Friday, September 15, 2006

An interesting question

Jane asks if there is some provision for the poor who are being displaced by all the remodeling and improvements. I don't know, but my guess is... no. I have read that like other Latin American countries, Panamá is a nation of haves and have-nots, with statistics indicating some 30% of the population lives in poverty - 12% in extreme poverty. There is an interesting speech by the former U.S. Embassador here.

Everyone who spoke of the dislocating the poor for rebuilding had about the same observation: 'it's too bad, but it has to be done.' Our taxi driver, who was a wonderful guide, shepherd, and protector, expressed the certainty that all the new high-rises going up were being built by foreign investors who would probably bring their own people to work. He didn't believe that these projects would provide any economic help to the slums nearby. But he is all in favor of attracting tourism, and almost embarrassed when we encountered some small inconvenience.

We were warned about crime, but I had trouble feeling any sense of danger - I lived in NYC in the 70s, I know what danger is! But I think it has to do with poverty - and a resentment of these visitors who are pushing them out of their homes. When this man saw us taking photos, he was threateningly angry. The same thing happened to Jorge in a city park on a different day.

Yet statistically, most crime is much lower than, say, in the state of South Carolina, similar in size and population to the country of Panamá.

And life goes on, you know, where you live. These were taken at Parque Herrera:

There were so many beautiful buildings to photograph, like these:

On the bay, at left

and again, on the
Parque Herrera at right:

But what really fascinated me was the contrast I saw. Change was constant, and everywhere, seemingly randomly.

This pretty little building at left was just a few doors down from the decaying building shown down below, "waiting for attention."

This one, at right, is in process and will soon be quite beautiful.

I think that's part of what captured my imagination about this city - that amazing sense of it springing to life, here and there and all over.

Here is a photo from the IPAT site of the entire Casco Viejo peninsula:


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