Panama Viejo is the remaining part of the old Panama City and
former capital of Panama. It is located in the suburbs of the modern
city. Together with the historical district of Panama, it forms a
World Heritage Site.
The city was founded 15 August 1519 by Peter Arias and other 100
inhabitants; at the time it was the first permanent settlement in the
Pacific Ocean, substituting the two cities of Santa María la Antiga
del Darién and Acla. Two years later, in 1521, the settlement was
promoted to the status of "city" by a royal decree and was given a
coat of arms by Charles V of Spain, forming a new Cabildo.
Shortly after its creation the city became a starting point for
various expeditions in Peru and an important base where gold and
silver was sent to Spain.
In 1539 and 1563 the city suffered
some fires which destroyed parts of it but they didn't harm the city's
development. In 1610 the city reached a population count of 5000
units, with 500 houses and some convents and chapels, a hospital and a
At the beginning of the 17th century the city was
attacked several times by pirates and indigenous people from
Darién. On 2 May 1620 an earthquake damaged many buildings in the
city. On 21 February 1644 the Great Fire destroyed 83 religious
buildings, including the cathedral. At this time there were 8000
inhabitants living in the city.
In 1670 the city counted 10,000
inhabitants. On 28 January 1671 Henry Morgan attacked the city with
1400 men and tried to plunder it. The captain general Don Juan Pérez de
Guzmán ordered the powder deposits exploded, causing a devastating fire
which completely destroyed the city. Unable to get anything of value
from the city, the pirates pursued the citizens who were running away
with their goods.
*UNESCO description list