Panama celebrating 500 years in 2019
European conquest, a Welsh buccaneer, pirates, treasure, elegant hats and a disputed canal all conspire to create the modern story of Panama.
These days, with a gentle stroll you can circumnavigate the peninsula of Panama in less than an hour. And yet, it was once the second largest city in the Western hemisphere. Away from the waterfront you’ll discover a thriving living museum of colonial heritage.
Its original wealth sprang from its ideal location for shipping the gold and silver stolen by the Spanish to send back to Spain.
In 1671 Welsh born buccaneer, Henry Morgan and his ruthless band of pirates sacked and burnt the city to the ground. They were supported by the English in their rivalry against Spain for the riches of the New World. Unluckily for them, most of the treasure had already been shipped out but they left complete devastation in their wake.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Panama became a byword for very distinctive hat wear. Actually made in Ecuador the hats were shipped from Panama to Asian and European customers. The international sales point became synonymous with the hat forever after known as the Panama hat.
The original concept for a canal was first muted by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V back in 1534. The first attempt was made by a French engineer. In 1881 work was commenced to link the Pacific Ocean with the Atlantic Ocean however, the company was forced into bankruptcy. The challenge was taken on by the Americans who subsequently claimed ownership of the canal for almost a century.
Finally, in 1999 it was returned to Panamanian sovereignty.
To celebrate its 500th birthday the city is undergoing major works of renovation and construction and the results to date are impressive. The National Theatre, Civic palaces and old hotels are receiving a major face lift, and being rendered anew.
We’re excited to be including Panama with our tour to Costa Rica in February 2020. Both countries are recognized for their focus on creating sustainable eco-tourism at the highest level. With a maximum group size of 10, no single supplement and fully escorted there’s no better way to experience these two fascinating countries in the heart of Central America.