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The Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá (Ruta Colonial Transístmica de Panamá)

Date of Submission: 24/01/2017
Criteria: (iv)(v)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Panama to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Province of Panamá and Province of Colón
Ref.: 6205
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

It is a serial property which comprises 5 component parts, several of which already have been inscribed on the World Heritage list:

1) Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo (already a World Heritage site): N9 00 23.92 W79 29 07.02 at Panamá Viejo´s Tower;

2) Historic District of Panamá (already a World Heritage site): N8 57 09.39 W79 32 06.17 at the steps of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Panamá;

3) Fortifications on the Caribbean Side of Panamá: Portobelo – San Lorenzo (already a World Heritage site): N9 33 14 W79 39 21;

4) Cruces Road: N8 57 09.3 W79 32 13.6 start at Puerta de Tierra in Central Avenue in front of Casa de la Municipalidad in Panamá City; N9 07 42.1 W79 41 05.2 end of paved road at steps of Venta de Cruces Church; N9 19 19.7 W79 59 58.9 end of fluvial route at Chagres village site at the mouth of Chagres River.

5) Royal Road: N8 57 09.3 W79 32 13.6 start at Puerta de Tierra in Central Avenue in front of Casa de la Municipalidad in Panamá City; N9 33 13.0 W79 39 02.5 at site of Las Tres Cruces in Portobelo.

This Tentative List entry is the first step towards a proposal of significant boundary modification for the World Heritage Property “Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo and Historic District of Panamá (Panamá) (C 790bis)” as requested by the World Heritage Committee by Decision 37 COM 7B.100 in 2013 and reiterated by Decision 40 COM 8B.34 in 2016.

In terms of categories set out in Article 1 of the 1972 World Heritage Convention, the Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá is a serial nomination of monuments, groups of buildings and sites. In terms of the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention (July 2013), annex 3, this is a heritage route.

The Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá is one of the two key land interchanges between the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans across Central America as a part of the Intercontinental Royal Road, which was a trading system developed by Spain for its colonial domains through the 16th to the 19th centuries. This system was based upon the exploitation of resources stemmed from the idea of a monopoly of production and its exchange throughout a vast imperial network. The interchange of cultural, religious and human values that gave rise to the concept of “New World” took place on the same routes of transport of merchandise and products under Spanish imperial rule. As a part of the Intercontinental Royal Road, the Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá shares its origin as a complex system of interchanges brought about by the conquest of America, the movement of peoples that took place as a result, and the systematization of the Spanish Empire’s rule. (Navarro, s/f).

As a key interchange of the Intercontinental Royal Road, The Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá interconnected Panamá on a maritime and land roads network that included regions such as Spain, Canarias Islands, the Spanish port cities on the Caribbean Sea, the American Continent and the Philippines. A total of 23 present day countries were connected by the commerce routes of the Intercontinental Royal Road, namely Argentina, Belice, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Spain, the United States of America, the Philippines, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panamá, Paraguay, Perú, Uruguay and Venezuela.

This system of routes and military protection was an exceptional contribution to consolidate the hegemony of the Spanish empire in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries over strategic transport routes. Without the Spanish monopoly over American trade and production, both the conquest of the Americas, nor the global impact of the Intercontinental Royal Road would have been possible, and the Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá was a critical part of it.

The fleet of Nueva España (New Spain) or “La Carrera de Indias” (the Indies Race) on the Pacific Ocean moved people and merchandise between Seville and the Caribbean, reaching the two land interchanges at (1) Portobelo – Panamá and (2) Veracruz – Acapulco (1526 – 1564 – 1821). The itinerary across the Isthmus of Panamá between the fortified town and harbor of Portobelo on the Caribbean coast, where the fabled Fairs of Portobelo took place and Panamá City on the Pacific Coast, took about 4 days. The Fleet of the South Sea, called “Naos of Tierra Firme” (1533 – 1550 – 1821) took about one year of travel, in the circuit of El Callao – Panamá – El Callao. Portobelo (on the Atlantic side) replaced Nombre de Dios as terminal port town from 1590 onwards. Panamá City was relocated in 1673, in order to preserve the its port active, as it was vital for the communications and transport network, and thus maintaining Panamá City as terminal port of the route on the Pacific Coast due to its strategic relevance.

