In 1997, the United Nations declared Panama City’s Casco Viejo – or Old Town – a World Heritage Site, a distinction that marked it as a historic resource for the world. Panamanians celebrated it as a draw for tourism.
Now the district is the scene of a new tussle, however. A proposed ocean causeway that would girdle Old Town has brought to the fore the issue of whether nations have a duty to ensure preservation of areas that have been deemed part of the world’s heritage. In short, does Panama owe it to humanity to guarantee Old Town’s essential character?