February 23, 2010

Panama Viejo - Old Panama.

    “Panama La Vieja” or “Panama Viejo” (Old Panama) is the name of the architectural vestiges of the first and oldest Monumental Historic Spanish city's on land that exists today. It was founded on the American Pacific coast on August 15, 1519 by Pedro Arias de Àvila (Pedrarias), commissioned by the Spanish Crown to establish a city that was the starting point for the conquest of North and South America. Pedrarias was the first governor of the city and on September 15, 1521, Panama received by royal decree the title of City and Coat of Arms granted by Charles I of Spain.
   The city received the name “Panama” because it was seated on an Indians’ fishing village that was called Panama, and in their dialect the word means abundance of fish and butterflies, and a green, leafy tree with the same name.
     For its strategic location, Panama La Vieja became an important port through which much gold and silver came from Peru and other places in America to Spain, and was also the port that received the goods coming from Spain to the colonized territories.
     The city was sacked in 1671 by English pirates, led by Henry Morgan. They reached the coast of Panama from the Atlantic and crossed the isthmus to reach the city. They didn’t arrive in their boats as the tales and stories tell. In addition, pirates would have had to go to Cape Horn, Argentina, and navigate the entire Pacific coast of South America to Panama. And if they did, they could not have landed directly in the port city protected by mangroves and a shallow coast.
     By safety of the inhabitants and city’s properties, Don Juan Perez de Guzman ordered the evacuation of the city and ordered to fire powder deposits causing a huge explosion and burning throughout the city. The city was abandoned by its inhabitants leaving their dilapidated structures and these being forgotten. The city was moved a few miles further west, and it is what we know today as “Casco Antiguo de la Ciudad de Panama” (Panama Old Town). In another post I will tell you all about it.
     Currently, the place is an archaeological site managed by Patronato de Panama Viejo (PPV). The administration has been responsible for preserving the structures still standing that can be enjoyed by future Panamanians and tourists.
     The tower of the Cathedral is one of the structures that is striking and is a symbol and image of the country abroad. In the interior of the tower was built a spiral staircase where you can see in each level until the belfry the growth of Panama City through each of its windows.


February 18, 2010

La Chorrera International Fair 2010.

     La Chorrera is a city near Panama City, located west of the country. To get there, you have to cross the Bridge of the Americas or the Centennial Bridge which connects the lands separated by the Panama Canal.
     Every year we celebrate the La Chorrera International Fair in this city and this year is its 50th edition.
     The main objective of the fair is to provide a commercial showcase for agricultural and livestock products produced in the region. I saw exposure of cattle as well as agricultural products planted in the place. You could see how plants are of the different products such as sunflower, lettuce, peas, tomatoes, rice and others.  There was an exhibition of all fruits, tubers and vegetables produced in the country. It was interesting.


     At the fair, the crafts are highlighted and sold, crafted by Panamanian hands like hand-painted clay pots for plants, pottery items to decorate walls, leather sandals and other leather goods, hammocks, jewelry, molas (Kuna Indians' embroidered fabrics), “polleras” (Panamanian female costume) and accessories for the pollera, and also for the Panamanian man costume, bamboo or teak furniture, paints, confectionery and Panamanian candies, including peddling goods in general. I also found with many stands selling plants. And you could not miss in this fair a zoo with exotic species both local and elsewhere that can adapt to the climate of the country.

     Being an International fair, there were some countries that exhibited some of its products, especially handicrafts. Some countries present were: Colombia, Ecuador and Peru and others. Very good idea to export handicrafts, thus bringing the traditions of countries around the world.

