Casco Antiguo is in many ways the heart of Panamanian tradition.
But new things are constantly sprouting from its walls.
Like roots that dig deep into fertile soil, Esperanza aims to be a jumping-off point for start-ups such as Fortaleza Tours (a walking tour of Casco’s former red zones led by the very same ex-gang members who used to cause harm to the area and its visitors).
And today, three new graduates from our most recent cycle are pushing the mission (and the icons that we’ve come to identify as Casco Viejo) along.
To give you a little context, upon graduating our 10-week intervention program, some Esperanza participants opt for job placement in any number of restaurants or hotels around the neighborhood.
Other members — typically those with leadership qualities — choose our entrepreneurial circuit: proposing their business plans and seed capital funding requests to a “Shark Tank” style panel of local business leaders…
Upon getting approved, they each begin with their respective coaches (as well as a full back-office suite of volunteer services such as marketing, accounting and legal help) developing their businesses.
Today, we are thrilled to announce three new businesses encompassing Casco Viejo’s most iconic sights and sounds:
With family contacts in the fishing industry and a knack for retail, Juan and his fellow-graduate Martin have started Hope Seafood, distributing fresh seafood.
Among their clients are restaurants like Manolo Caracol (above), Donde Jose, Las Clementinas and Super Gourmet.
And while other distributors freeze and store their fish sometimes for days, Juan and Martin use their car to fetch it straight from the docks, collecting it directly from their family members who have been fishermen all their lives.
If you’re interested in supporting their business (either residential or commercial) simply contact Juan at 6252-3869.
Having rescued himself from the dangers of once living on them, Samuel now embraces Casco’s streets as a symbol of connection, cohabitation, and commerce.
Samuel’s business, Delivery del Casco, is a mobile mini mart and delivery service.
Under Samuel’s umbrella, anything can be picked up and delivered within an hour’s notice.
When we think of Panama’s streets and all the dismal statistics associated, it’s refreshing to watch graduates like Samuel begin to strengthen them once again.
And of course, our historic district’s sea and its streets would not be complete without our centerpiece homes.
As a neighborhood, Casco’s ability to evolve comes from how its residents connect with loved ones, the knowledge they impart on their kids, and the love they share for their neighbors.
Our third graduate Yves Becerra’s new business, El Mana, is a Creole cuisine kitchen based out of a home lent to him by a neighbor.
Yves and his wife Cynthia (above) will serve authentic and affordable Panamanian lunches to Casco’s government offices five days a week for a nominal $4 (with diet options available too).
Of course, if you’re in town, they serve individual lunches too!
It’s lovely to reflect, that no longer is gang violence a concern in Casco Viejo.
With these three forces – the sea, the streets, and the home – representing three much more savory aspects that allow visitors and residents alike to rest easy.
The sea will keep us fresh.
The streets will keep us strong.
And the home will keep us kind.
Clearly, a neighborhood that’s in very good hands.
Update: Here are our new businessmen (along with Jaffet from Fortaleza Tours) at an entrepreneur event hosted by La Prensa!