August 15 marked the 504th anniversary of the founding of Panama La Vieja, the original Spanish settlement of Panama, and the first European colony on the Pacific coast.
Panama La Vieja, the original site of Panama City, Panama celebrated its 504th anniversary yesterday with a civic parade by schools and various institutions, guided visitor center tours, and a Municipal Council session to recognize exceptional citizens.
The Spanish conquistador Pedro Arias Dávila founded Panama La Vieja on August 15, 1519. The settlement was the first Spanish colony on the Pacific coast of the Americas, serving as a trade and communications route between South America and the ports of Nombre de Dios and Portobelo on the Caribbean side. Much of the exploited gold and silver from the Americas passed through Panama La Vieja en route to the Caribbean and back to Europe.
The city was prosperous for many years, but decline set in during the 17th century
This was due in part to the rise of the Dutch and English as maritime powers, who began to challenge Spain’s monopoly on exploitation in the Americas. There was also an earthquake in 1921 and three devastating fires. Finally, in 1671, the English pirate Henry Morgan sacked and destroyed the city for good.
This destruction led to the construction of a new city to the west of the original settlement in 1673. That city is now the historic Casco Viejo district of Panama City. Built on a peninsula and surrounded by walls, Casco Viejo provided a much more secure spot for the fledgling city to grow.
The ruins of Panama La Vieja were left abandoned for many years, but have since been excavated and restored, and are now a popular tourist destination, receiving over 100,000 visitors each year. The site became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, designated for its “outstanding universal value” as the “oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the Pacific coast of the Americas.“