Panama read

Welcome to this week's Reno News & Review.

Whirlwind tour of Panama last week. Left on Sunday, back on Sunday.

This trip was a little different for me, as Kelly and I were based in a major city. We were there for eating, drinking and shopping, so we primarily spent time in the more touristy areas. We really only got to hang out on the beach and in the rural areas for one full day out of the five, which was fine, and much closer to the kind of Central and South American experience that keeps drawing me back.

Panama City is unlike anywhere I've been. It's pretty easy to tell the United States went in and destroyed the country's culture and environment—in that way that insatiable capitalist greed always does—when we created the country's primary economy with our canal. It has amazing skyscrapers and mostly safe streets and crazy traffic. Think of it as libertarianism run amok. With little regulation, if you're looking at it from a foreign investment standpoint, it's a huge opportunity. You can get in, make your money and get out. That's, of course, how many people treat the city and its inhabitants. Even the panameños seem to get in on the act, in that entitled way Americans behave compared to working foreigners.

The influence of Colombian money, too, is very evident. Banking is huge in Panama City. I mean huge. But, except for some very touchy college spring breakers, I saw no sign of drug use. This was probably in part because of the ubiquitous presence of city police, the presidential police in Casco Viejo, and private security guards. Another reason for this is because the poorest of panameños are corralled into a slum called Chorrillo. If I had a couple hundred thousand bucks laying around, I'd be buying tenements in Chorrillo, because it's adjacent to Casco Viejo, where apartments are selling for $250,000-$1 million range for up to 2,000 square feet. The writing's all over the walls down there.

Generally a blast. I'll tell you a bit more next week.