SOMETHING will be happening on Thursday at the Cafe de Asis

by Eric Jackson

It might be, as it recently was, the University of Panama Brass Quintet playing baroque and classical tunes in front of the San Francisco de Asis church, while a video show went on in the gallery. Or it might be, as it was on another Thursday night, a poetry reading in the bar, a group of activists meeting to talk about strategies for people without a lot of money for lawyers to protect their rights and a mariachi serenading people eating and drinking at the tables set up outside. Or, as on a third Thursday night, it might be stand-up comedy followed by jazz.

Whatever. It’s the Cafe de Asis “Jueves de Algo,” an open mike night of sorts for creative people in many fields and one of the main pieces of a blossoming cultural revival in Panama City’s Casco Viejo.

(So did you read a guidebook which advised you that, along with Colon and Avenida Central, you should never visit the Casco Viejo at night because the savage junkies who rule the streets there will rob you and kill you? Throw that trash away --- first, because the Cafe de Asis is a stone’s throw behind the presidential palace and maleantes who don’t hold public jobs don’t to like to work in areas frequented by presidential guards; and second, because muggers don’t get much of an opportunity if you go to and from the neighborhood’s cultural events by car or taxi.)

There is some organization to the largely impromptu scene at the Cafe de Asis. Backed by a number of foreign embassies, Gitanes cigarettes, the municipal government, INAC and the University of Panama’s Fine Arts Faculty, the Proyecto Bolivar organizes events in the area throughout the year and especially during the dry season when tourism is at its peak. Adding to the eclectic mixes on Thursday nights there are usually Friday night acoustic concerts, and on the second Thursday of each night the gallery puts on special art shows. And then kitty-corner from the Plaza there’s the Teatro Nacional, where from July through December the project will put on monthly concerts and dance recitals.

For more information about what’s going on at or around the Cafe de Asis at a given time, call 262-9304 or send them a email at

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