The Travel Diary: Skating the streets of Panama City

The Travel Diary: Skating the streets of Panama City

What you see along the way — Photographer Rafael Gonzalez hits the streets of Central America's Panama City, exploring the capital's beautiful backdrop with the skateboarders who call the place their home.

The skyscrapers that dominate the Panama City skyline make this capital city look like a sprawling metropolis to rival any other, although with a population of under 900,00 its looks can be deceiving.

Rafael Gonzalez 01 - Panama cityRafael Gonzalez 04 - Bredio Alfaro - Powerslide

A small and humid place, Panama City is the most modern place in Central America – the unofficial Dubai of Latin America some would go so far as to say. It has a new Metro with a second line already in the works; there are new sidewalks under construction in the city centre; its financial district and malls make it clear this is a city riding high.

In most cities growth and development sees skateboarders thrown aside, the urban wastelands used to ride consumed by rabid and rapid development. Here in Panama City though that’s just not the case; new places to skate are popping up inside and out of the centre, although some spots that have been central to the skate community for so long have disappeared without a trace. To an outsider it seems to have reached a calm equilibrium, a giving and taking from a place so clearly changing.

Rafael Gonzalez 08 - Anthony Forbes - PowerslideRafael Gonzalez 14 - Mike Quijano -  PolejamRafael Gonzalez 11 - Mike Quijano Fs Bluntslide

When I headed down into the city I wanted to capture the skate scene in all its glory; the backdrop of palm trees, the sparkling blue sea, the old cobbled side streets and the modern highways too. But despite the beauty to be found all around, I found few skaters out on the streets. Catching a colourful board swerving down the avenue just wasn’t happening.

It was in the skateparks that I found my subjects; it seemed that the majority of the community don’t like to complicate things here, and stick to the ramps and the rides that they know – mainly the local skatepark located at El Chorrillo built by the previous government administration to be accessible and open to all.

Rafael Gonzalez 09 - Saul Silgado - PolejamRafael Gonzalez 05 - Anthony Forbes - PortraitRafael Gonzalez 02 - Josue Watts - Fs Rock

The following days were therefore a period of discovery for both me and the local skaters, as we explored the city together anew. Shooting only on analogue cameras and with black and white film, we rode the city together.

Rafael Gonzalez 03 - Josue Watts PortraitRafael Gonzalez 12 - Andres Sanders - Backside Smith 1Rafael Gonzalez 07 - Looking for spots Rafael Gonzalez 13 - Andres Sanders - Backside Powerslide Rafael Gonzalez 10 - Street life Rafael Gonzalez 15 - Josue Watts - Kickflip

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