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Casco Viejo

San Felipe, Panama City, Panama

Murals of Casco Viejo

Walking the narrow, cobbled streets of Casco Viejo—Panama City’s colonial quarter—is, these days, like exploring a vibrant art gallery. The neighborhood has suffered a bad reputation as dangerous since it became inhabited by undesirables after the 1989 invasion flattened it and chased out most legitimate residents. But significant investments in restoration and security in recent years have transformed Casco into a safe, charming, and hip enclave of quiet shops and coffee houses on the historical plazas, and local artists are responding and adding to the beautification effort. With all the reconstruction underway, construction sites abound, and scaffolding and safety walls are bedecked with humorous paintings of voluptuous dancing ladies. Trashcans are all painted with bright patterns and scenes. And on Avenida A between Plaza Herrera and the Iglesia San Jose, muralist Rolo de Sedas has adorned the wooden shutters on the street-level windows with his coquettish series “Mamis, Panamá Siempre Verde,” the Mamas of an Evergreen Panama. Each window frames a face of a different color, with different features, all within the spectrum of “typical Panameñas.” These ladies were painted after the dramatic 2011 protests against copper mining in Panama, and serve to remind us that Panama’s “green heart” is an environment that we should love and care for like a mother.