The size of the communications and transport network of the Spanish Empire from the 16th century to the early 19th century and the monopoly the Spanish Crown established and consolidated over its colonies, soon sparked conflict with other European powers such as France and England. Contraband, piracy and armed conflict were plentiful in the Caribbean as well as widespread all over Spanish domains. Later on, corsairs with letters of mark issued by rival European crowns compounded the problem. In response, the Spanish Crown fortified its port towns and built magnificent fortifications to protect its transport network. Military engineering efforts especially focused on the Caribbean ports, and so the fortifications built to protect The Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá were no exception. As part of the area protected within the Strategic Triangle of Panamá, the Colonial Transisthmian Route was a military and commercial network in itself.

On the Pacific Coast, Panamá City was provided with city walls following its relocation in 1673, and it was subject to numerous projects and studies in order to improve its fortifications with up-to-date military engineering technologies. On the Caribbean Coast, the fortified port and harbor of Portobelo, and the Castle of San Lorenzo El Real de Chagre, known as, the fortifications on the Caribbean side of Panamá, are a masterpiece of human creative genius and are among the most characteristic adaptations of Spanish military architecture to tropical climate and landscape features, and represent the structural and technological development of military structures in the Caribbean (UNESCO, 2014: 189).

As previously mentioned, the “Strategic Triangle” of the Isthmus of Panamá, circumscribed the colonial transisthmian roads. It mainly covers the area between the vertices formed by the city of Panamá (including its two different historical stages), the fortified harbor of Portobelo and “El Castillo de San Lorenzo El Real de Chagre”, all of which were joined by the transisthmian paths laid under the Spanish colonial period “Camino Real” and “Camino de Cruces”. The Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá was devised in order to articulate a broad system of territorial rule that would allow the Spanish Crown to transport goods and people from sea to sea through the narrowest part of America in a both military and commercial network.

The terminal port cities of the Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá were replaced due to pirate attacks. First, the town of “San Felipe de Portobelo” was founded in March 20th, 1597, as a Caribbean terminal of the Camino Real to replace Nombre de Dios as port of transit and trans-shippment. Later, after a devastating pirate attack in 1671, Panamá City was relocated to the present site of the Historic District of Panamá about 8 kilometers south from its founding place, the Archaeological Site of Panamá. There is only one Panamá City, founded in 1519 and merely relocated in 1673 within its city limits stablished by Royal Decree of 1521.The city’s port location remained unchanged, at Perico Island. The relocation and fortification of Panamá City is clear evidence of its geopolitical and strategic importance for the military and commercial network of the Intercontinental Royal Road, across the Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá guarded by the Strategic Triangle of Panamá, as the terminal port and logistics node of the route on the Pacific Coast.

In light of all the above, the proposed components of the Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá series are (1) the Archaeological Site Panamá Viejo, (2) the Historic District of Panamá (Casco Antiguo de Panamá), (3) the Fortifications on the Caribbean coast of Panamá: Portobelo and San Lorenzo, (4) the Camino de Cruces, and (5) the Camino Real.

Description of the Component Part (s):

  • (1) Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo (Component if the World Heritage Property “Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo and Historic District of Panamá (Panamá) (C 790bis)” from 2003, inscribed on the World Heritage List as an extension of the World Heritage Property “Historic District of Panamá with the Salón Bolívar (Panamá) (C 790)” and subject to this Tentative List’s proposal for a Significant Boundary Modification).

Component of the serial World Heritage property “Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo and Historic District of Panamá (Panamá) (790bis)”. This component retains all its essential elements that as a whole express outstanding universal value.

It is also known locally as Panamá la Vieja Its boundaries and buffer zone are established by Law 16 of May 22nd 2007 and include the surrounding area on both land and sea. It is an uninhabited area within Panamá City. The site contains the remains of the original Spanish settlement, which was founded in 1519, destroyed in the wake of Sir Henry Morgan's invasion in 1671 and never rebuilt.  In 1673, the town was officially transferred to a small peninsula 8 km to the southwest, where it became the core of modern Panamá City's development. The walled precinct of this new settlement is the second component of the Property, to be described separately (historic district).

