A Trip To Portobelo
by Art Mokray
A group of us from the
Panama Historical Society went out about three weeks ago to Portobelo to see the display
of Black Christ robes and early era weapons. We meet at Niko's Cafe in Balboa and
caravaned over to the Atlantic side by way of the Corridor Norte, across the
Trans-Isthmian Highway, a left at Sabanitas, and on to Portobelo to the Casa Aduana.
Founded in 1597 as a neccessity by the Spanish Empire to have a more secure port,
Portobelo also played an important part in the development of the Spanish Colonies.
So, besides myself, John and
Jackie Carlson, Roberto Bruno, and Nina Brown, we meet with Lic. Nilda Vasques De La
Guardia, Director of the Customs Building in Portobelo (by the way, she's Class of
1966-CHS) where she showed us and also a delegation of other news corresponders and
invited guests, the display of robes used during the Black Christ processions. In this one
room, on the ground floor of the House, were 65 robes donated by various people to the
Black Christ. And this is just a small portion of what the church has as they are on loan
from the church just down the street and will be on display for a couple of more months.
There's a robe donated by Roberto Duran, Esmiel Laguna, a anonymous robe said to be from
Mireya Moscoso, and also one from a Vietnam veteran who promised one should he make it
through the Vietnam War. Well he did, but he donated it in white and only purple robes
were allowed. Since it was beautiful, the church representatives took the trim off
and made a purple robe just like his white one and sewed the gold trim back on.
After that presentation, we
were then lead to the other side of the Customs House where Ms. De La Guardia introduced
Lic. Luciana de Policani, the governess of Colón, with a word from Police Commissioner
Sub-Tienient Alejandro Urriola, and the ribbon was cut to alow us to enter the early era
weapons display. Actually they were replicas of weapons such as rifles, pistols, swords
and knifes, with literature on swords and rifles. There was also models of cannons, wooden
sailing ships, a few galleons, and other odds and ends from the era which were on loan
from the businessmen of the Colon Free Zone. Also present was Prof. Rafael Ruiloba,
the director of INAC, that's the Instituto Nacional de Cultura. We were also treated
Black Christ Robes
The Casa Aduana was rebuilt
with funding, or a donation, from the Spanish government. Once they were in the process of
the restoration, they notice that the original floor was always damp and would pool water
in certain areas. So it was decided to raise the floor 18 inches. They left a pit,
about 4 feet by 4 feet, exposing the original floor for public viewing.
The PHS donated 100 plastics garbage bags to the Casa Aduana
so that the Portobelo maintenance crews can pick up the trash in the area. John Carlson,
president of the Panama Historical Society, is also going to donate a map of the Central
America and the Carribean region, along with FairWinds Antique Maps, to the Custom
House. It's a 19" x 22 1/2", 1740 map by Mappa Geographicae.
June 14, 2000
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