The following list includes all the Panamanian authorities in Casco Viejo:
Oficina del Casco Antiguo (OCA)
The Oficina del Casco Antiguo (OCA) was created by an executive decree in 2000. This office is made up of the Minister of the Presidency, the Minister of Housing, the Mayor of Panama City, the director of the Tourism Authority and the Minister of Culture. This authority is in charge of managing many things in the neighborhood, including vehicular traffic, use of public areas, and basic infrastructure and services.
In 2004, a law was passed which created a “manual of norms and procedures for the restoration and rehabilitation of Casco Antiguo in Panama City.” The Oficina del Casco Antiguo (OCA) must work hand in hand with the National Directorate of Historical Heritage. Both authorities are part of the Ministry of Culture of Panama.
Since 2005, OCA has operated a parking lot that is located opposite of the National Theater of Panama. This plaza, with a capacity for 117 vehicles, has deteriorated over the years. Finally, in 2017 $550 thousand were approved for its restoration. The income generated by these parking lots is used to cover all the operating expenses of the office.
National Directorate of Historical Heritage (Patrimonio Histórico)
The National Directorate of Historical Heritage was created in 1982 as part of the National Institute of Culture of Panama. Their job is to recognize, study, preserve, manage, and enrich the nation’s historical heritage.
Under its jurisdiction are:
- Historical monuments
- Monumental sets
- Aquatic sites
- Archaeological sites
- Cultural assets
- Property and real estate and any object or element that constitutes documentary evidence of the historical past
This entity works in conjunction with universities such as the Technological University, the University of Panama and the USMA. As with the Panamanian Academy of History and the National Archives. Team members also include representatives of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Economy and Finance (Cadastre) of Panama.
The Casco Viejo of Panama City is one of the commissions of the National Directorate of Historical Heritage. The institution has the power to “eliminate the discordant elements that distort the intrinsic value of the place”.
Each property must be restored and adapted in a way that highlights its original values. This institution is the one that approves the plans and supervises the entire construction process. Anyone who buys an unrestored property in Casco Viejo will have to spend a lot of time in this office. This is the authority that decides on the architecture of the neighborhood.
Ministry of Culture
It was originally created in 1974 as the National Institute of Culture that was part of the Ministry of Education. However, the institution always had its own legal status and autonomy. This authority is located in one of the most iconic buildings in the Casco Viejo, the old Palace of Justice. You can see it if you go to the Monumental Ensemble of Las Bóvedas. It is also in front of the French Embassy.
Next to it is the Anita Villalaz Theater, which was originally the Courtroom of the Supreme Court of Justice. Since 1996 it has been used as a theater, with 250 removable seats on two floors. This theater continues to operate with free and paid plays.
The building of the Ministry of Culture of Panama was designed by the Italian architect Genaro Ruggieri, who made the Municipal Palace and the National Theater of Panama. However, the plans were suspended and in the end, they were modified by the architect Rogelio Navarro who designed the building which is now restored.
23 centers that teach artistic expressions are managed by the Ministry of Culture of Panama. In addition, they have 13 regional centers and 18 museums including the Reina Torres de Araúz Anthropological Museum (under restoration), the Afro-Antillean Museum and the Museum of Religious Art. They manage the National Theater and the Balboa Theater, apart from the Symphony Orchestra and the National Ballet.
Ministry of Government of Panama
The Ministry of Government and Justice of Panama was one of the first ministries created in 1903 just after the separation of Panama from Colombia. In 2010, it was divided into two, creating the Ministry of Government and the Ministry of Public Security of Panama.
The current responsibilities of this authority include managing the fire brigade, civil protection, public safety, prison system, post office, governance, and internal government. The Government Ministry of Panama is located on Avenida Central, between Calle 2 and 3, next to the National Theater of Panama.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Panama
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Panama is in charge of Panama’s diplomatic relations. It appoints and works with Panamanian ambassadors and consuls accredited in different countries and international organizations. It is also responsible for those embassies and consulates accredited to Panama. Another function of this ministry is to direct and coordinate foreign policy.
In 2003 they moved to the Monumental and Heritage Complex of the Palacio Bolivar, after a complete restoration. This building is truly spectacular. It is located next to the Pacific Ocean in Plaza Bolivar in Casco Viejo. Those who are interested in visiting it can request a tour.
Municipal Palace of Panama
The Municipal Palace of Panama is located in the Plaza de la Independencia or Plaza Catedral, diagonal to the Metropolitan Cathedral of Panama. Originally it was the building of the council when we were a Spanish colony. The current structure, with neoclassical architecture, has existed since June 1910. In 2017, the building was re-inaugurated after extensive renovation.
El Hatillo building, in Calidonia, is where the municipal procedures are carried out. This Municipal Palace of Panama serves only for the weekly meetings of the Municipal Council. The mayor of the capital city meets with all the representatives of the township. Visitors can enter and appreciate the Panama History Museum that opened in 1977. The most important piece is the first Panamanian flag, made by Maria Ossa de Amador, wife of Manuel Amador Guerrero.
Panama’s Presidential Palace
The President of Panama, who is the head of state and government, operates from the Palace of the Herons (Palacio de las Garzas) in Casco Viejo. Whoever is elected (by popular vote) heads the Executive Branch for a period of five years. The Ministry of the Presidency must coordinate the functions of the State and be the communication body of the President of the Republic and the Cabinet Council, with the other institutions of the Public Sector and individuals in general.
Panama’s Presidential Palace is located between Calle 4 and 5 with Avenida B, facing the ocean in the Bay of Panama. This building dates from 1673, but it has been modified through the years. Originally it had different uses and it was not until 1875 that it became the Presidential Palace. In 1922, President Belisario Porras restored the building and built a second floor. Interestingly, you can see herons in the central courtyard upon entering, giving the building its name.
The Casco Viejo Tourism Police is located on Avenida Central with Calle 3, between the Diablico and Tío Navaja restaurants. Its phone number is (507) 211-3365. This division of the National Police of Panama was founded in 1993. Its function is to offer greater security to the tourists who visit Panama. These police officers are highly educated and often speak English or another language. They are mostly located in the capital city, but there are also units in tourist sites nationwide.