Academic Travel in Panama: The Isthmus that Changed the world

Recently the Hanover College students participated on a Cross-Cultural Communication tour in Panama City, where they learn about Panamanian history and its culturally diverse society.   EcoCircuitos Panama organize the program under our motto:  Adventure, Conservation and Education.

In the video the EcoCircuitos Tour guide and staff leading the tour on an amazing week where history, interpretation, new discoveries, new friends and fun where part of the daily activities.

 

Video courtesy of Hannover Students.

 

Contact us if you are interested in Academic and Educational Travel adventures and want your students to gain a deeper understanding of Panama’s history, ecological and environmental culture.   For details:  annie@ecocircuitos.com

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The Arqueological Compound of Panama La Vieja

Approximately two miles from the Panama City center are found the archeological compound of the first city of Panama known as “Panama La Vieja” or Old Panama, founded in 1519 by Pedrarias Davila.  Fragments of walls and arches stand in an open park, recalling the splendor of the Spaniard’s first settlement on the Pacific Ocean.  From here, expeditions were mounted to conquer the Inca Empire of South America.  All of the wealth from Peru and Chile flowed to Spain through Old Panama.  Not surprisingly, the enormous quantities of gold attracted pirates like sharks to Panama’s water.  When Henry Morgan looted the city in 1671, Panama’s governor ordered the powder magazine burned, and the whole city went up in flames.  the capital was moved two miles to the west, and present-day Panama city was founded in 1673.  The most impressive structures remaining are the cathedral, that you can climb and have an amazing view of the City and market.   This is one of the spots not to missed if you visit our City.

 

10 Best things to do in Panama City

There are a lot of reasons to visit Panama. You have probably already thought of the Panama Canal, which is one of the world’s most famous accomplishments of modern engineering. Maybe you have considered a tropical island or beach, or just the climate, which is warm all year round. But there is a lot more to Panama: read here some of our staff picks to do in Panama City.

1.  Visit Seafood market and walk or bike Cinta Costera towards the Casco Antiguo neighborhood while eating a fresh seafood ceviche.
2.  Take a tour at the Biodiversity Museum and hire of our naturalist guides for an introductory rainforest tour in the Metropolitan Park

3.  Bar hopping in Casco Viejo at night and don´t miss the Jazz Bar in the American Trade Hotel

4.  Historical City Tour– walking Panama la Antigua and learn about the Pirates and Conquistadors and the Canal zone era

5.  Kayaking the Panama Canal in the Gatun Lake and a visit to a local Wounaan community for handcrafts shopping

6.  Visit the Contemporary Art Museum and take a Art Cultural Tour with a local panamanian artist

7.  Hike, bike or wildlife observation at one of the many trails of the Soberania National Park

8.  Go on a historical trekking the old 8-mile Camino de Cruces Trail takes you through primarily tropical forest

9.  Ride the Transcontinental train towards the Atlantic side in one day: The Pirate trail and Panama Canal

10.  Enjoy the local gastronomy (tasajo empanada, carimañola, tortilla, yuca frita, and the seafood of Panama).

Panama Review from Zach and Teresa

We have many visitors experiencing Panama with us every year and we chose this beautiful post to share with you in our blog.  Below you will find the review from  Zach and Teresa in Panama.  They visited us from   Portland Oregon from December 21 to January 11, 2016.

EcoCircuitos Review by Zack and Teresa

This not being my first trip to Panama, I wanted to expand my experience and broaden the locations I would visit beyond the standard tourist path.  Flying into Panama City, I decided to revisit the Panama Viejo site because much had changed since I last visited.  The ruin’s infrastructure had become greatly informative with illustrative information signs and anyone without a guide would have a welcoming and historical visit. The guide from Ecocircuitos provided great historical information on the biography of adventurous nuns who lived in the convents, while also providing a contemporary scope on the way the site transforms for concerts and celebrations in the thriving metropolitan city. 

Panama City is growing and its growing fast with food, art and transportation.  A new Metro Rail will get you to the hot upcoming locations without the wait of traffic, but for a direct journey Uber is at your fingertips letting you skirt past any language barriers.  After the seeing castle ruins the guide took me over to Casco Viejo to check out the old Panama City neighbor hood full of beautiful churches and great places to grab a drink or a bite to eat. At Tántalo Hotel, I tried a delicious smoked chorizo stuffed calamari and some plantains with pulled pork.  Continuing to wander around finding great mojitos and gelato was an easy task.  Strolling along the narrow streets and wandered around the area’s waterfront to marvel at the city skyline was a great way to end a full day in the city.

Although the Boquete highlands is a common destination for the coffee obsessed and those needing a break from the heat of the country, Ecocircuitos allowed me to get a memorable and intimate experience through small organic coffee farms.  I didn’t have a huge understanding of coffee farming but one tour took me from growing the plants including the famous Geisha plant to processing and roasting the beans using recycled farm equipment and an old Jeep.  The guide was informative with lighthearted jokes, and since he worked on the farm as a young boy he had a true passion for his explanations.  The tour really helped explain how delicate the coffee plant from the climate, to its elevation and even the chemicals on your body.  The coffee was great to taste and the town was full of generous and kind hearted individuals.  Boquete also offered an abundance of wildlife and rigorous hikes through the numerous microclimates and if you were tired of drinking coffee the was a nice micro brewery offering a variety of beers full of flavor.   

