I am just back from over a week in the beautiful nation of Panama. It has been four years since I was last there and the changes are astounding (more on that in other posts).
I went with our photographer, Susana Raab, to do photo documentation for the upcoming exhibit Bridging the Americas. The framework for Bridging the Americas is the relationship between the nations of Panama and the United States. The Panama Canal and the former U.S. territory, The Panama Canal Zone, are literally and figuratively at the center of this bond.
One of the spaces I was most excited for Susana to document was the ascent at Cerro Ancon, or Ancon Hill.
Ancon Hill is the highest point in Panama City. It is home to lush vegetation and wildlife, provides spectacular views of Panama City and the Panama Canal, and has historical significance.
When the U.S. controlled the Panama Canal Zone (1903-1979/1999) multiple levels of U.S. authority existed in and around Cerro Ancon – political, medical, and military. The area held the residence of the U.S. Canal Zone Governor, the U.S. Gorgas Hospital, and also parts of U.S. Southern Command.
On my first journey to the summit in 2010, I was greeted in route by fellow hikers and the reclamation of public space via nationalist art. I loved them! It felt like the perfect visual goodbye gift on the final day of my research year in Panama.
Here are just a few of the many pictures I took on my ascent in 2010.
Four short/long years later, the hike up Cerro Ancon was much less colorful. Gone are the benches formerly painted with Panamanian symbols – ladies in polleras, the Bridge of the Americas, the Panamanian skyline, the gold frog.
Now the benches are a standard dismal gray. There are small remnants of color and nationalist symbols near the top of the hill like this one:
And though gray the benches, even on a cloud day in Panama City, the views of the city, the bridges, and the Panama Canal are still spectacular and well worth the hike!