Casco Viejo is the historic quarter of Panama City. It is located on a small peninsula just south of all the modern highrise construction. It is surrounded by slums and we were instructed to never walk into these districts. The old quarters streets are narrow one lane passages. The historic buildings are run down and life is lived in the open. People sit on stoops and lounge on balconies. Windows are all thrown open in the hopes of catching a sea breeze. On the way to a restaurant I caught a glimpse of a woman using her kitchen as a hair salon. A toddler stumbled unattended on a second floor balcony. Men shot craps in a narrow alley. Life bustled everywhere waiting to be drawn.
Alison brought Terry and I to a small outdoor cafe in the Plaza Bolivar. While we sipped drinks and had lunch, I sketched the monument to Venezuelan General Simon Bolivar the "Liberator of Latin America." An Andean condor was perched on top of the monument. In 1926 Bolivar organized a meeting of independance with the leaders from all over Latin America in the plaza.
At the base of the monument there were wreaths of live flowers. Alison wished the Embassy had given her an apartment in one of the 19th century buildings surrounding the plaza. She imagined lowering a basket from her balcony so the cafe could send her up a siesta snack.
Armed with machine guns and motorcycles, there was a constant military presence on the streets. This was unnerving at first. There were only a few tacky tourist shops. The quarter instead had a sincere lived in history. I could have spent the entire week there and never run out of things to draw.I rushed the sketch so we could drink in more of the sights.