Located on the seashore between the mouths of the rivers Abajo and Gallinero, the Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo has a polygonal shape resembling an inclined L and covers an area of 28.7 hectares, roughly half the footprint of the original city and its immediate environs. It is surrounded by modern settlements of various scales. To the immediate north, northeast and northwest are four low-rise barriadas, known as Panamá Viejo, Morelos, Puente del Rey and Villa del Rey, all included within the 66.60 hectare landward buffer zone. Further north is the Jardín de Paz, a large park-like cemetery. The barriada of Panamá Viejo is separated from the archaeological site by the Vía Cincuentenario, a new highway. To the east, on the other side of the mouth of the Abajo River (the cove known in colonial times as Puerto de la Tasca) and the buffer zone, is a low-rise industrial area; further away is the new commercial and residential hub of Costa del Este. To the west, on the other side of the mouth of the Algarrobo River, is a new high-rise development. The oceanfront is traversed by the Corredor Sur several hundred meters away from the coastline. The 553.70 hectare maritime buffer zone extends 2 km beyond the latter.

The archaeological site preserves its original layout as it had developed until 1671: a slightly irregular, somewhat rudimentary grid with blocks of various sizes. There is firm archaeological evidence of the original street pattern and the location of domestic, religious and civic structures. Substantial ruins of all important churches and convents remain, as well as the ruins of two public buildings and several elite private dwellings. Two original bridges are also preserved. The archaeological remains also include important Pre-Columbian vestiges of the Cuevan aboriginal occupation of the same name.

The site is an exceptional testimony of colonial town planning. In 1671, Panamá Viejo was the only colonial settlement on the Isthmus having the classic Hispanic grid pattern, as well as the townscape of convents and churches typical of important Spanish American colonial cities.  The ruins of its cathedral, convents and public buildings showcase unique technological and stylistic characteristics of its temporal and cultural context. It also offers invaluable information on a variety of aspects of social life, economy, communications and the vulnerability of a strategic site within the geopolitical dynamics at the height of Spanish imperial power.

Panamá Viejo is closely linked to the European discovery of the Pacific Ocean, the history of Spanish expansion in the Isthmus of Central America and in Andean South America, the African diaspora, the history of piracy and proxy war, the bullion lifeline to Europe, the spread of European culture in the region and the commerce network between the Americas and Europe.

  • (2) Historic District of Panamá (Casco Antiguo de la Ciudad de Panamá) – terminal city (World Heritage Property from 1997 inscribed as “Historic District of Panamá with the Salón Bolívar (Panamá) (C 790)”, extended in 2003 as “Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo and Historic District of Panamá (Panamá) (C 790 bis)” and subject to this Tentative List’s proposal for a Significant Boundary Modification).

The Historic District of Panamá – terminal city – corresponds to the component “Historic District” of the world heritage property “Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo and Historic District of Panamá (Panamá) (C 790 bis)”. The persistence and permanence of Panamá City, relocated as Historic District of Panamá, is an evidence of the paramount importance Panamá City had as terminal, port city and logistics node to the Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá in the Spanish Empire’s scheme of territorial dominance for the New World, in both military and commercial aspects. In short, the cultural and commercial route, and the military scheme of the Strategic Triangle itself, could not be possible without Panamá City on the Pacific Coast of the Isthmus, as terminal and connection.

The foundational site is at the mouth of Abajo River, was annihilated by fires from the pirate invasion of 1671, and at present it is known as the Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo. As a strategic outpost for Spanish expansion, especially towards the southern American territories, Panamá City was too valuable to be lost, and for this reason, the Spanish Crown had the urban centre relocated 8 kilometers away at its present location in the narrow peninsula where the Historic District of Panamá remains. The relocation of the city came into effect by relocating the Cathedral, seat of the power of the Church; the Town Council, seat of the Municipality and of the power of citizenship; and the Royal Court, seat of royal power. The port of Panamá, logistics connection for the riches of Peru on route to the Portobello Fairs and for the goods transported from Europe and across Panamá by land to be shipped south and north, and other riches acquired at the Fairs, including the slave trade, was not relocated and continued its functions at Perico Island next to Panamá City. The royal customs were safely located within Panamá’s fortified walls.

