Day 4, what can we say? A new day, a lot of new experiences, and another beautiful day in paradise. The weather was warm, and we arrived at our first destination of the day, the Colón Free Trade Zone (CFTZ) at 8 am.
Our first stop in the trade zone was the CFTZ Headquarters. We were greeted by , a Bryant alum, who gave us a tour of the trade zone. Wow! We were in the HQ of the second largest free trade zone in the world! In this meeting, we learned all kinds of exciting things and we were given an outside view of the trade zone in general, such as warehouses, stores, and how it works. We were told some of the trade zone's future plans, such as a new airport that is expected to be completed in 2014 and a sort of facelift in the appearance of the CFTZ. Also, the new construction happening in the Panama Canal will increase the amount of goods that pass through the Canal and the business in the CFTZ. The business in the CFTZ is expected to multiply with these new changes.
The CFTZ started in 1948, with only 10 companies, and now there are over 3000 companies selling wholesale products, tax-free. It is viewed as a cash cow for the Panamanian country due to the jobs that it creates. One of the reasons for its wild success is that it's location is geographically convenient, due to the Panama Canal and the international traffic that utilizes the Canal on a daily basis. Not only does it provide $34 billion worth of business, but it also creates new jobs and new investments.
While we were there, we were given the opportunity to visit three different stores. These were Multiinternational, Ruviera, and Motto (not pronounced like the song). This gave us insight as to how buyer interactions occur in a free trade zone. We were also given the opportunity to purchase tax-free goods. Yay for us, and the gift recipients!
Our next stop was lunch at Los Cañones, a small, family-owned restaurant on the way to Portobelo. Muy delicioso!
Afterwards, we went to the Portobelo ruins and the church of El Christo Negro. Portobelo was important because it was one of the first cities that Spain inhabited, and all the gold would pass through their ports. We saw what was left of the three different fortresses meant to secure the gold from pirates and mercenaries from other countries. The church of El Christo Negro was there for the Panamanian citizens, so that the mestizaje people can identify with Christ. It's also important to note the colonial architecture because it influenced how the church was structured.
After some much needed rest, we were ready for our next celebration: dinner at Tinajas. While enjoying a delicious Panamanian dinner, we were treated to a couple of traditional dances.
It was a phenomenal way to end a day with new friends, new knowledge, and a better appreciation for the rich Panamanian culture.
Until next time, buenas noches!
- Matt and Kevin