It’s amazing how fast the clocks seem to tick. It was only 31 years ago when we decided to tie the knot and move to our new home in Residencial El Bosque. To be exact, that was on July 12, 1980. Since then, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge. My jet black hair has been replaced with snow white hair, I have more than one wrinkle on my face, and my body doesn’t move as swiftly as it used to. Yep, there has been many changes since 1980.
Residencial El Bosque is a neighborhood of approximately 400 houses sheltered by rolling hills in the Special District of San Miguelito in Panama City, Panama. It’s mainly a residential area for lower-middle class and middle-middle class dwellers. El Bosque, means “The forest”, however it’s not a real forest at all. Most of the trees have been victims of the creeping city as urban growth expands outwards.
In order to get to Residencial El Bosque, you have to drive through Via Ricardo J. Alfaro Highway, commonly known as Tumba Muerto (Place of the Dead). When this highway was being built in the seventies, it was so far away from downtown Panama, that people were killed in the city and dropped near this highway, thus the name Tumba Muerto. There were very few buildings and no residential areas back then.
As the calendar added new pages to its collection, the city started to creep towards Tumba Muerto. Now it’s practically part of the city with all its baggage; meaning bumper-to-bumper traffic, large malls, city noise, shrieking buses, police car sirens, neon lights, and other typical urban characteristics. We are currently inserted inside the urban belly of the beast.
In 2011 we got our first two towers right at the entrance of El Bosque. Obviously, we lost the magnificent view to the city, since El Bosque consists of only one-story homes. The apartments of the towers are selling for $80,000 and $114,000 apiece. The new towers will add value to our homes. I think they call it goodwill appreciation.
Another indication of how the city is spreading out, is the presence of three Caterpillar tractors working on a large building site which used to be covered with tall green grass. This organic wall protected Residencial El Bosque from the traffic noise of Tumba Muerto. For 31 years it was untouched and served as a mitigating wall for urban growth. Even though we were situated within a city, we still enjoyed a certain taste of the countryside. Chirping birds, tall green grass, quietness, slow traffic—all this was part of El Bosque for more than three decades. With the new construction projects, we have lost our innocence. We have been gobbled up by the jungle of concrete and steel.
Before they start building, I decided to capture the area to remind me of how it was before the city bumped into El Bosque. The first pictures include a large vacant lot which was recently cleaned. The tall grass was also cut preparing the lot for the arrival of the large mechanical Cats. The second set of pictures depicts large amounts of gravel and dirt which is being used to refill the area before the construction project starts. The difference between both areas is impressive—and sad I might add. Here we go.
Snapshot of a large vacant lot in front of El Bosque. It will soon be populated by buildings of some kind. I will miss this place when it's gone. Photo ©Omar Upegui R.
Another angle of the vacant lot at the entrance of El Bosque. Notice the presence of small trees in the background. I hope they will be pardoned when the construction begins. Photo ©Omar Upegui R.
Snapshot of an enticing piece of land in front of the neighborhood where I live in Panama City, Panama. Photo ©Omar Upegui R.
Snapshot of an adjacent lot to the one previously shown. As you can see, it's being refilled to raise the level of the ground to protect it against floods. It's very different from the previous snapshots. Photo ©Omar Upegui R.
Snapshot of a piece of land being prepared for a building project in the neighborhood of El Bosque in Panama City, Panama. Photo ©Omar Upegui R.
As you can see, the big Cats have done their job. Most of the grass is gone and only a barren site is visible. Soon there will buildings here. Soon all this green in the background will disappear. Photo ©Omar Upegui R.
The buildings towards your right are the houses of El Bosque. The structure at the top towards your left, is our church. The organic wall that mitigated the stress of the city is being wiped out by the big Cats. I will miss this loss of green. Photo ©Omar Upegui R.
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