We're in the historic village of Portobelo, Panama
Portobelo is a very old town. It was discovered in 1502 by good ol' Christopher Columbus on behalf of the Spanish, and became a great storage area for tons of gold and silver from all over the Americas.
There were several forts built here by the Spanish to protect all of the booty until their ships could deliver it all back to Spain. Well, as soon as Sir Francis Drake found out about this, he immediately began attacking and ramsacking the place in the name of the British Crown.
Sir Francis Drake was here!
As near as I can figure it, the next 400 years were spent fighting over all the riches by the Spanish, the British, and even swashbuckling pirates like Henry Morgan took part in the bloodshed. Pirates even pillaged on the behalf of the European monarchies, for a price.
Anyway, flash to the present. The Panamanians run the place now. The gold and silver are long gone, but the forts and the lovely anchorage are still here. This is the view from "Captain Jack's," from where I write these words (I'm sure this is the first of countless Captain Jack Sparrow "Pirates of the Caribbean" tie-ins I'll see in the coming months exploring the Caribbean Sea).
"Captain Jacks" is nestled high in the rainforest. It's WiFi, laundry and book exchange make it quite popular with cruisers. By the way, there is a daily cruisers net on channel 72 at 9AM.
The village of Portobelo is equal parts Afro-Caribbean and Latino --
with a few gringo cruisers thrown in the mix. The anchorage is flat calm.
The town is surrounded by high peaks and lush virgin rainforest.
This is the view of the north side of the anchorage from Espiritu.
We Americans tend to forget the basic truth that an
unhurried sense of time is, in and of itself, a form of wealth.
The benches for the soccer field -- in the center of town, as always...
...and these benches are on the other side of the field.
Many of the bricks for the original forts were carved out of coral.
We crossed a sweet little bridge to climb to a lookout over the town.
Another view of the bridge
The climbing trail is lovingly maintained, along with a helpful bamboo handrail
It's a good workout, but we made it to the top!
By far, Portobelo is most famous for the carving of "The Black Christ."
It's origin is shrouded in mystery, but it has been in Portobelo since the 1600's.
It's a powerful image. His eyes seemed to be sparking with emotion.
The carving is housed protected by glass in the Catholic church in the village. Every year, thousands of worshippers from all over the world make a pilgrimage to The Black Christ. Some even walk the 55 miles from Panama City on their hands and knees.
Considering the history of slave trading here, and the large Afro-Caribbean population,
it's emotional draw is not hard to understand.
I love the Spanish tile awnings on this historical building in town
Interestingly, there are several tiendas in town owned and operated by Chinese immigrants. It's a paradigm shift watching Chinese people speak Spanish. Even though we understand that it's perfectly rational for them to do so, to us Americans we expect them to either speak Chinese or English. :-)
These pinatas were for sale in one of the tiendas in town. I dunno...as one of the few light skinned, blonde ladies in town, I'm not crazy about the thought of local kids whacking these sweet little gringo girls upside the head with a baseball bat. Aren't pinatas supposed to be of animals? But now that I think about it, maybe whacking a burro to death isn't the healthiest of images either...it's a slippery slope. :-/
And in the same small shop, just a couple of aisles over...
Clearance sale on machetes! Only $3.95! Toto, we're not in K-Mart anymore...
An adorable local boy makes a ketchup run to the tienda
Up the street, this little half-naked charmer chatted me up for a bit
A corrugated awning protects the air conditioner from the
hundreds of inches of rain they receive per year
Chris visits the used marine shop owned by an American expat
(note the kayak hanging from the ceiling).
This was painted on a wall in an alley in town. Note the necktie with the Mardi-Gras style beads,
and the headress. Now that we're in the Caribbean we will see more and more
Afro-Carribean style imagery.
The New York Yankees insignia on this truck reminds us that Panamanians
love the Yankees due to Panamanian pitcher Mariano Rivera.
Check out this caterpillar! It's called the "Red Hairy Caterpillar" and we were lucky to spy it!
We shove off tomorrow morning and head to nearby Isla Grande, where we'll spend a couple of days before jumping off to the San Blas Islands. Adios! XO Liz and Chris