Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ruins of Old Panama....

Standing among ruins with the impressive Panama skyline in the background sent chills up my spine.  I could only imagine living as a female back then, possibly a cloistered nun never to be seen by the world.  Or perhaps a fair maiden awaiting arrival of my beloved,  only to discover he'd been lost at sea after being attacked by pirates.  The pages of history come alive on the outskirts of Panama City in the archaeological site of Panama Viejo






The first permanent settlement on the Pacific Ocean,  Panama City was founded on August 15, 1519 by Pedro Arias Dávila and about 100 others.  By 1610 the population of the city had grown to 5000 with about 500 homes,  many churches, convents and a hospital.  In the early 17th century, the city was attacked several times by pirates.  In 1620 an earthquake destroyed many buildings and in February of 1644 a big fire destroyed 83 buildings including a cathedral.



As if that wasn't enough for this beautiful city by the sea, in 1670 with over 10,000 residents at the time the city was attacked by Captain Henry Morgan. With a crew of 1,400 men Morgan took over the city and it was destroyed by fire. No one is sure if the fire was started by Morgan or if Captain Don Juan Pérez de Guzmán ordered his crews to start the fire.  But either way the city was demolished and many lives were lost.



Some of the ruins have been restored and preserved as an important piece of Panama's history.  These stones of history can be touched, climbed on, walked onto and taken into the hearts of all that experience them.



There's a museum on the grounds that displays an impressive collection of artifacts found where the ruins sit today.  Then we were free to step back in time and walk through the buildings and imagine what life was like. 



For those reading this that enjoy a nip of Captain Morgan Brand Rum on occasion,  that brand is not sold in Panama.  The reason is that Captain Morgan was a real pirate and he is the one that destroyed the original city so many now call home.

 

The city was rebuilt in 1673 some 8 kilometers from it's original location and now goes by the name Casco Viejo.  This remains a historic part of the greater metropolis called Panama City.  Quaint streets, churches, businesses and tourists line the streets of Casco Viejo. These gringos will explore those streets at length someday and we'll bring you all the details.  But now as our heads hit the pillow our minds recall the memories of those historic ruins, and what secrets stay embedded in those walls that only they could tell.

A View from the old city to the new

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