The country that joins the two oceans live an unprecedented tourism boom with a lot to offer: unexplored beaches, national parks, mountains, shopping variety of landscapes and art …, with unbeatable prices.
PANAMA .- Ask anyone who knows of Panama, and nine out of ten, he mentioned the channel. Some may evoke Noriega, former dictator in recent days has again gathered a relative prominence for his extradition to France.
While acknowledging the enormous tourist potential of the passage between interoceanic, the country was a Spanish colony, province Colombian American protectorate, now committed to strengthen their own identity. And that includes spreading its other attractions, from beaches on both coasts spread to the plains, wetlands, mountain forests, historical monuments or shopping malls next generation.
And, as counted from the Ministry of Tourism, it seems that not doing anything wrong. More than a million tourists annually visit this country 's narrow shaped narrower lying-the American-figure that never dreamed a decade ago.
"For years we were under the Yankee boot in total lethargy, but now I wake up," illustrates a staff canteen as he gets a (sort of dumpling stuffed with cheese, tomato stew and plantain) squarely in the mouth.
The Yankee boot, in case you doubt, are the 85 years (1914-1999) in the United States administered the Panama Canal. The former military belt that encircles the junction between the base consists of oceans, administrative offices, schools and residences that are slowly recovering as schools and hotels.
But the U.S. presence are still a few legacies, with the dollarized economy as the most notable. People also are weighed in pounds, the gasoline is sold in gallons, the car is parked or if something is cute, then it will priti (English pretty). Then there are the typical American school bus-like driving the crazy Otto, The Simpsons – but here are painted with bright colors and filled with phrases like Jesus loves you, Janeth, bit of my heaven or Titanic, a legend. Picturesque and folklore as they are, these vehicles are known as the Red Devils in the amount of accidents that resulted in the crowded streets of the city.
As if missing original names (Dayanis, Osiris, Josamel, Shajaira are just a small sample of those who crossed on the way) are others as Uandolar (one dollar, and is a man) or places like Arraiján. They say that the latter is compared to the Canal Zone that belonged to the Americans. And they, when they gave the directions to reach this area, stressed the need to take a right hand (right hand). And so it was a right hand became Arraiján, and was just Arraiján.
Anecdotes aside, the modern city of Panama is known as the City of Skyscrapers by the number of towers that climb the sky and compete in height and spectacular. What is striking is that the construction boom exploded in recent years, a mixture of a package of tax benefits to attract multinationals and the fact that before 1999, the city could not grow into calls reverted areas, forested areas channel. Now, even Donald Trump has invested in the millionaire real estate developments, office with a 62-story hotel and a sailboat, much like the Burj Al-Arab, Dubai.
Balboa Avenue, which runs parallel to the Pacific Ocean, the new Costa del Este (with land reclaimed from the sea) or the avenue Spain, the capital's financial center, is the exponent of the modern and cosmopolitan Panama, the same that is proudly be unbeatable shopping mecca.
The other side of Panama is in the traces of its pre-Columbian and colonial past, sheltered in the old part of town.
Because the first to land on these latitudes were the Spanish, who wasted no time and founded cities of Portobelo Panama or the same in 1519. The latter, home to the treasures of the Spanish crown, was sacked by the pirate Henry Morgan in 1671. Today just left standing remains of the cathedral, houses the clergy and a handful of monumental historical ruins, known as Panama La Vieja ", in the midst of a thick tropical vegetation, 8 miles from Panama City.
Fortunately, the great altar covered in gold was saved from the violence of pirates and taken to what is now Old Town, where the new city was rebuilt. There, the narrow cobblestone streets, colonial facades and wrought iron balconies live with clothes hanging from windows, neighboring rollers who listen to loud reggaeton, hairdressers improvised in the midst of a Kuna Indian village or selling their colorful textiles (the molas, considered one of the most sophisticated handicrafts in Latin America).
The government recently began restoration of the neighborhood, starting with buildings near the park staff and the Palace of the Herons, presidential residence. At the same time, the dilapidated convent is converted into lofts in the old military buildings are installed shops and restaurants and the old houses are transformed into boutique hotels.
The Next Costa Rica?
The real estate developments are not unique to the city. As the route leaves behind a tangle of towers began to appear mirrored the posters announcing the construction of a particular condominium, all with similar names as Pacific Villas, Ocean View, Bay View, Vista Mar. ..
Some venture to say that Panama is on track to become the new Costa Rica, where the mega-hotels and resorts have taken over certain provinces on the Pacific.
