Updated: 8-dec-08
© Stephen Bennett 2000-2005


In 1994 I was showing my portraits on the island of Saint Martin in the Caribbean. The president of Panama Ernesto Perez Balladares had just become president of Panama and was on a world tour and one of his stops was Saint Martin. He stopped to see my work and I offered to paint his portrait. He accepted and after he received it he asked me to travel to Panama to paint a series of portraits. I traveled there with my wife Christine and we began a 9-month adventure hosted by President Ernesto Perez Balladares.

To Panama City across the Bridge of the Americas high over the Panama Canal. Panama is a garden of tropical lush green bathed in rain from the Pacific and Atlantic: a thin isthmus of land in between Costa Rica and Columbia. The American dollar is the currency and Panama City is an urban sprawl with modern high rises in Paitilla to ramshackle ghetto in Chiorio. We first live in a high-rise apartment but later move to Old Panama City (Panana Vieja) to be in the real beat of life. American style school busses painted red: covered with horns and slogans roar past and race around the streets: nicknamed of Diablo Rojo or red Devils. I completed over 100 portraits there. Up to Colon, Portobello, into the interior Peneome, El Valle, San Blas Islands and the Kuna people.