Ecocircuitos Panama: getting ready for the green season

Panama is worth seeing throughout the year! Not only the dry season is a good time to travel to the “bridge of the world”- as Panama is called by locals. Many people think that the green season is the better time to explore this country since- as the name suggests- everything is green and blossoms. An additional benefit is that hotels and tours are available much better since there are fewer tourists in the green season. Tours like hiking and kayaking can be more worth seeing when the plants and trees unfold their whole splendor. But also City-, sightseeing- and rafting tours are a good way to enjoy Panamanian “winter” since it is only a term indicating that it rains more often than on the high season. Not that it rains all day every day.

by Marius Leidig

The First City of Panama

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Subsequent to Balboa´s discovery of the “South Sea” (the Pacific Ocean) on September 29, 1513, Pedro Arias de Avila, also known as Pedrarias, was appointed governor of Castilla del Oro in August 1514. Pedrarias and Balboa did not get along well and, finally, Balboa and four others were accused of treason and beheaded by Pedrarias at Acla, Panama, in the later part of 1517.

Pedrarias continued to rule from Santa Maria de la Antigua on the Northern coast (Atlantic) of Panama in the region of Darien, but seeing the advantage of a settlement on the shores of the new ocean as an outfitting station for future explorations, he crossed the isthmus and, on August 15, 1519, the same day on which the Panama Canal would officially open 395 years later, he founded the first European city on the Pacific shore. The name “Panama” is supposed to have come from a Native word meaning “a place abounding in fish” and legend relates that the new town was built on the site of a Native fishing village. This new settlement is what we now know as “Old Panama”.

In the same year, Nombre de Dios became the main Atlantic port.

On September 15, 1521, the town of Panama was made a city by royal decree, and the first Diocese (bishop’s office) in the Americas was moved there from Antigua. For nearly two hundred years following the founding of Panama, the roads across the isthmus, Las Cruces Trail and El Camino Real, were the riches trade routes in the world. Not only did these two roads carry the plunder from Peru, beginning in 1532, but also the trade originating in the Philippines and the Indies. By the end of the 16th Century, the population of the city had increased to about 10,000.

By the time of its destruction by the pirate Henry Morgan, Panama had a population of about 30,000. It was a beautiful place with 7,000 houses, most of them of carved native cedar and others of stone, erected in Moorish style ( a reflection of the Moors influence on Spain during their 400 years of occupation). Of its stones monasteries and convents, the most pretentious was the Cathedral of Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion, a truly glorious building whose ruins still stand.

Besides the royal treasure storehouses, which were built of stone, there were some two hundred merchant warehouses guarded constantly by slaves. In addition, there were ample stables to house the large number of mules used for the transport of the treasures across the isthmus. The port of old Panama was really not the best for shipping because the 21-foot tide changes the waterfront to a mile of sticky black mud at low tide. The Bay itself was spacious enough for the largest ships to ride at ease at some distance from the shore. At one place in the bay, an arm of the sea creeps inland, North of the city, to a little creek over which an arched bridge, King’s Bridge, still stands. This bridge was the starting point of El Camino Real to Portobelo. The Cruces Trail started on the west side of the city at Matadero Bridge, also called “Morgan Bridge” because it was the bridge Morgan crossed to enter the city.

In the end, it was an attack by Henry Morgan, with 1400 men, that sealed the fate of Old Panama on January 28, 1671.

Morgan had an astute plan. He would sail to the Spanish Island of Santa Catalina, in the Archipelago of San Andres and Providencia, off the coast of Costa Rica and Nicaragua, to prevent the possibility of a warning of his proposed attack on Panama. Having captured the island, he kept most of his fleet in plain sight, while he sent James Bradley with 400 men to attack Fort San Lorenzo on the mouth of the Chagres. The fort was heavily fortified and Bradley’s men suffered many casualties, including Bradley who had his legs shattered by a cannon ball and died a week later, but they did capture the Fort. Of the 320 men at the fort, only 30 survived to surrender to the pirates.

Shortly after the fall of San Lorenzo, Morgan arrived with the bulk of his force. In spite of Morgan’s plan of deception, the Spaniards became aware of his whereabouts and were preparing for the defense of Panama. Nevertheless, Morgan continued with his plan to go up the Chagres River to Cruces and then proceed by foot to the city of Panama. Leaving 150 men guarding the ships and 500 at San Lorenzo, he started his dangerous trip up the river on January 12, 1671. The men were crowded in too few Cayucos, took no provisions and the heat and mosquitoes were a nightmare. When they arrived at Panama, the strong Spanish garrison proved to be under very poor leadership and a series of errors and confusion gave the advantage to the pirates who overwhelmed the garrison.