The difference is that in Panama there are still indigenous regions such as Kuna Yala, Embera and Ngobe-Bugle, semi-autonomous territories where large-scale constructions are strictly forbidden. Yes is encouraged, however, ecotourism and accommodations in cabins that manage the communities themselves.
Because before the Spanish, Americans, channel, or Noriega skyscrapers were they, the natives, they named them this land full of nature and Panama. That means nothing, in the Indian language, that abundance of fish, trees and butterflies.
By Teresa Bausili
Passengers greet the audience applauds, more than one is thrilled. The show is repeated several times a day, every day of the year, each time a ship or a cruise through the Panama Canal (takes about 8-10 hours).
"So far they have arrived, whose dream in life was to know about this icon. And they have cried to see him operate," says Marshall Dazzel, Office of Communications of the channel, which does not tire of repeating the numbers obviously knows by heart. And even the appointment with pride for years across the channel more than 14,000 ships, or between 35-40 per day, reaching up to $ 300,000 to pay right of way (although the average is 90,000. And care, because in 1928 a man crossed the 80 km swim, paying just 28 cents toll).
Until 1999, when the canal was administered by the United States, revenues were intended solely for maintenance. Today, in Panamanian hands, which are raw profit. Therefore, with the construction of the third lock (which will be ready in 2014 with an investment of 5.25 billion dollars), the government intends to maintain an oiled money machine that holds a third of its GDP.
"The locks are like elevators water, while the channel is like a gigantic water bridge, illustrates Marshall, to simplify the explanation of the operation of locks, boats and gradually lower the Atlantic to the Pacific and vice versa, as there a drop of 26 meters from the waters of both seas.
Thus, what began as the dream of Emperor Charles V and the nightmare of French engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps (which failed after 20 years of work), became a reality in the early twentieth century, the U.S. hand. This Herculean feat of engineering, managed to unite two oceans after ten years of construction, $ 352 million investment and 25,000 lives biased by malaria, plague and yellow fever.
"They already know: that did not visit the channel then was never in Panama," Marshall says goodbye.
Radiography of the tourist
Europeans seek ecotourism, beaches and nature, Americans, good resorts, restaurants and fishing, the South Americans, shopping, Asians, casinos and shopping in bulk (in the free zone of Colon). In general terms, that is the profile of visitors to Panama, but also health tourism attracts crowds. Dental implants, plastic surgery and cardiology are some of the most frequently ordered by Europeans and Americans. By the way, they test the waters to come to spend his last years to this land. No wonder the American publication International Living named Panama, for the seventh consecutive year as one of the five best places in the world to retire.
And Panama City were impressed by his extensive profile of steel and concrete, is to spend no less surprising, in minutes, the oasis of deep green mountains and at times embracing the rest of the country. Thirteen national parks, forest reserves and eight twenty protected areas are home to more than a thousand species of butterflies, 927 birds (as many as the United States and Canada combined) and 1200 of orchids.
The lush province of Darién, on the border with Colombia, is the most savage of Panama as well as the only section of Central America that is not crossed by the Panamerican Highway. Home to vast areas of virgin forest and indigenous peoples who have lived in the same way for centuries.
Another timeless and politically independent territory within the borders of Panama's Kuna Yala reservation of the Kuna Indians, also known as San Blas (account since 1925 with own authority and laws.) The county encompasses 365 islands (yes, one for each day of the year) in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, but only 49 are inhabited. While in recent years has become an increasingly popular destination, tourism to the islands is strictly limited, and visitors must seek permission from the chief to spend the night. Although tourism represents a source of income, the Kuna are largely self-sufficient and have limited interaction with the modern world. Coconuts, in fact, are used as a currency among them. And you better not try to take a seemingly uninhabited island some, because these fruits are protected from close.
Copa Airlines has direct flights daily between Buenos Aires and Panama, from U.S. $ 1,090 (with tax) return. 0810-222-2672; www.copaair.com
Attention stay at least a day in Panama, forced hub for many flights Central America.
* The entrance to visit the Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal was U.S. $ 8. Includes access to the Visitor Center and its four theaters.
Ships built thinking of the canal, whose measures are 33.5 m wide and 305 in length, are known as Panamax. Those who built based on the new locks, which may have 49 meters wide and 366 long, are Post Panamax.
* You can also cross from ocean to ocean by train on the Panama Canal Railway, Monday through Friday, $ 22-slice (it is 55 minutes).
* A 110 km from the city of Panama, Breezes Resort & Spa offers a super all inclusive from $ 135 per person, per night, double occupancy room. Reports: 4893-3003; email@example.com; www.breezes.com