Located adjacent to one of Panama City’s most popular touristic neighborhoods is El Chorrillo, considered one of the most dangerous parts of Panama’s capital. El Chorrillo is often called a “red zone” by locals – a place to avoid, fear, and steer clear of. There is one person though who is leading visitors through El Chorrillo and giving a glimpse into a story of history, neglect, and change.
Next To The Boom
The historic and touristic neighborhood of Casco Viejo is expanding and demand for more land have begun eating into El Chorrillo and driving both prices up and residents out. Local guide Victor Peretz who runs Local in Pty takes small groups through the winding streets where in 1989 the United States invaded the El Chorrillo, home of Manuel Noriega’s military base. El Chorrillo has never recovered truly and has been plagued with violence.
Victor takes you through the pain of El Chorrillo as well as the daily life within the neighborhood. (Shown in the video above.) El Chorrillo is vibrant with local domino games (an elderly favorite), education initiatives (which Victor is an integral part) and Panama hat maker Mario whose family has been there for three generations.
Changes For Better Or Worse
As Casco Viejo become more expensive, property owners are slowly buying land and constructing new buildings in El Chorrillo. Right now most of the activity is on the borders but the trend is clear – Casco Viejo is moving into El Chorrillo. A slow tidal wave that brings with it uncertainty, co-working spaces, and expensive apartments in a gentrification story familiar in many large cities worldwide.
Victor shows you the present while putting perspective on the past as premonitions about the future become apparent. Overall the walk through El Chorrillo is enlightening and not uncomfortable as you have an experienced guide navigating you through otherwise tricky streets. Victor can be reached by Instagram, Facebook, and email ([email protected]). Tours run around 3 hours at a leisurely pace and begin from Casco Viejo. I can highly recommend Victor’s tours if you want to see a part of Panama City that might otherwise seem unreachable. The tour of El Chorrillo was the most memorable part of my visit to Panama City and gave a contrast with Casco Viejo I would have missed.