Panamá Viejo (or Panamá la vieja) was the first Spanish settlement in Panamá. It was founded in 1519 by a Spanish conquistador named Pedro Arias de Ávila who is more commonly referred to just as Pedrarias. Before the Spanish arrived, this was a village inhabited by the cueva people. Historians seem to agree that PANAMÁ is a cueva word for abundance. What they don’t agree on is what may have been abundant- Butterflies? Flora? Fauna?
Little is known about why Pedrarias chose this site to build a city. The land was swampy and there wasn’t a good source of clean drinking water nearby. However, there is a sweeping view of the Bahía de Panamá and oysters were plentiful. It is also thought that the native cueva speaking people provided a good source of labor for the Spanish. It only took 40 years for the cueva people to be wiped out.
In 1671, an Welsh pirate named Henry Morgan burned the city to the ground before stealing any riches he could find. After this, the Spanish moved the city to what is known today as Casco Viejo. You’ll notice that there are few remains of the city. This is because much of the construction was not only stone, but wood and when the city was moved, many of the stones were moved and reused at the new city site.
Restoration of Panamá Viejo only began recently. It was left in a state of disrepair for over 200 years!
You can see the steel structures put in place to support old walls. The bell tower of the original cathedral has been replaced with a modern structure that cannot be seen from the outside of the building.
You can explore more at Panamá Viejo
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