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VOL. 13 #5 -- Feb. 23 - Mar. 8, 2007
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Santa Ana rediscovered

Santa Ana's park during its heyday (early 20th century).

In this age of modern, air-conditioned malls, boutiques and high-tech cinemas it seems hard to believe that not long ago, the center of town was the vicinity surrounding the small Parque de Santa Ana.

The history of Santa Ana spans three centuries. After the destruction of Old Panama in 1671 the settlement relocated to the Ancon peninsula, the southern tip of which became San Felipe –the neighborhood of the well-to-to. The northern portion of the peninsula, Santa Ana, was considered the "arrabal" (slum), housing slaves and poor laborers who were only allowed to enter San Felipe during daylight hours.

Front view of Santa Ana church.

The construction of the ill-fated French Canal project (1880's) brought important changes to this off-limits district, which absorbed part of the international workforce that came to Panama during that period. The neighborhood's main square, adjacent to a colonial-style church, was embellished with paved sidewalks, tropical shrubs and a gazebo.

Towards the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries, a large percentage of Santa Ana's residents were middle class and the area's pastures were urbanized with art nouveau and art deco buildings. The country's first cinemas appeared along the neighborhood's narrow streets, along with stylish cafés, such as the centennial Café Coca Cola, which is still open today, more than 110 years after its opening.

View of Parque Santa Ana (2007).

Despite its tremendous growth, Santa Ana held steadfast to its humble origins –the gathering place of the proletariat who often demanded social justice from the upper classes with large rallies at the neighborhood's park. One of the most memorable (but controversial) images of Parque de Santana from the past is that of U.S troops during a military intervention requested by Panamanian authorities during major riots in 1925.

Since then, Parque de Santana has been considered a bastion of nationalist causes, although the growth of the city eastward is starting to erase its image from the collective memory of younger generations.

Impressive facades still stand in the neighborhood.


Getting to know
Campana National Park

Birdwatchers, campers and eco-adventurers are welcome to visit Altos de Campana National Park – 4.925 hectares of green forests and rolling hills located in the western area of the province of Panama.

Altos de Campana is Panama's first national park. It was created in 1966 to protect the Panama Canal basin. The area is part of the eastern slope of the El Valle de Anton volcano, and its past volcanic activity is clearly reflected in its rugged terrain, which features spectacular cliffs, lava fields and tors. From some of its hills, visitors can enjoy commanding vistas of the Canal basin as well as Chame Point and bay

The park harbors four types of forest communities: humid tropical forest, very humid premontane forest, very humid tropical forest and premontane rainforest. The peak of Cerro Campana is considered a biogeographical island for endemic species. Mosses, orchids, bromeliads and epiphytes grow, there.

There are 39 mammal species, one of the most numerous being the black-eared opossum (Didelphis marsupialis). Also present are the endemic mouse species Liomys adspersus coati (Nasua narica) , crab-eating raccoon (Procion cancrivorus), two-toed sloth (Choloepus hoffmani) and three-toed sloth (Bradypus variegates), Geoffroy's tamarin (Saguinus geoffroyi). Two-hundred and sixty-seven bird species have been spotted at the park, of which 48 are migratory.

The golden frog: a famous resident of Campana National Park and El Valle de Antón.

Altos de Campana also boasts 62 species of amphibians and 86 types of reptiles --the largest number in central Panama. The seven endemic species include the rare frog Atelopuszeteki, which is found in a very small area of the national park. The others are the salamander Bolitoglossa schizadactyla, the caecilian Caecilia volcani, the gecko Anolis lionotus, the lizard Morunasaurus grai, and the rare snakes Trimetopon barbouri. The protected area is also home to the giant frog Leptodactylus pentadactylus, the largest amphibian in Panama, the spiny toads Bufo coniferus and Dendrobates minutus.

Location: the park is located between the provinces of Panama and Coclé, overlooking Chame Bay over the Pacific, 90 kilometers by road from Panama City. To get there from Panama City, visitors need to get on the Pan-American Highway and drive westward to the town of Capira, which is only a few kilometers from the entrance of the park.

Facilities: the park has administrative HQ and an excellent nature trail from which, if you are patient, it is possible to see lots of animals. The trail was constructed by the park management in conjunction with Panama University. An interesting illustrated guidebook to the park is available at the park's administrative offices

Accommodation: visitors are recommended to stay in Panama City as it is only about 90 minutes drive away.

For more information, contact the ANAM offices in the park (tel 507 244-0092) or the ANAM regional headquarters in Cocle (telephone 507 997-7538; fax 507 997-9077)


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