Panama Viejo is a former old Panama City, those ruins are still
visible despite years of negligence and disrepair. Today it is
situated in its suburbs of the modern capital of Panama. European
exploration of Mesoamerica started as soon as Columbus reached the
shores of the New World in 1492. The first Spanish expedition of
Vasco Nunez de Balboa in 1513 reached a Pacific Coast. A royal
degree of an erection of the new city was issued making Panama Viejo
one of the oldest European communities in the New World.
Panama Viejo was founded on 15 August 1519 by Spanish conquistador
Pedro Arias Dávila who led a group of 100 settlers to the new
settlement and a port on the Pacific coast. They created a city with
a perfect grid for the streets and future homes. Architecture and
general layout were influenced by European style and the esthetics
of the day. Two years later the village got promoted to the status
of a city. Panama Viejo became a seat of a Royal Tibunal of the
Spanish Crown. It became an important port and launching point for
attacks on Peru and its Inca empire. In return gold and silver were
shipped from central America to the coasts of Europe.
city boasted a population of 10,000 by the middle of the 17th
century. City's main cathedral Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la
Asunción (Cathedral of Our Lady of Asunción) was constructed in
1619- 1626 on the Plaza Mayor in the center of the city.
Additionally this central square has ruins of Cabildo de la Ciudad
(City Hall) and Casas de Terrín (House of Terrín) that belonged to
Francisco Terrín, one of the richest citizens here. A well preserved
private residence known as Casa Alarcón (dates back to 1640's) is
situated to the north of the Plaza. Another interesting religious
building is Iglesia y Convento de Santo Domingo (Church & Convent of
St Dominic) that date back to 1570's.
Panama Viejo was badly
damaged by earthquake in 1621 and again by fire in 1644. However the
final nail to the settlement came in a face of old European rivals.
On 28 January 1671 the Welsh privateer Henry Morgan broke the peace
agreement between England and Spain and attacked the city. His army
of 1400 men marched here from the Atlantic Ocean to steal gold and
silver. The fire that destroyed the city was either started by
soldiers of Henry Morgan or Captain General Don Juan Perez de
Guzman. The city has been abandoned ever since. Surviving residents
decided to move to a more protected location, where they could
defend their homes and lives. Panama Viejo was moved to a slightly
different location, about 8 km South- west of its former location.
At the time of its founding it was called the New City. Today it is
known as the Historic District. Today Panama Viejo is a designated
UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its unique architecture and