Sometimes being away from Casco Viejo is the best time to clarify exactly what makes it so special. There’s an old Yiddish saying, “to the worm in the horseradish, the world is horseradish,” which really just means, when you’re entranced in an environment for too long, your perspective on everything else kinda gets distorted. And so, being outside of Casco Viejo has a great way of recalibrating ones perception.
1. Casco Viejo is compact: Visiting other great cities of the world, one finds that the best of them are not spread out but tight and compact. Casco Viejo spans a peninsula about four blocks wide and ten blocks deep. So walking anywhere and everywhere is commonplace.
2. Casco Viejo is super, almost freakishly diverse: Everyone’s familiar with San Francisco’s beggars and Manhattan’s Wall Street elite and Atlanta’s artists and New Orleans’ musicians. But so rarely do you find such a cultural mish-mosh all in one place (literally, one building next to another) that caters to so many different types.
3. Casco Viejo has gumption: Character tells a lot not only about a neighborhood but about the people who live there. Facing a number of challenges – like the Cinta Costera Highway, terrible construction on the streets, garbage – Casco Viejo residents seem to band together and stand up for what’s right. In Panama protesting is a common thing, but Casco Viejo’s courage is one that’s not necessarily seen nor heard out in the street. It’s a deep-seeded sense of bravery and pride that acts as both glue and fuel.
4. Casco Viejo is not private: Whether you’re walking out the door or hanging your bathing suit on your porch, someone in Casco Viejo is always watching. A harkening back to the days of old-fashioned neighborhoods, gossip is a national pastime in Casco Viejo. Everyone is in everyone else’s business, for better or worse.
5. Casco Viejo breeds entitlement: Whether you arrived in the year 2000 when Casco Viejo was just beginning its revitalization or in 2010 when the growth was far underway, the neighborhood has an amazing way of embracing creative types and leaders and lovers. It’s hard not to feel like you’re part of something bigger – a movement, a trend, an evolution – when you stay for longer than a few months. Casco Viejo’s people tend to welcome newcomers and old-timers alike, and everyone (even guests who stay with us for a few days) feel like they’re part of something special.
These are only the first five items that popped into my head, and I could go on like this for days. The point is, our dynamic and unusual neighborhood plays to the tune of its own drum. Sometimes that’s a good thing, other times it’s bad. But it’s always persistent. Which, like an intriguing novel, makes it hard to put down.