Roughly 300 years ago, Panama’s indigenous groups all sat down and decided that, when the time was right, they would collectively open up souvenir shops in Casco Viejo, all at the exact same time.
“Should we sell different things?” one of them asked.
“No,” the chief responded. “We must all sell precisely the same shit.”
“Should we at least occupy different varieties of storefronts? Like we could have a little kiosk and Manuel over there could open up, I don’t know, a tent?”
“No,” the chief scolded. “Every shop must be the size of a shipping container and it must be at street level with doors wide open during store hours.”
In follow-up meetings, the tribes would agree on various other minute details…
“For instance, whoever is manning the shop should sit in a folding chair slouched in the corner,” one Embera representative proposed.
“Snake!” a Wounan added. “If they don’t have anything to do, they can play that little snake game on their cell phone to pass the time.”
“And the shelves…don’t get me started on the shelves,” another indian rued:
From that argument it was decided that all shelf-work must be done by the same craftsman and must hold the same interchangeable portfolio of items: masks, baskets, bowls, figurines, wall adornments, and key chains all designed by (or, if resources are low, designed to look like they were designed by) a fellow tribesman.
This brainstorm session went on for days until the enclave devised a solid course of action.
Familiar with this plan manifested are today’s current residents of Casco Viejo, who have seen some 4,620 shops – each a spitting replicate of one another – open up over the course of less than twelve months.
When asked if he’d ever actually been inside, one long-time Casco Viejo resident Steve Horrowitz, originally from New York City, said, “Are you kidding? Of course I’ve been inside! When I’m going over to a friend’s house for dinner or going out for drinks, I’ll stop by and pick up something like a hand-carved toucan the size of my teenage son. They make really great gifts.”
Another resident and business owner, Linda Romero, shed some more light on the convenience of Cacso Viejo’s indigenous souvenir shops:
“Usually, we have to go into the city to buy stuff like groceries and cleaning supplies. But with fourteen indigenous shops within one block of my apartment, picking up a dozen Panama hats every Sunday has never been easier.”
Not unlike the way that the Mayan’s predicted Japan’s 8.9 earthquake on the exact same day that it happened or the way they calculated the distance of each planet to the sun with 99.45% accuracy before mathematics was even invented, Panama’s indigenous community appears to be eerily forecasting the future before anyone seems to know what’s up…
When one shop goes out of business, there is another indigenous group to buy up their unsold inventory and take over the commercial real estate.
In the low season, most shops use the downtime to efficiently stockpile additional products or to sew small designs onto bulk-ordered guayaberas.
To locals who’ve lived in Casco Viejo for a mere 50 or 70 years, there’s no telling what force may be at play in the souvenir shop sustenance. But whatever it is, rumor has it, Casco Viejo’s newly-formed “Pizza and Ice Cream Shop Coalition,” is hot on their trail.