Name: Edgardo Garrido-Pérez, Ph.D.
Position: Center Director/Resident Lecturer in Environmental Policy
Program: Tropical Island Biodiversity & Conservation Studies, Panama
We were fascinated with looking into several ways of life co-existing in Panama as we passed in-between the skyscrapers of Panama City. After criss-crossing such a modern environment, we arrived at the Spanish colonial block Casco Viejo in order to get a feel for the Spanish influence in the country. There, we were talking on how 18th century inhabitants made themselves ready in case of pirate’s attack… but were suddenly (and wonderfully) interrupted by the smell of a chicken soup called sancocho: Panamanian creole food made and sold by a local Chinese family.
Traditional masks, a colorful handcraft market, and even a homemade TV-antenna were some of the sights of the city. In a cultural park called Mi Pueblito, we looked into the ways of life of three different Panamanian cultures: rural-Hispanic, native Kuna, and Afro-Antilleans. Afterward, we visited the Panama Canal and its exhibition center, gaining a snapshot of the history of the Canal. We met the tropical rainforest by hiking into the Soberanía National Park, and we topped that beautiful experience by swimming in one of its refreshing ponds.
Once back on the road, we were so lucky that two large cargo ships, as well as a train going from the Pacific to the Caribbean shore, almost simultaneously passed in front of our eyes. Not a bad introduction to a multi-cultural country before our departure to Bocas del Toro: our home for this semester!