The Royal Road and Cruces Road both connected to the walled precinct of Panamá City by means of Central Avenue, splitting at some distance from the city. The military and commercial network integrated by the Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá, protected within the Strategic Triangle of Panamá and integrated into the larger cultural heritage route of the Intercontinental Royal Road reaching far West to Europe and East to the Orient, could not have been possible or even understood without Panamá City. As a terminal city and logistics node of such a vast and important communications network of global proportions, Panamá City is the mark of an outstanding stage in economics globalization and cultural exchange that transformed the world forever.

Due to all the cultural influences and cultural exchange that took place in Panamá City’s new seat at the Historic District, its urban layout, allocation of ground plots, fortifications and buildings reflect the importance, interchange, adaptation and persistence of human values which for centuries have been oriented towards further interoceanic communications at regional scale in the Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá, and as part of larger schemes of territorial and maritime domination in the cultural itinerary of the Intercontinental Royal Road, at this strategic site on the Central American Isthmus.

From the outset, New Panamá had two distinct neighbourhoods separated by a wall, ditch and esplanade. The city’s main thoroughfare, the Calle Real (today called Avenida Central or Central Avenue) crossed both neighbourhoods, turned north and, at a junction 1 km away, led to the transisthmian Camino de Cruces and Camino Real. The walled precinct has an orthogonal layout, whereas the area outside the walls, known historically as Arrabal de Santa Ana or suburb of Santa Ana, is irregular. Most of the seaward walls of the colonial fortifications and parts of the landward bastions and ditch survive. Adjacent to the walled precinct is a cove known as Ancón Chico (“Small Cove”) in colonial times. This cove and its waterfront, known as Playa Prieta (“Black Beach”), had a subsidiary port function similar to the cove at Panamá Viejo.

The area within the walls had an orthogonal layout, with a central plaza and streets of different widths; outside the walls the suburb of Santa Ana had an irregular layout. There is a centrally located main plaza (enlarged in the 19th century) and several smaller post-colonial plazas on the fringes. Most of the seaward walls of the colonial fortifications and parts of the landward bastions and moat survive. Several specific buildings within the District are important for the country’s 17th-20th century heritage. Most outstanding are the churches, above all the cathedral with its five aisles and timber roof; San Felipe Neri, San José, San Francisco and especially La Merced with its well-preserved colonial timber roof. The Presidential Palace, originally built in the late 17th century and partially reconstructed in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, is a revealing example of the transformations that characterize the Historic District as a whole. The House of the Municipality, the Canal Museum building (originally the Grand Hotel), the National Theatre, the Ministry of Government and Justice and the Municipal Palace are outstanding buildings of a more recent period. There are several exceptional examples of domestic architecture from the colonial period, above all the mid-18th century Casa Góngora, and also several hundred houses from the mid-19th to the early 20th centuries that illustrate the transformation of living concepts from the colonial period, incorporating French influences in decoration and typologies, to building technologies of the modern times. These include not only upper-class houses from the entire period, but also 2- to 5-floor apartment houses and wooden tenement buildings from the early 20th century erected to satisfy the requirements of a more stratified urban society.

In terms of continuity regarding architectural typologies and building technologies in Panamá City, from its origins at the foundational site, and its survival at the historic centre, there are evidences of reuse of dressed stone from the old site, dismantled, transported and utilized at the new site; sometimes, entire facades were recycled in this way (Tejeira s/f). There are evidences of continuity between the foundational site and the historic centre from the perspective of archaeology and vestiges of material culture, including ceramics of different uses, from pottery to wall décor in polychrome designs as well as roof tiles, and others (Rovira, s/f).

The relocated town, known today as Casco Antiguo or the Historic District of Panamá, not only had better access to fresh water on its small peninsula at the foot of Ancón hill but it could also be fortified. The military engineers took advantage of the morphological conditions that complemented the wall surrounding the peninsula, all of which prevented direct naval approaches by an enemy. The peninsula was closer to the islands used as the port and near the mouth of a river that eventually became the entrance of the Panamá Canal.

