The Legendary Tropical Theater

This was one of the most famous entertainment venues in Panama City during the forties, fifties and sixties.  Artists from all over from Latin America performed here.  Some of the names I can remember are:  Daniel Santos, Olguita Guillot, Vicentico Valdés, Beny Moré, Virginia López, Cascarita, Celia Cruz, etc.

If you look closely at the old marquee, you can still read the following (although some letters are missing):  Hoy Olga Guillot, Abierto 10:00 a.m. (Today Olga Guillot, Open 10:00 a.m.). Olga Guillot is no longer with us.  She passed away in 2010.  Olga Guillot (October 9, 1922 – July 12, 2010) was a Cuban singer who was known as the ‘queen of bolero’. She was a native of the Cuban city of Santiago.

Other similar venues operating during this period were:  El Abrigo Rojo, Maxim, El Sombrero, La Cueva de Montesinos, El Happy Land and Camelot.  Some other names surely have slipped my mind.

Rivers of money flowed on the streets of Panama City and Colon during the forties.  The ports of Cristobal and Balboa were the last ports where thousands of soldiers and sailors spent their last dollars and drank their last cold beers before departing to the South Pacific to fight against the Japanese military forces.

Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.

In 1962, when I first came to Panama City, El Teatro Tropical was in full swing.  Now it is forgotten, dark, dirty and dilapidated.  I was sixteen years old then.  Now I’m sixty-eight. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge.  Bye.


5 thoughts on “The Legendary Tropical Theater”

  1. Even in its current state, the echoes of the Art Deco era are visible. We have a few such gems still around, although they were movie theaters rather than venues for live performance. One in Houston, the Alabama Theater, did survive and was repurposed as a bookstore, and then as a Trader Joe’s grocery. With Jack Benny’s name on the marquee in the photo, and the look of the cars, I’d say this probably was in the late 1940’s or 1950s.

  2. For many years, Teatro Tropical was used both as a movie theater and as a live performance venue. Now it’s idle, remembering the “good ole days”.

    Your time estimate is pretty accurate—late forties or fifties.



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