Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

PART II

THE COUNTRY

CHAPTER I

PANAMA VIEJO

THE site of Old Panama is a favorite resort of visitors and residents of the Canal Zone. It is about six miles from the modern city, and may be reached by a ride over the savannas and along the sea beach, or directly by boat. The latter mode of approach is not to be recommended to parties including women, or children, for a strong surf breaks on the shore and makes landing a somewhat dangerous process. The ruins of Panama Viejo are overgrown with dense vegetation and a considerable portion of them has not been seen by the eye of man in two hundred years. Enough is, however, accessible to make the place unusually interesting and to attest to the substantial manner in which the Spaniards of old erected their buildings. The tower of the Cathedral of St. Anastasius rises above the tangle of tropical jungle and affords a prominent landmark. In the days of Panama's prosperity and pride, this was the focal point of the city, for the Church was more powerful than the temporal authority. A fine old stone bridge, in a good state of preservation, is a picturesque reminder of the period when the “ Gate to the Universe" stood on this spot. There are remains of fortifications and dungeons, and the famous “

paved way,” which was, in reality, no more than a road of cobblestones, may be seen where the forest is not too dense to penetrate.

In its palmy days Old Panama was the seat of wealth and splendor such as could be found nowhere else in the world than the capitals of the Orient. At the court of the Governor gathered noblemen and ladies of gentle birth. There were upwards of seven thousand houses in the place, many of them being spacious and splendidly furnished mansions. The monasteries, convents, and other ecclesiastical edifices were numerous, and contained vast amounts of treasure in their vaults. There were fine public buildings devoted to various purposes, among them pretentious stables in which were housed the “ King's horses,” the valued animals that carried the “ King's treasure” across the Isthmus to Porto Bello, whence it was shipped to

o

Spain. A constant stream of gold, silver, pearls, and other valuables passed through Panama and a fair proportion of it stayed there. Panama had the name of the wealthiest city in the world. Its fame spread far and wide and proved to be its undoing. The story of the hoarded riches in the almost unguarded city on the shores of the South Sea aroused the cupidity of the buccaneers and stimulated the demon daring of Morgan to make a raid upon it. Panama Viejo was destroyed in the very zenith of its glory. In a few hours it fell, never to rise again.

The story of the Morgan raid and sack of Panama is an intensely interesting one. No account of it is so authoritative as that of Esquemeling, who was one of the band, exists. The following is an exact reproduction of the original. The story gains by the quaint language of the writer and the circumstantial detail with which he tells it:

Capt. Morgan, always communicated vigor with his words, and infused such spirits into his men as were able to put every one of them instantly upon new design; they being all persuaded by his reasons, that the sole execution of his orders would be a certain means of obtaining great riches. This persuasion had such

« PředchozíPokračovat »