Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Portobelo & San Lorenzo

Panama is a very small country. It doesn't take long to get from one end to the other. But there are not too many major roads. There are 2 "Freeways" in Panama: Corredor Norte and Corredor Sur. Portobelo is North so this is the way to go. It actually takes you to Colon but we will need to branch off on the way. It's about an hour and a half's drive and the last leg is along the Caribbean coast.

From Lonely Planet: "‘Puerto Bello, ’ the Beautiful Port, was named by Columbus in 1502, when he stopped here on his fourth New World voyage. Since it was common at the time to abbreviate Spanish names, the beautiful port quickly became known as simply ‘Portobelo.’" 

Fuerte Santiago
UNESCO says it is a "Magnificent example of 17th- and 18th-century military architecture...on the Caribbean coast forming part of the defence system built by the Spanish Crown to protect transatlantic trade."

The Black Christ
The city comes to life every October 21 for the Festival de Cristo Negro (Festival of the Black Christ)and the statue of the Black Christ housed in the Iglesia de San Félipe.

Visit the Portobelo Royal Customs House Museum to learn more. The entrance fee is nominal. This is the old headquarters of the Spanish customs offices when they were importing African slaves into the New World. It is now a museum - a dedication to the thousands of Black immigrants who are an important element of Panamanian culture and constitute the majority of the population of Portobelo and Colón.

To get to Fort San Lorenzo, you drive over on the old military base Ft. Sherman. There is a $5 fee required to access this World Heritage Site. This is a Spanish fort located where the Chagres River enters the Atlantic Ocean and was a critical defense point for the Spanish. You should read up on the place a little before heading out to see it. Fort San Lorenzo is located on the Atlantic side of Panama.
On the way, we saw some Coatis on the side of the road. 

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