A couple of weekends ago we went on a trip to Colón (Spanish for Columbus) on the Carribbean/ Atlantic side of the Panama Canal. We had heard a lot about this ‘wild west’ style town and were curious to see it for ourselves. What we found was a place with a certain air of faded grandeur, a bit like I imagine New Orleans to be. It really was pretty shabby though, and it made me wonder how two places so close to each other geographically speaking could be poles apart in all other respects.
Moving from anywhere Westernised to Panama City is a pretty easy transition as the shops, roads, most of the schools and cars are all very Americanised. For example I can think of five enormous malls here just off the top of my head – there are probably more! There are certainly large areas of poverty in Panamá City but travel to Colón and these areas are definitely the most noticeable.
We saw several people dressed very smartly for church, as well as more than a few shady characters. I don’t like to intrude on people’s privacy, so I rarely take pictures of them. It makes me feel too much the privileged honky on a poverty tour. Not a comfortable thought, but probably one containing an element of truth.
Most of the guidebooks warn against getting out of your car in Colón as you are very likely to be mugged apparently. We certainly felt that there was a palpable air of menace and, as we had our three small children with us, we took this advice and stayed in the car.