Some of you may have read The New York Times article entitled Panama City Rising, which features Esperanza graduate Nico and his bar La Vecindad:
“In the early days of contemporary Panama, or 1999, Mr. Mercado was 16 and the head of the Hot Boys gang, which prowled the eastern blocks of Casco Viejo. There were three other gangs in the area. They mostly sold drugs, though robberies and murder were common too…
“Mr. Mercado, who has a shaved head and thick, muscled arms, welcomed me in a courtyard at the end of a long entryway where two friendly police officers happened to be standing. Graffiti, the artful kind with intricate angles and bold colors, lined the walls. Upstairs a singer was working on a Latin pop track in the bar’s recording studio.”
The place the author is talking about is called La Vecindad, effectively the first true business to materialize from Esperanza’s efforts in Casco Viejo.
During the day Nico sells simple lunches of rice and beans to government employees.
At night, it turns into a busy Reggaeton club…which (while it might sound sexy) is where Nico and his team have hit a problem.
You see, despite its legitimate success, La Vecindad’s thumping beats that rage long into the morning hours aren’t exactly a hit with its neighbors. Nico has also voiced some concern that his clientele isn’t ideal…staying up late and making lots of noise. This is making him the villain with the very people who helped in Nico’s transformation…
So with the help of our volunteer network, we decided to give La Vecindad an makeover. This included a SWAT-like team of architects, artists, event planners and maintenance volunteers to help revamp everything from the look to the feel.
Here are some great shots of people enjoying the new lounge rebranding: