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The Architectural Diversity and Richness of Panama’s Casco Antiguo

Posted by Leydi Chong on October 5, 2023

I reiterate once again, Casco Antiguo’s significance and the unique attributes that set it apart. It is crucial that an effective tourism strategy be centered around promoting and preserving this part of the city. This time, I’d like to draw attention to its architectural diversity and richness, setting it apart from the other historic centers in Latin America that it competes with. This array of architectural styles is a testament to Panama’s historical foreign influences, driven by its strategic geographical location that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Panama has been a crucial global trade route since the 16th century. The Camino Real, which transported gold and silver from Peru to the Spanish Empire during the 16th and 17th centuries, and the Camino de Cruces, including a route from Panama La Vieja to the Chagres River in the 16th century, played pivotal roles. In the 19th century, this route gained prominence during the California gold rush, leading to the construction of the first transoceanic railroad in Panama by the Americans.

As the second industrial revolution unfolded between 1870 and 1914, within the context of the first wave of globalization, transportation advancements and the interest of foreign powers in building a canal through Panama surged. In 1880, the construction of the Panama Canal commenced under the leadership of the renowned French engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps. After more than a decade of work, France’s initial attempt failed. In 1903, the United States took up the project and played a crucial role in supporting Panamanian oligarchies in their quest for independence from Colombia.

This historical significance as a global trade bridge has shaped our city’s character into that of a cosmopolitan coastal hub. This diverse architectural heritage is showcased in the Casco Antiguo and sets it apart from other historic centers in Latin America.

Within the Casco Antiguo, one can discover exquisite examples of Spanish colonial, French colonial, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Caribbean, Neoclassical, and Republican architectural styles. This eclectic mix found in its streets evokes the ambiance of the French Quarter in New Orleans, while others might remind you of colonial Cartagena de Indias or the early 20th-century classic American-style buildings.

Our Old Town harbors untapped tourist potential through its architectural grandeur. Forward-thinking investors have recently capitalized on this potential, constructing luxurious hotels renowned for their architectural significance and historical essence.

We earnestly urge our authorities, specifically the Ministries of Tourism and Culture, and the Mayor’s Office of Panama, to prioritize investments in the Casco Antiguo of Panama. These investments are not only crucial, but also urgent, given the profound impact that a well-managed Casco Antiguo can have on tourism and culture in Panama.

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