By Irina Pino

Panama City architecture

HAVANA TIMES — I recently had the chance to get to know Panama city, at a friend’s invitation, and I got to see a pleasant landscape where people are kind by nature, something which we see less and less every day. Violence between Cuban people can be seen in our everyday, in a line, on a bus, or maybe even in seemingly calm places.

The truth is, the people I met walking down the streets near Via Espana, reacted well when I asked them for directions or anything else and they gave me the information I was looking for in a polite manner.

I noticed that people were very dilligent at stores and establishments too, where they ended by saying: “at your sevice”, when you asked for something.

I saw a homeless man who was sleeping next to a McDonalds’ entrance. Although nobody stopped or touched him to find out if he was OK.

I traveled by metro for the first time, a very comfortable form of transport and it’s air-conditioned, but I was tormented when I got off at the stop where I was heading, on my way to one of the most popular shopping malls there: Albrook. A huge place, with interesting entrances which are identified by animals such as tigers and other eye-appealing ones, something which attracts children to want to take a photo.

One of the entrances to the Albrook Mall

Consumerism there seemed suffocating to me, people spend an eternity at this mall without even realizing it. You go from one store to the next, looking, browsing, comparing prices, because there’s something for every person’s pocket, from stores selling brands, to more sophisticated brands and even cheaper ones for people on a lower income. In the end, you might end up buying something you didn’t need in the first place. Although that wasn’t my case, because I had gone as a guest.

I must admit that I was happy to not find any abandoned animals on the street, there wasn’t any trace of stray dogs and cats, I only saw birds in trees. I loved that and it reminded me of my Havana Times colleagues and friends, Irina Echarry and Veronica Vega, two carers who advocate for animal rights.

That city is crowded with luxury hotels, casinos, shopping malls, cafes and restaurants. I didn’t see any movie theaters or theaters, or libraries even, strangely enough, but I know there are some.

Much-despised reggaeton was what I heard playing at different places, as if it were a curse following me. 

Hotel Veneto

There are so many advertisements, buying and selling ads, property rental ads, and the architecture has unique buildings which resemble New York’s skyscrapers.

I didn’t go to the so-called red-light districts, dangerous places where attacks happen, the taxi driver told me. I didn’t go to Colon, where the duty free area is, either.

I was walking through marginal neighborhoods, where people continue to live in old buildings, which in spite of being ugly, all have air-conditioning and electrical appliances. People who decide to live there, do so because rent is cheap.

I will tell you about other things that I experienced there soon.


Irina Pino

Irina Pino: I was born in the middle of shortages in those sixties that marked so many patterns in the world. Although I currently live in Miramar, I miss the city center with its cinemas and theaters, and the bohemian atmosphere of Old Havana, where I often go. Writing is the essential thing in my life, be it poetry, fiction or articles, a communion of ideas that identifies me. With my family and my friends, I get my share of happiness.

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