Friday, June 22, 2012

Our Journey Continued.....Colon

This is a continuation of the last blog, as we made our way to our next leg of the journey.  We bravely ventured into territory where some would say we shouldn't have gone. Colon is the second largest city in Panamá at the Carribbean end of the Canal. Pick up any information on Panamá and it will surely say not to visit Colon.  Downtown Colon is a depressed, run-down area with a mostly Afro-Carribbean population. We noticed hard working, lower class people living in tenements along the waterfront. Some real estate developer could turn this place into a high dollar ocean front city like Miami, if only they had the desire.

Statue of Christ on
the beachfront of Colon

Ships waiting to enter the Canal

View of the town center

The city was founded in 1850 by Americans working on the railroad and was named "Aspinwall" after one of the railroad builders until 1890.  The locals called the city Colon after Christopher Columbus and that name stuck.  Since the city was built on a swampy island it was notoriously unhealthy and often plagued by yellow fever until a new water system and sewerage was installed and the swamps were drained. 

Run Down buildings of Colon

Run Down buildings of Colon

This Apartment doesn't look too bad.
Phil and Sharon's car sneaking in for free advertising

This one is scary!


Some fresh Paint does wonders!

More Freshly Painted apartments


Colon is known for it's Free Trade Zone or "Zona Libre." This giant entity covers over 500 acres and serves as a re-export of an enormous variety of merchandise to Latin America and the Carribbean. An example of a free port, it's the largest one of the Americas and the second largest in the world. It opened in 1948 and sees some 250,000 visitors a year and has 1,751 companies established within it's walls.

Free Zone Warehouses

Sign for Zona Libre

More Warehouses!
It generates exports and re-exports valued at more than US $6.5 billion in 2005, which can count on all the services and facilities offered by the Free Zone, for importing, storing, assembling, re-packing and re-exporting products from all over the world.  From all types of electric appliances to pharmaceutical products, liquor, cigarettes, office and home furniture, clothing, shoes, jewelry, toys, etc.  It is considered the "Trading Showcase" of Central and South America as well as for the Caribbean region.
Dividends arising from external operations or from those operations that are executed or consumed abroad are tax-free. There are no capital investment taxes. Municipal and local taxes do not apply to firms operating in the Free Zone and there are no taxes on shipments to or from the Free Zone from or to anywhere in the world.

During its heyday, Colón was home to dozens of night clubs, cabarets and movie theaters. It was known for its citizens' civic pride, orderly appearance and outstanding native sons and daughters. Politically-instigated riots in the 1960s destroyed the city's beautiful municipal palace and signaled the start of the city's decline, which was further accelerated by the military dictatorships of Omar Torrijos and Manuel Noriega from 1968-1989.

Since the late 1960s, Colón has been in serious economic and social decline. In recent times, the unemployment rate has hovered around 40% and the poverty rate is even greater than that. Drug addiction and poverty have contributed to crime and violence issues which successive Panamanian governments have not addressed effectively.

Our visit just included a walk down the main street for a view of the waterfront.  We managed to survive unharmed as did our vehicles.  We always tell people not to fear going anywhere in Panamá and you can see we follow our own advice.  Life in Panamá is always just one big adventure, for two folks....along the gringo trail.

 

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