Over the last 500 years, there have actually been three incarnations of Panama City: the original settlement, Panama Viejo, its colonial replacement, Casco Viejo, and the thriving modern city. And in April, I was fortunate enough to visit all of them, in the care of Nghiem of Panama Your Way.
The two parts of Old Panama City, Panama Viejo and Casco Viejo, are regarded by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. They’re official referred to as the Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo and Historic District of Panamá. Today, I’d like to take you on a stroll through the ruins of the earliest of these.
Panama Viejo was actually the first European settlement on the Pacific Coast of the Americas. It was founded by the Spanish in 1519, although there is also evidence of Pre-Columbian peoples at the site. The colonial town was arranged according to a grid system, similar to planned settlements of the time in Europe.
Throughout the Spanish period, Panama was an important stopping point for captured Peruvian gold and silver on its way back to Spain. Unsurprising then, after surviving earthquakes, fire and slave uprisings, Panama Viejo was eventually destroyed by pirates!
In 1671, the city was attacked by the infamous pirate, Henry Morgan. In the aftermath of the fighting, Panama Viejo was utterly destroyed by fire. To this day it remains unclear whether the pirates were responsible for the blaze, or whether it was the result of city’s commander exploding his gunpowder reserves before they fell into enemy hands. Whatever the reason for the fire, thousands of people lost their lives during the pirate attack and Panama Viejo was abandoned.
The Spanish relocated Panama City to a new site a few miles to the west, which was easier to defend and closer to the river mouth (which would later become the entrance to the Panama Canal). This second colonial settlement is today known as Casco Viejo. I hope you’ll join me next week for a stroll through its streets!
If you’re the sort of person that loves exploring historic, faraway places, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?
And if that’s not enough for you, the first three Jaspa’s Journey novels will soon be available to enjoy, both as ebooks and in paperback! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!