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Foro Debate

Peter Szok

Oliver Bruce and La Cascada: Eulogy to a Temple of Panamanian Popular Art

Texas Christian University TCU

Urban renovation along Panama City’s waterfront has resulted in the recent demolition of the fantastically decorated La Cascada restaurant, a favorite hangout for U.S. servicemen, sailors, and other foreign transients. La Cascada was a landmark of Panamanian popular art, opened in the early 1970s. Its boastful signage, paintings, and abundant statuary, often derived from Walt Disney imagery, were the work of Oliver Bruce (1928-2004). Bruce had grown up in the U.S. Canal Zone, and like other artists of Afro-Antillean descent, he found himself excluded from Panama’s official cultural circles. In response, he poured his energy into commercial projects such as La Cascada. This article describes Bruce’s brassy creations and their distinctly Afro-Caribbean qualities.

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