Author: Cristina Guevara

Panama City Views

John Muir once said, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” A hike up Ancon Hill is an activity that I recommend to people of all ages, both residents and visitors of Panama. It takes about 45 minutes to reach the top of the hill, where the bird’s-eye views of Panama City are truly unmatched. Also, If you’re lucky enough you’ll be able spot a sloth or two, as wildlife is abundant in this tropical jungle. At the top of hill, the highest point of Panama City, there is a symbolic Panamanian flag that was hoisted in 1977 when Panama signed the Panama Canal Treaty with the United States; to handle over all operations of the Canal to the Panamanian government at the end of the 20th century. The hill is popular among joggers and hikers. I was there about a week ago with my family on a Sunday. I hadn’t been to Ancon Hill since I was 12 or 13 years old on a school fieldtrip. Our assignment was to take pictures of as …

Bogotá, la bonita

We spent Easter in Bogotá, the capital and largest city of Colombia. With a population of 11 million, the metropolis spans over 600 square miles and is the third highest capital in South America (at 6,880 ft above sea level). Despite having certain architectural resemblances with Panama City (mostly the colonial buildings in La Candelaria being similar to those found in our Casco Antiguo), these two capitals of neighboring countries are worlds apart – economically, geographically and culturally speaking. Now, can we skip all the nonsense and get to what’s really important? The food! Yes, the rumors are true – Bogota’s restaurant scene, from the traditional cuisine to the gourmet international presence, did not disappoint. In fact, it was probably the highlight of our trip, with us taking turns each day in choosing restaurants (trust me, it was harder than you’d think – so many options!). A nature lover, I was positively overwhelmed by the amount of green spaces in Bogotá. Of course, even from the plane, the surrounding Eastern range of the Andes Mountains …

8 a.m in the Caribbean

Isla Grande – which translates to “Big Island” – is, ironically, a tiny and charming island off Panama’s Caribbean coast.  The island welcomes you with it’s warm and crystal clear waters, as well as hundreds of seductive palm trees, lush vegetation, and unique animal species. Isla Grande is uncommercialized. Do not expect boutiques, big stores, or fancy restaurants. Parts of the town are dirty and unkempt. Zero WiFi. There are only two hotels in the island, although some home owners do rent theirs on sites like AirBnB. From Panama City, it’s a smooth two hour drive in the newly built highway to La Guaira, located in the Colón province. Before arriving at La Guaira you will see the colonial fortifications of Portobelo, including the famous canyons; this historic city was an important port for the Spaniards between the 16th and 18th century. It was named “beautiful port” by Christopher Columbus, and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980. For our mother and daughter getaway, we decided to stop for lunch at a restaurant in Portobelo called El …

The House on the Hill

Growing up in Panama, I spent most of my weekends and summer vacations in my grandmother’s rustic beach house. The land where it’s located is about 10,000 square feet of lush vegetation and steep hills. Not so far one can see the Pacific Ocean. I remember clearly those hot summer days running around the estate with my brothers and cousins from dawn to dusk, when our parents would summon us back to the house worried we might encounter a snake in the dark. I remember my father rising early to plant trees and pick up different herbs. A cilantro tea each morning. Simpler times, indeed…  The contrast between the city, chaotic and densely populated, and the interior of the country is radical. Real estate developers and the hotel industry are responsible for more and more new luxury resorts and beachfront communities each year. Little by little, the landscape is tarnished. We are losing more and more of the virgin nature. My grandmother’s beach house is not completely abandoned, but it’s true that as her grandchildren …

Joy

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy. Rumi. Is there anything more magical in life than exploring new places? Photo of the Seine River, Paris. Taken during an cold, early morning on November 2016, when I decided to walk from the 6th arrondissement to the Louvre, then to Grand Palais, and then down to L’Arc de Triomphe, by myself. What a joy to be alive! Hoping for more opportunities to travel and praying for the courage to venture and risk more in life, by myself, with less commodities and luxuries.  That’s where my soul is at.

Bay City

I had been dreaming of visiting San Francisco for years; everything from its rich history to its parks, landmarks and especially the nearby wine country had made me enthusiastic about a possible trip. Panama played an important role in the California Gold Rush, the Panama Railroad being one of the preferred routes for those traveling into California, as opposed to the hazardous journey across the continental United States. (Now we have the Panama Canal). In 2015 I watched The Age of Adaline, a beautiful movie starring Blake Lively, and the images of Chinatown, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the spectacular scenery of Marin County portrayed in the film induced an even more overwhelming desire in me to visit this city in Northern California. It’s hard to explain but deep inside I knew I would love it there, and coincidentally, my mom called me in late 2015 wanting to plan a family trip over New Years. When she suggested San Francisco, I said that’s the one. There are a few direct flights from Panama City to SFO; …

You Are My Witnessess

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum tells a story that is not alien or unknown to us. And while may have studied the historical facts surrounding the events of World War II, the exhibitions at the USHMM are shocking. Once inside the museum, a sequence of emotions hits you all at once. For me, it was anger, sadness, and aching. I was there last summer, and I remember feeling the discomfort even in my bones. I was recently invited to the screening of a movie here in Panama. Denial (2016), directed by Mick Janson and starring Rachel Weisz, tells the story of professor Deborah Lippstadt who is sued for libel by a Holocaust denier. I must admit, prior to watching this film I had never heard of such thing as a Holocaust denier and can not believe they even existed (exist?). The film is great, by the way: well acted, intense, and effective at delivering the message of the importance of truth and justice. It was screened at a local theater, organized by the Friends of Yad Vashem. One …

Pleasure in the Pathless Woods

Corruption can be defined as the abuse of power for private benefit. This is one of the biggest challenges in Latin America and a pressing problem in Panamá. When I think about some of the economic and social repercussions of corrupt government officials, images of families living under the poverty line in zinc sheet houses come to mind, contrasting with sky-high towers and luxury sports cars racing the streets of Panama City. Inequality, injustice, poverty. Corruption has negative repercussions not only on society and the economy but also the environment. The issue of deforestation is another important environmental challenge that is affected by government corruption, specifically by resource exploitation and a lack of protection for tropical forests. Panama is home to an abundance of flora, fauna, and natural resources. Protecting the environment ensures clean air and water for humans; it also benefits the country’s ecotourism, which in turn helps boost the economy. This is where Ecovenao comes in. Located about 220 miles from our capital Panama City is Playa Venao, a popular surf spot in …

Pretty Streets: Georgetown, DC

It will soon be a year from my last visit to Washington DC. Spring in that city is truly magical, and the thought of the possibility of moving there this Fall is exciting. The colorful houses on Georgetown, all of the free museums, the vast presence of embassies and NGOs, the diversity of people, the political awareness and intellectual conversations, the variety of restaurants… there are simply enough reasons to help get me up each morning in the District… and I have not even mentioned the cupcakes. Here’s a collection of photos from my last trip to D.C. I was just there for three and a half days, and though it seems quite short looking back, I really did squeeze in as much as I could. I had wanted to go to The Holocaust Memorial Museum for years now, so that of course was my first stop. Another highlight was the food, some of the best restaurants I’ve been in the whole world are in D.C.: José Andrés’ Mediterranean Zaytinya; Fiola Mare, Italian seafood with …