay             about the discovery of Peru. Spain immediately set
                                             in the province of Bocas Del Toro in Panama. Here           out to conquer this newly discovered land and find
                                             he heard tell of gold and a strait to another ocean.        gold. Dävila later withdrew from the agreement to
                                             Excited, Columbus set out to find both.                     conquer Peru in 1526 (for a small compensation)
                                                 His explorations found neither. He did, however,        having lost confidence in the outcome. In the same
                                             establish a garrison at Rio Belen and his explorations      year he was superseded as Governor of Panama by
                                             created great excitement as the Spanish sought to           Pedro de los Rios.
                                             conquer more territory - and in particular South               Dävila retired to Leon in Nicaragua, where, on 1
                                             America. So, the idea of a waterway through                 July 1527, he was named the new governor. Here
                                             Panama was a welcome thought indeed, one the                he lived for the rest of his life until he died at the
                                             Spanish would not soon abandon.                             age of 91 on 6 March 1531. He left an unenviable
                                                 The first historic city of Panama was founded on        record - a man of unreliable character, cruel and
                                             15 August 1519 by Pedro Arias de Avila (sometimes           unscrupulous. However, through his founding of
                                             Dävila) who was a Spanish colonial administrator.           Panama, he laid the basis for the discovery of South
                                             His claim to fame seems to be his marriage to an            America’s west coast and the subsequent conquest
                                             intimate friend of Queen Isabella I of Spain. He saw        and plunder of Peru.
                                             some service in Europe - both as a soldier in the wars         Within years of its founding, the city of Panama
                                             against the Moors at Granada in Spain and also in           became a launching point for the exploration
                                             North Africa. Finally, at the age of nearly seventy,        and conquest of Peru and a transit point for gold
                                             in 1514 King Ferdinand II of Aragon made him                and silver heading for Spain. The Spanish had


58   Panama Today Magazine   February 2009                                                                            February 2009   Panama Today Magazine   59
The City with Two Pasts                                                                                                                                               The City with Two Pasts
                                             never abandoned hope for the waterway through           suburban living feasible and downtown living more
                                             Panama and in searching they discovered how             difficult. In the Casco’s case, these pressures were
                                             narrow the entire country of Panama really was.         exacerbated by the fact that the boundaries of
                                             So, they decided to take gold by mule train across      the Panama Canal Zone - which was off limits to
                                             the isthmus rather than sending ships around the        Panamanians - were drawn so as to pinch the Casco
                                             tip of South America.                                   off from the rest of the city, leaving only one narrow
                                                 However, pirates quickly started attacking the      road for both entrance and exit.
                                             mule trains as they marched through the jungle,             The handover of the Panama Canal in 1999 and
                                             causing Spain to lose a lot of the gold and silver      UNESCO World Heritage Site designation in 1998
                                             which they had plundered from South America.            ushered in an era of revitalization by government,
                                             Finally, in 1671, the Welsh pirate Henry Morgan -       entrepreneurs and international organizations.
                                             with the help of a band of 1,400 men - attacked and
                                             looted the city of Panama itself. It was subsequently   Panama as a UNESCO World Heritage Site
                                             destroyed by fire. The ruins of the old city still      Panama La Vieja (Old Panama) is the name used
                                             remain and are a popular tourist attraction known       for the architectural vestiges of the Monumental
                                             as Panamá la Vieja (Old Panama).                        Historic Complex of the first Spanish city. It was
                                                 Panama City was rebuilt in 1673 in a new location   founded on the Pacific coast of the Americas by
                                             approximately 5 miles (8.0 km) southwest of the         Pedro Arias de Avila on 15 August 1519. The city
                                             original city. This location is now known as the        had been the starting point of the expeditions
                                             Casco Viejo (Old Quarter) of the city. It remained      that conquered the Inca Empire in Peru (1532) and
                                             the center of Panamanian life for nearly 300 years      it was also a stopover point on one of the most
                                             until the 1930s when, like many old quarters in         important trade routes in the history of the American
                                             Latin America, Casco Antiguo declined as Panama’s       continent. In fact, the successful arrival of the gold,
                                             upper-crust moved to the suburbs.                       silver and Incan treasures - plundered by Spain from
                                                 The reason for the exodus is typically attributed   Peru - led to the famous fairs of Nombre de Dios
                                             to the emergence of the automobile, which made          and Portobelo where most of this gold and silver




