Click here for the Panama City Trip Report.
The new Gehry designed Biomuseo in Panama City sits on Panama's busiest international "highway"- the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal, and it is a very colorful announcement to the world that Panama is changing! The museum tells you all you need to know about Panama since it had control of the Panama Canal returned in 1999 by President Jimmy Carter. Modern, growing, willing to attract the world’s attention that they are ready to be a world class city (again!)
Panama City is known to be one of the "world class cities" on the Pacific Coast during the Colonial era, when it served as one of the earliest European settlements. Europeans arrived to transport gold out of the new world, and built a thriving city (with slave labor) to serve as trade point and gateway to South America. After the collapse of the Spanish empire, the French attempted and then the United States succeeded in building a canal to shorten trade routes from Atlantic to Pacific. The US controlled a 5 mile wide swath of Panama in the Canal Zone for over 80 years before Panamanians took responsibility of the operation about 15 years ago.
Today, with the Panama Canal under its own control, and with a new expansion underway, Panamanians are again claiming Panama as a place to be for commerce and trade. And Panama City is growing like crazy. The help wanted ad on the front page of the Biomuseo website will gives a hint about the low unemployment rate in Panama City, and the influx of wealth can be seen with the yachts and Maseratis in the marinas and on the roads. The canal has created stability with the government building infrastructure and foreign investment following.
Micro economies are growing the middle class- our tour guide. Rudy, and his partner, Patty, own a few tourist properties in Casco Viejo under programs that have low bank loans and initial tax cuts allowing families to renovate older areas, and grow their own businesses. Of course, there are still challenges, and you know about them when the guide books have maps with areas shaded as “no go” zones, and with rapid growth often comes with growing pains of escalating home prices and other challenges. However, if you are looking for something new and up and coming in Central America, Panama City is worth a visit, before it becomes too expensive!
Recent reports by air experts I've read say that airfare to Panama City is relative bargain right now. With modern skyscraper hotels and the growth of small business "casitas", such as Patty's, there is a variety of places to stay. The same narrow landscape that attracted the canal builders, works to make everything; beaches, wildlife, city or Panama Canal tours all about an hour away and an easy day trip from the city if you choose to stay there. I know I plan to make a return visit soon!
See our whole Panama City Trip Report with photos here.