After a pirate invasion destroyed the core area of Panamá City in 1671, the Spanish Crown ordered new Governor, Captain General and President of the Royal Audience D. Antonio Fernández de Córdoba to transfer the city to a safer place, easier to fortify. The reason behind the order, made official by Royal Decree of 31st of October 1672 was without a doubt the importance of Panamá as terminal city on the Pacific Coast to the commercial route across the Isthmus, and the need to safeguard them.

Panamá City was an integral component of the Strategic Triangle of Panamá along with the Castle of San Lorenzo El Real de Chagre and the fortified port of Portobelo, a military strategy devised to protect the commercial and military route from the Caribbean to the Pacific and back as a Llave (key strategic gateway) to the riches of Perú. In order to secure Panamá City, as it was a key strategic asset, the Spanish Crown promptly ordered D. Antonio Fernández de Córdoba by Royal Decree also of 31st of October 1672 to build there a citadel or the fortification he saw fit on the site he and the royal engineers considered the most useful. He executed the royal orders making the official transfer of the city to the site then known as The Ancón on 21st of January 1673. The Viceroy of Peru Count of Lemos sent the Licentiate Marichalar with preliminary orders to restore order in Panamá and transfer the city to The Ancon as soon as possible. Marichalar deferred command to D. Antonio Fernández de Córdoba’s superior order from the Crown upon the new Governor’s arrival. D. Antonio Fernández de Córdoba chose the present location of the Historic District to transfer Panamá City, delineated its layout and land plots up to nearly 300 units, and laid the first stones of the public buildings. Concerning the city’s fortifications, he transported and installed the artillery, and provided ditches and trenches for defenses during the construction of the city walls. The Viceroyalty of Peru assisted with funds, troops and materials. D. Antonio Fernández de Córdoba was also in charge of the repairs to the Castle of San Lorenzo El Real, and urgent repairs and refurbishment of the fortifications of Portobelo, a task considered by the Crown key to the restoration of Panamá’s functions. He died on April 8th 1673. (García de Paredes, 1954: 17, 30-34).

By request from the Queen Mariana of Austria dated on 20th of December 1674, President of the Royal Audience D. Alonso Mercado de Villacorta informed her by letter dated on July 12th 1675 on the progress achieved concerning the construction of Panamá City and its fortifications, attributing its layout to D. Antonio Fernández de Córdoba. He assured her that the city was ready to accommodate the most numerous armed commerce fleet that Perú could send to Panamá, thus assuring the security of commercial and military route. (García de Paredes, 1954: 39, 38). Villacorta’s own tactical-defensive project for the fortifications of Panamá City begun in 1675, supported by the military engineers Betín and Ceballos. The project followed irregular lines of curtain walls, bulwarks and traverses following the silhouette of a «recinto real» (a citadel or fortress city, also known as recinto amurallado) Antonelli designed for Panamá in the 16th century. The distorted traverses Mercado applied for Panamá to cover short distances are uncommon in fortress cities in the Americas. Mercado drafted the fortification upon a system that followed the precepts of Spanish military engineers developed in European battlefields, and draws upon the work «Geometría aplicada al Arte de la Fortificación de Ciudades y Castillos». It relates to the Milan School with military engineer and painter Giacomo Herba, and military engineer Sebastián Fernández de Medrano at the Netherlands. Mercado was companion to maestre de campo D. Francisco de Murga Governor of Cartagena. Both men implemented in America the most advanced fortification techniques of the 17th century. His «Frente de Tierra» showed the brilliance of the post-renaissance period of fortification yet under the principles of the 1600s related to the baroque style. Three bulwarks integrated the landward front of the fortress or «Frente de Tierra»: The bulwark of Saint Joseph (underground at present), the bulwark of Jesus or Mano del Tigre (Tiger’s Claw) only regular bulwark of the three and partially exposed, and the bulwark of Barlovento or La Merced, under restoration at present. The Land Gate or Puerta de Tierra was reinforced by a palisade or revellín de tierra. Battle Sergeant General D. Luis Venegas Osorio worked on the fortifications especially on the landward front in the decade of 1680 with military engineer Bernardo Ceballos y Arce, who completed the «recinto real» in 1686 with added gateways on the wall (Zapatero, 1985: 131-134).