60   Panama Today Magazine   February 2009                                                                                                                     February 2009   Panama Today Magazine   61
 The City with Two Pasts                                                                                           The City with Two Pasts
                                             passed through on its way to the Spanish galleons
                                             taking it back to Spain.
                                                 The UNESCO Committee decided to designate
                                             this property a World heritage site on the basis of
                                             cultural criteria (ii), (iv) and (vi), because Panamá was
                                             the first European settlement on the Pacific coast of
                                             the Americas. The Historic District preserves an intact
                                             street pattern, together with a substantial number
                                             of early domestic buildings. These are exceptional
                                             testimony to the nature of this early settlement. The
                                             Salón Bolivar is of outstanding historical importance
                                             as the venue for Simón Bolivar’s visionary attempt in
                                             1826 to create a Pan-American congress more than
                                             a century before such institutions became a reality.

                                             Casco Viejo or Casco Antiguo, Panama
                                             Casco Antiguo was designated a World Heritage Site
                                             by UNESCO in 1998. After the first settlement was
                                             destroyed by disease and the attacks of pirates - the
                                             final and most memorable one being that of Henry
                                             Morgan described above - the city moved to a rocky
                                             peninsula which was both healthier and easier to
                                             defend. In 1673, they founded what today is called
                                             officially Casco Antiguo, but is also known as San
                                             Felipe - and more commonly, Casco Viejo.
                                                 Currently in the revitalization process, Casco
                                             Antiguo is a mix of different architectural styles,




62   Panama Today Magazine   February 2009                                                               February 2009   Panama Today Magazine   63
The City with Two Pasts                                                                                                                                                The City with Two Pasts
                                             reflecting the cultural diversity of the country         think about sustainable development. The ‘green’
                                             - Caribbean, Republican, Art Deco, French and            properties promise that...
                                             Colonial mix in a site of less than 800 buildings.       • An EMS (Environmental Management System)
                                             Most of Panama City’s main monuments are located             is in place
                                             in Casco Antiguo. These include The Salón Bolivar,       • Carbon offset program is in use
                                             the main Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana), the         • Sustainable Tourism program is implemented
                                             National Theatre (founded in 1908), Las Bovedas          • Energy consumption is measured and
                                             Monument, La Iglesia de La Merced, La Iglesia San            compared
                                             Felipe Neri. Also natable is the Iglesia San José with   • No endangered species or products are
                                             its distinctive Golden Altar which was saved from            consumed, sold, traded or displayed
                                             Panama La Vieja and transported into the new city.       • Hiring and training of local staff is promoted at
                                                 The only example of true urban revitalization in         all levels
                                             Panama is in Casco Antiguo. As a result it is already    • Waste sorting actions have been identified and
                                             a popular tourist destination in Panama City, second         implemented
                                             only to the Panama Canal. Both government and the        • Facilities for guests with special needs are in place
                                             private sector are actively participating - not only     • Environmental policy is made known to guests
                                             in the restoration of the architectural heritage but     • Promotional materials are truthful
                                             also in the human patrimony, investing in cultural           This is only a selection of guidelines. With your
                                             industries and local entrepreneurship.                   stay at a Green Hotel you are actively promoting
                                                 Casco Viejo has even stepped into the forefront      Sustainable Tourism. The Canal House in Casco Viejo
                                             of the environmental and sustainable development         is in the process of being certified. Check it out.
                                             movement. It boasts the only hotel in Panama                 So come and visit. Take some time and visit both
                                             which is in the process of being labeled a “green”       of these unique and special historical landmark
                                             hotel. A green hotel is a designation designed to        sites. You may even find yourself compelled to help
                                             make hoteliers and tourist property developers           recreate the past. ■




64   Panama Today Magazine   February 2009                                                                                                                      February 2009   Panama Today Magazine   65
66   Panama Today Magazine   February 2009

								
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