One of Casco Viejo’s greatest charms is that it’s really unlike anything most travelers have seen before. Of course, it draws comparisons from Cuba and Cartagena and Brooklyn and Europe. But what’s really at the core of Casco Viejo’s personality is as intangible and unidentifiable as the neighborhood is charming. Several pillars help us understand just what it is about Casco Viejo that we sometimes can’t explain.
Diversity: If you’re coming to Casco Viejo from Tocumen International Airport, you’ll see a coastal shantytown off to the right, at the base of some of Punta Pacifica’s most illustrious high-rise towers, which makes for quite a striking contrast. This not the good diversity we’re talking about. Neighbors don’t interact, there is a clear line between the haves and the have-nots, there is both literally and figuratively a social hierarchy at play. In Casco Viejo, you’ll see the common spaces like plazas and schools and supermarkets as places where diversity becomes an opportunity. You’ll see diversity as an organic process that is evolving as like-minded citizens congregate around shared values and interests: in this case, Casco Viejo’s neighbors rally around its architecture, its culture, and its history. All neighbors in Casco Viejo share affection for the neighborhood itself. This is a great thing.
Collaboration: Panama is very much a culture divided. There are rich and poor people, smart and dumb people, motivated and lazy people, passionate Panamanians and the apathetic. Very rarely do any of these demographics collaborate or even interact with one another and in Casco, there is a simple yet elegant way residents – from all walks of life – manage to progress and coexist, particularly as a result of working together. This isn’t just a dying phenomenon in Panama. It’s a dying phenomenon in the world.
Humility: One of the big things that sets Casco Viejo apart from the remainder of Panama is the humility of its people. Being modest, fair, understanding, realistic, respectful and even (at times) submissive with one another is a virtue that even transcends religious and philosophical tradition, particularly in this part of the world. Humility is the antithesis of Panama’s desire for taller buildings, bigger malls, and wide new highways. Humility of Casco Viejo’s residents is the clear knowledge of what Casco Viejo is, what it is capable of doing, and what is right.
Patience: Our parents always tell us that patience is a virtue and the same certainly goes for neighborhoods. Fixing problems and righting wrongs doesn’t happen overnight. Patience under difficult circumstances, for Casco Viejo, can mean persevering in the face of delay without trying any shortcuts. The endurance Casco Viejo’s exhibits before any negativity means it’s a steadfast neighborhood.