Some of my favorite buildings in Casco Antiguo might resemble, to a naked eye, a type of bombed-out war station: their crumbling rocks and overgrown foliage donned on by decades of auxiliary time and wandering eyes. To me though, and for many other who visit the old quarter, it’s easy to see the future of that which time has so slowly aged away.
It started early in my youth, when my mother and her friends would regularly inform me I had a sort of magical powers. They’d sit there in their sun dresses, drinking cold white wine under fans on the porch and tell me that with my imagination, I could do almost anything.
I’d use this support to dream up scenarios in which my heroics, and more specifically my black khukuri dagger, would save small towns from evil villains, and innocent seals from the eminent jaws of hungry sharks. It was when I took this imagination a step further, swearing to my parents that I could leap down the 32-step staircase in our hallway, that things took a turn for the worst.
Casco Antiguo though, with its if-these-walls-could-talk feel, caters perfectly to imaginative folks like myself. Even on the outskirts of the old quarter, it’s not hard to envision these buildings in colonial times, when that same barn door-style windowsill that hosts a TV set today, was used back then for decapitations or something.
I envision women dumping hot cauldrons of water out into the street and livestock escaping the angry wrath of neighborhood butchers. “Get back here” the butchers would cry, wobbling through the alleyways in their bloodied aprons. “Get back here you peasant boy.” They wouldn’t be speaking English, but you get the idea.
Granted, today the scene in Casco Antiguo is a bit more peaceful and routine. But for visitors and locals alike, invention, creativity, and castle-building are part of the everyday experience.
Take a good look at the churches and the streets and the people. You don’t need the greatest imagination to see this place back in time, or eve ten or so years from now: a time when old, once-crumbling buildings have been enhanced and rehabilitated: not unlike the sparkling face of a sixty year-old facelift post-op. You can already see it happening and the feeling is one of nostalgia and excitement. Talk to the people who are restoring them or perhaps the ones living there, and you’ll see a twinkle in their eye. There are foods that don’t taste this good.