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Casco Viejo Street Art: Graffiti in a UNESCO Site

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Panama City's historic district may be officially known as San Felipe, but most people know it as Casco Antiguo or Casco Viejo. This once-fortified part of the city has a fascinating history and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Graffiti in Casco Viejo Panama

In the past few years, Casco Viejo has been undergoing a renaissance. Once it is fully restored we can easily envision that the colorful old town will rival Cartagena in beauty. In the meantime, street artists have been decorating the UNESCO site's neglected walls with their own artistic inspirations.

This is a major problem for the city; although it is extremely creative it is just as illegal. Panama's authorities face the problem with restoring streets and reforming gangs at the same time. Visitors don't notice the social work but they do see the street art. Here is a collection of some of our favorite street art from Casco Viejo.

The ubiquitous dog

This dog appears all over Casco Viejo in various sizes and incarnations. Judging from the smear of black paint though, it appears that in this case someone didn't appreciate the artist's efforts.

Casco Viejo Street Art dog, red line drawing on white background

Snarling jaguar

Trying to find a place to park in Panama City's old town can be a challenge at the best of times. After all, this 350-year-old city just doesn't have a lot of areas reserved for automobiles. Sometimes driving around just isn't enough. Locals know that and often earn a few extra dollars by pointing people to hidden parking areas.

That's how we found this snarling jaguar street art: Someone directed us to a secluded parking lot on a side street. Most of the parking lot's concrete block walls were painted, which is not surprising. It seemed to us that someone has a lot of talent and we'd love to know who created it.

Colorful jaguar street art on a wall in Casco Viejo

Random animal

Don't ask us what this animal is, because we don't know. But judging from the beautiful and realistic snarling jaguar that was painted nearby, we're pretty sure the artist's painting is of an actual Panamanian animal.

If you know what kind of animal this is, please tell us!

Street Art

Artistic masks

Here is one of the most colorful pieces we saw in Casco. It must have taken quite a bit of time and paint, and we're guessing it was a team effort.

Originally I thought they were faces, but the top one is a cat, and since none of the faces have eyeballs, we assume they are meant to be masks.

This photo is a close-up of part of the art. What you cannot see is the segment with an arm holding a sign that says “VOTA POR UN CAMBIO ARTISTICO.” Literally translated, it means, “vote for an artistic change.” Maybe the street artists in Panama are becoming politically active?

Casco viejo street art masks

Have you found any other art in Casco Antiguo? Please share it with us and we'll give you credit!

Written by Linda

Linda is multilingual and has been to over 50 countries. Her insatiable love of travel, cuisine, and foreign languages has inspired her to create As We Saw It with her husband Dan, a professional photographer. Her goal is to make travel easier for others and to offer a brief escape to another land.

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10 thoughts on “Casco Viejo Street Art: Graffiti in a UNESCO Site

  1. I am always mesmerized by these graffiti art. I’m sure we have some good one in Los Angeles too, but unfortunately the areas where they are displayed is not very safe to walk. When graffiti first started it was considered a form of vandalism and unfortunately, sometimes it still is. With the exception of some very exquisite drawings that you sometimes come across, there is a lot of messy scribbling on clean buildings, doors, bridges, etc. that require heavy cleaning. However, when it’s done with talent and the intention of creating something beautiful, graffiti can create works of art. Casco Viejo is one of these examples.

    1. You make a good point, Anda, and it’s true that they always seem to be in “less desirable neighborhoods.” While we do appreciate that many graffiti artists are incredibly talented, we think it is a shame that they choose not to find a more constructive venue for their art. I am sure that a lot of them could pull in some serious money by offering to paint large murals, rather than deface other people’s buildings.

  2. We have a lot of those as well in the Philippines however most of it are just vandalism and not a pretty art like these. Lol. The ones you’ll see in the Philippines are just horrendous. :p

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