     The fair is very large and takes time touring it completely. You can find several Panamanian food stands, as well as grilled. Very famous are “chorizo” (sausages) and “carne en palito” (stick meat). I found some stands of some restaurants of the country. One was a fast food restaurant and another was a pizzeria. There were also stands with soda and beer can sales in every corner of the fair. I must remark that the sun was shining as a delicious tropical summer while in the north were being freezing cold and snow storms did not stop.
     It was an enriching experience, which ended in the area of rides. It's amazing how people like to feel the fear feeling and defy gravity. Definitely, this area you could only hear the screams of people excited and enjoyed these rides. I would have liked to stay up at night to appreciate the place lit by colorful lights that hypnotize and entice the viewer to ride on their iron structures.

February 03, 2010

Panama Hats.

   I was always impressed by the beauty, style and simplicity of Panama hats. Actually, this hat is not made in Panama, therefore, it isn’t part of the country’s folklore. But I wanted to do a post about it and classified in the category of folklore because it’s a clothing’s handmade article. Its glorious fame was accidental since it graced the heads of men who took part in the history of Panama.
     Genuine Panama hats are made in Ecuador, and the most famous are those from a city called Montecristi. The raw material of the Panama hat is known as "Toquilla" but was called by scientists "Carludovica Palmata" in honor of the King of Spain Charles IV and his wife Ludovica. It is a type of palm that grows only along the coasts of Ecuador, between 100 and 400 meters above sea level and where the land remains wet.

     Before a hat weaving, the weaver must decide the fineness of the hat. The thinner the straw, the finer the hat. This is accomplished by separating or cutting with nail, one, two or three times the fiber of the leaf to achieve the desired thickness of the straw. The palm has to be wet so that the fiber is not broken. To measure the quality of the fabric of a hat simply count the number of weaves per square inch. If there are less than 100 weaves per square inch, the hat is considered low quality. Hats with more than 1200 weaves per square inch are considered fine and the hat can cost more than $ 1,000. It is logical, because the thinner the fiber, most weaves have to make the weaver to finish the hat. In the country, in Panamanian souvenirs shops, you can find Panama hats, at prices among $10 to $15. They have the same design, but the fiber of the fabric is thick, so they are not fine.


     The toquilla hat was known as Panama hat because the construction of the canal, where it was used for protection against the hot sun. Its popularity increased when U.S. president, Theodore Roosevelt, visited the construction works of the Panama Canal and was photographed wearing a Panama hat. The photograph went around the world in print.
     The Panama hat style was widely used in costume design for Hollywood films such as The Wind, Casablanca, Key Largo, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Man Who Would Be King, and Dick Tracy.

February 02, 2010

CHANCE The Movie.

     On January 15th, it was released in Panama “Chance” the movie. “Chance” is the first movie written and directed by Abner Benaim, a Panamanian director, and shot entirely on Panama City’s locations.
     The film is about two maids who work in a wealthy family's house in Panama, who owed one and a half month of their salaries. In retaliation, the maids achieve to get their money in three days and radically change the lives of every family member.
     Amongst the international actor and actresses are: Francisco Gattorno (Fernando) Cuban actor, Isabella Santo Domingo (Gloria) Colombian actress and Aida Morales (Paquita) Colombian actress. The Panamanian actor and actresses are: Rosa Lorenzo (Toña), Juan David Valdes (Daniel, the boy) and the twins Maria Cristina and Maria Alejandra Palacios (Marité and Mariví).
     If the movie is listing on your movies showtimes, watch it. I recommend this film. You’re going to die from laughter! I applied the trailer to put English subtitles but it was impossible. I hope the producers will put subtitles or translate it so that it can reach the English-speaking market.


February 01, 2010

Gorgona Beach.

     Gorgona Beach is located 80 kilometers from Panama City in the district of Chame.
     The beach is very visited by Panamanians and tourists for its white sand and refreshing waves of the Pacific Ocean. In the area there are many summer houses, a private club and homesites that have swimming pools for adults and children, huts on the edge of the pool and others facing the sea, “hamacas” (hammocks), BBQ and private parking.
     In the video, you can appreciate craft fishing boats that adorn the landscape in contrast to the architecture and people enjoying the hot summer in Gorgona Beach.