Photographer & Author: Francesco Stumpo
Camera: iPhone 5C
Film: N/A
Processed: Photoshop CS6, Lightroom and VSCO.

Date: May 30th, 2018

Photo Essay:
Tropical finds in Panama City
One wedding, abandoned colonial quarters and family time in humid Panama.

It was my first trip outside of the United States after long 3 years between jobs and visa paperworks. My highschool friends were getting married in Panama City and Miami so it became a good opportunity for a long overdue reunion and gathering of friends and relatives locally and abroad. Earlier that year, I wrote down when was the last time I had seen some of them, or all in the same room, and it became blurry between memories and photographs. I knew it was time to make the trip.

By the time I made it to Panama City, my family and all groomsman of the ceremony had already arrived. We all had kept in touch over the years - texted or spoken on the phone or Facetime, but it feel good to sit across all of them again. For a few days we shared memories high school, travels and most importantly what we have all been up to since a few years back. We reminisced about teenager years, and how the groom was clearly the last one supposed to get married, first.

Then all of the sudden, after a week, we had enjoyed the many spots Panama’s capital has to offer. As rain came and went (given the city’s location in the basin of few rainforests and the entrance of the Panama Canal via the Pacific) it was hard to miss the natural elements on any day to day adventure. Yet, the city’s landscapes and architecture became a constant reminder that paths and and views in this landscape lead you to the ocean.
Days were spent eating local ceviche, exploring abandoned corners like the Arco Chato (Flat Arch) and roaming around the Casco Viejo (Old Quarter) getting to know the colonial grid and historic walls. We took leisurely walks in and out local spots like Tomillo and Casa Bruja. And last but not least, the beautiful repurposed buildings turned into incredible establishments, restaurants and gathering hubs like the American Trade Hotel and Las Clementinas. Overall Casco is a small neighborhood, and everyone knows each other, so it is quite safe to walk the historic streets day and night and  interacting with a wide scope of characters who live and work in the quarters.

The trip to the Miraflores Locks Visitor Center proved worth the time spent under the hot beaming sun with our sombreros as we got to witness in full view the locks operations. Flooded with more tourists than any spot thus far, the infrastructure and logistics of the Panama Canal stand a testament of human invention, innovation and shear collaboration, even after 100 years of operations.

At last, Panama reminds you of Miami, old parts of New Orleans and the informal rising structures of Caracas. People are warm, the weather is warmer, and rain is part of the local’s identity. It’s a place that reminds you how far we have come as societies and settlements in adverse geographic locations, yet making insurmountable advances and achievements while working together. I have a feeling I’ll be back soon.

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