We are lucky that we visited the ruins of the original Panama City in 2023 rather than in 1671. That was the year Henry Morgan and his ruthless crew attacked and destroyed the city. A horrendous time. The pirates were cruel, engaging in the usual rape, loot, torture and murder of the unfortunate inhabitants ending with arson. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
For a longer, easy-to-read, and interesting account, see www.histrynet.com/henry-morgan-the-pirate-who-invaded-panama-in-1671/
Only relatively recently has the site been isolated and protected. Up until the 1950s, people took material from the site to build their homes. However, houses were never built on this land. Basically the site was abandoned when the city was moved to a more defensible area, now known as Casco Viejo or Casco Antiguo.
The ruined city is now an archaeological site comprising 32ha and has remnants of the pre-Columbian Cuevan aboriginal occupation. The Spanish Conquistadors founded this original city in 1519.
Even today you can see the grid-like pattern of streets. This was a European innovation in city planning. When the city was moved, they took that idea with them. Casco Viejo has its streets set out in the same pattern. The rest of Panama City has streets curving every-which-way.
The site is fenced. It is run by a concession under the Ministry of Tourism. There is a parking lot on Avenida Cincuentenario. Entrance fees are collected at a booth near the bookstore. From there you can take a ride over to the museum or you can walk among the ruins. Signs explain what you are looking at.
Near the museum is the old bell tower. If the tropical heat hasn’t gotten you yet, you can climb the stairs to the look-out area. When you come, I recommend wearing a wide brimmed hat and bringing drinking water. There are some lovely shade trees but not many sitting areas. Luckily the museum is air conditioned. Their store is known for quality artisan-made crafts.
The fifteenth of August is a National Holiday. It celebrates the founding of the city in 1519 by Spanish Conquistador Pedro Arias Davila. More than 500 years have passed since his time but human history of the area goes back much further. The museum depict a different lifestyle and belief system.
Life in those past ages was far from idyllic. It was bad enough for the Catholics but if you had different beliefs, life could be brutal indeed. We are lucky to live in this time of greater tolerance, labor-saving devices and cleanliness. Also, remember, they did not shower.