in Destinations

Pirates in Panama

henry morganYou probably know that Panama has a rich history of pirating. Mostly they’ve been the victims of pirates. Henry Morgan made a famous raid on Panama Viejo in 1671. I remember reading about his exploits when I was a child. For a murdering bastard he was an amazing man. With only two thousand semi-starved men he marched across the isthmus and successfully sacked a city garrisoned with cannon, over four thousand troops, and four hundred horsemen.

Panama Viejo was plundered and burned. Never rebuilt. A reminder of what happens when you put an arrogant, clueless leader in charge of defending the homeland. As an American I’m reminded of this every time I turn on CNN. Henry Morgan made off with a great deal of gold and silver that day. Perhaps not as much as he’d hoped. But judging from the picture above it doesn’t look like he was missing many meals.

My friends and I recently visited Panama Viejo. Now its a pile of rocks covering several acres. Henry’s gone. But I’ve read several reports of modern day pirates waylaying tourists here. To me it looks like a good spot for a picnic. I really wanted to spend the day digging through the ruins with a shovel and metal detector. Unlike Henry, I just didn’t think I had the stones to pull it off.

Still, there was treasure to be found. We encountered a man selling helados de agua de pipa (helados tablenos) just outside the compound for $.25. These coconut ice creams originated in the Santos Province and are famous in Panama. They taste sublime.



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