Panama City’s revived Old Town in battle over viaduct

Monday, August 20 2012 @ 09:05 PM UTC

Contributed by: Don Winner

BY TIM JOHNSON - MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS - PANAMA CITY -- This city’s Old Town, protected by man-made 25-foot stone walls built more than three centuries ago, has been called an echo of New Orleans’ French Quarter – but better. Along its streets, strollers find gourmet bistros, working brothels, decayed churches and boutique hotels with bougainvillea spilling from balconies. Founded centuries ago on a tiny peninsula jutting into the Pacific Ocean, Old Town has been wracked by disease, ravaged by fire and in recent years revived into a destination. In 1997, the United Nations declared Panama City’s Casco Viejo – or Old Town – a World Heritage Site, a distinction that marked it as a historic resource for the world. Panamanians celebrated it as a draw for tourism. Now the district is the scene of a new tussle, however. A proposed ocean causeway that would girdle Old Town has brought to the fore the issue of whether nations have a duty to ensure preservation of areas that have been deemed part of the world’s heritage. In short, does Panama owe it to humanity to guarantee Old Town’s essential character? Read more here.

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