Morgan is credited with burning the city, but that is probably not true as his men were not through sacking the city when the fire started and drove everyone away. Having been denied the expected riches because of the fire, the pirates stayed around sacking what they could from the area, including a $30,000 ransom for a woman, for a month before returning to Fort San Lorenzo. Morgan had trouble controlling his disgruntled men and had to put several insurgents in irons. Finally, as discipline dissolved and Morgan heard of plans to kill him, he collected a band of trusted followers and, after getting the others drunk on the masquerade of a celebration party prior to dividing the treasure, he took off for Jamaica with most of the loot. But not without disabling the other ships so they could not pursue him.

With the town of Old Panama in ruins, the remaining Spaniards rebuilt their town a few miles away in the present day area of Santa Ana and San Felipe. The city was never again sacked by pirates.

Originally By Luis Celerier

Entre amenazas y proyectos, Panamá celebra 493 años

 

La directora ejecutiva del Patronato Panamá Viejo, Julieta de Arango, indicó el miércoles pasado, 15 de agosto, que el conjunto monumental se enfrenta a una serie de amenazas.

Entre estas amenazas mencionó la presión urbana, aspectos ambientales, paisajísticos y de tránsito en la zona. Por ello es que son constantes los trabajos de consolidación, limpieza y fumigación de área de Panamá Viejo, expresó. Panamá Viejo celebró el miércoles pasado, 15 de agosto, 493 años de fundación.

AMENAZAS ESTRUCTURALES

En cuanto a la protección contra la presión urbana, De Arango indicó que el conjunto monumental está protegido por la Ley 16 del 22 de mayo de 2007 que crea una zona de amortiguamiento de seis millones 477 mil 761.69 metros cuadrados.

Esto que impide la construcción de edificaciones más altas de los 12 metros, con el objetivo de mantener la Torre de la Catedral de Panamá Viejo como el punto más alto en el sitio y sus alrededores.

Pero, a pesar de esta disposición, la gran cantidad de edificios que se visualiza en los alrededores impide visualizar la torre. Éste es un problema que se está atacando, aseguró De Arango, quien dijo que esto se hace mediante un proyecto de recuperación paisajístico cultural que mitigue la presencia de las edificaciones.

Esta Ley 16 impide los rellenos marinos, debido a que la antigua ciudad de Panamá fue una de las primeras que fueron construidas frente al océano Pacífico. Esto es “un valor que no se puede perder”, destacó.

Además, el proyecto de reubicación de la vía Cincuentenario –que lleva a cabo el Ministerio de Obras Públicas– ayudará a descongestionar un alto porcentaje del tráfico vehicular que afecta las estructuras, aseveró De Arango.

TRABAJOS DE CONSERVACIÓN

La directora ejecutiva del Patronato Panamá Viejo aclaró que en el Conjunto Monumental de Panamá Viejo se realiza un trabajo de conservación y no de reconstrucción. De esta forma, el Patronato ha realizado trabajos de intervención en la Torre de la Catedral donde se estableció un mirador.

Dentro de 20 días se dará inicio a un nuevo programa de conservación de las estructuras externas e internas de esta catedral, agregó. Además se estableció un aula de atención a estudiantes en la antigua sede de la Compañía de Jesús y un espacio para actividades culturales en el Convento de la Concepción, mencionó.

“El conjunto monumental cuenta con un programa permanente de arqueología que permite la recuperación de la presencia prehispánica en Panamá Viejo”.

NUEVOS PROYECTOS

En este momento –indicó la representante del Patronato en TVN Noticias– se está trabajando en la antigua sede del mercado artesanal, donde se establecerá realizando el proyecto de recuperación de la Plaza Mayor.

Se tiene programado la construcción de dos edificaciones. Una vivienda colonial del siglo XVI y XVII y un museo infantil interactivo que estarán conectados entre sí.

Para poder hacer efectivo, el proyecto tuvo que ser presentado y discutido en el Centro de Patrimonio Mundial, donde luego de ofrecer algunas observaciones –que fueron acogidas por los promotores de la edificación– fue aprobado por todas las instancias correspondientes, afirmó.

 

ENGLISH VERSION:

Panama celebrates 493rd anniversary in the middle of threats and projects

Panama Viejo celebrated 493 years of foundation last Wednesday, Aug. 15, facing a series of threats such as the urban pressure and environmental, landscape and traffic aspects over the area, according to Board of Panama Viejo Executive Director, Julieta de Arango.

Regarding the protection against the urban pressure, De Arango said the monumental complex is protected by the law creating a 6,477,761.69 square meters buffer zone forbidding the construction of buildings higher than 12 meters so the Cathedral Tower of Panama Viejo can remain as the tallest site and its surroundings.

Despite this regulation, a great amount of buildings can be seen over surrounding areas of Panama Viejo preventing the visualization of the tower. This is a problem which is being mitigated through a cultural landscape recovery project.

This law also forbids land reclamations since the Ancient City of Panama was one of the first to be built on the Pacific Ocean. This is a value which cannot be lost, she said.

In addition, the relocation of Vía Cincuentenario will help with the clear the traffic of the area affecting the structures, said Arango.

 

Source: La Prensa