I had some time to kill after inspecting Casco Viejo and decided to meander over to Central and soak in some real Panamanian ambiance. That, and I needed a couple of t-shirts and a pair of flip-flops to round out the beachwear I was going to need over the coming weeks.
Avenida Central is a major roadway meandering through Panama City’s working class districts. A portion of the Avenida has been blocked off for traffic and made into a pedestrian shopping district known simply as “Central” .
Central is a place full of junk, er, I mean bargain shopping. And just like the rest of Panama, it is a place full of surprises.
As per usual, Central was thronging with people, all kinds of people. There were Kuna indians in full indigenous dress, Chinese vendors selling cell phone paraphernalia, shy Arab women with their faces covered and children in tow, middle eastern men with rectangular hats that were too small for their heads, large black men dressed like women… large black men dressed like… wait a minute!
I rub my tired eyes.
Yes, that is a large black man dressed like a woman and his friends appear to have painted faces and costumes. They have musical instruments… this should be interesting, I reach for my video camera and surpriiiiise…
Still in shock, I retreat to the back of the crowd to catch my breath and watch old men play dominoes. I resume my search for beach ware.
The clothing stores along Central come across a lot like a Panamanian dance club, they blast salsa music and female sales agents stick to you like glue. Literally, when you go shopping in Panama, a sales agent will follow you around wherever you go. I’ve had some fun with this before by making random twists and turns through the aisles to try to shake them off but if never works. A dozen or so salsa songs later, I find a couple of surf t-shirts for $2.99 each and call it a day.