Military Chief Engineer Manuel Hernández worked on the enhancement and improvement of fortifications of the Strategic Triangle from 1761 to 1768. Assigned to Panamá City in 1768, he planned a whole new defense design for the citadel with great technical perfection of design that was not built, yet archaeological remains related to it have been studied. The design itself shows the importance Panamá City as a terminal port of the commercial and military routes across Panamá that was beginning to fade in the second half of the 18th century. In 1779, Brigadier and Military Engineer Agustín Crame drafted yet another plan to renew and improve the citadel fortifications of Panamá, recommending closing a few of the entrances, devising the counter-scarp of the dry moat and reshaping the bulwark of Chiriquí, among other assessments. King Carlos III commissioned Crame to assess the defenses of the Llaves at the Caribbean in the threshold of the second war with England (1779 – 1783) from Guyana to Florida, including of course, Panamá’s. His labor included the Castle of San Lorenzo El Real, Portobelo and Panamá. Crame discarded for costly the designs of Hernández in favor of a dry moat and walls reinforced defense system. Las Bóvedas casemates at the bulwark of Chiriquí, the third specimen of such built in the Americas along with Cartagena’s and Montevideo´s, is one of the few Spanish military buildings preserved. Crame’s assessments were of broader reach than only military aspects of the territories, and regarding Panamá, he asserted that the economic salvation for the Isthmus laid on the communication route between the Caribbean and the Pacific oceans by means of fluvial navigation, especially using the Chagres River (Zapatero, 1985: 189-195, 203-207).

The importance of the colonial transisthmian route of Panamá decayed with the end of the Portobelo Fairs and with the opening of the Cape Horn navigational route in the late 1700s. The fortifications of the Strategic Triangle of Panamá came to serve only as province defenses and their maintenance was not as important as before. The last defense plan for the Strategic Triangle of Panamá, «El Plan de Defensa de Panamá» by Military Engineer Ximénez Donoso dated in 1788 described in minutia the status of the Llaves and is quite unfavorable for the strategic value of the transisthmian route and its defenses. It was the time of the political and military strategy of «Defensa por Indefensión», this is defense by helplessness, which marked the end for the military architectural progress in Panamá (Zapatero, 1985: 212-214).

The present-day appearance of the Historic District displays a unique blend of 19th- and early 20th century architecture inspired in late colonial, Caribbean, Gulf Coast, French and eclectic (mostly Neo-Renaissance) styles. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, building styles evolved significantly, but spatial principles were fundamentally preserved. The Historic District’s layout, a complex grid with streets and blocks of different widths and sizes and fortifications inspired in late Renaissance treatises, is an exceptional and probably unique example of 17th-century colonial town planning in the Americas. These special qualities, which differentiate the Property from other colonial cities in Latin America and the Caribbean, resulted from the construction, first of a railroad (1850-55) and then a canal (1880-1914) that linked the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The construction of the canal, a landmark in the history the Americas and the world, had a tangible effect on the development of the Historic District and its surrounding area.

Particularly relevant is the Salón Bolivar, originally the Chapter Hall of the convent of San Francisco, which is the only surviving part of the 17th-18th century complex. The Salón Bolívar has special historical importance as the site of the visionary, but abortive attempt by Simon Bolivar in 1826 to establish what would have been the world’s first multinational and continental congress.

  • (2.a) The Salón Bolívar [Important attribute that expresses OUV and is the origin of the original inscription on the world heritage list “Historic District of Panamá with the Salón Bolívar (Panamá) (C 790)” inscribed in 1997, and later extended in 2003 to its present configuration as “Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo and Historic District of Panamá (Panamá) (C 790bis)”].

Simón Bolívar The Liberator was a South American general (1783 – 1830) from the Venezuelan territories. He was given the title of “The Liberator” due to his instrumental role in the political and military movements across Central and South America that conduced to the independence of the region from Spanish rule and to the birth of many American countries, especially the Bolivarian countries, including Panamá, México, Bolivia (named in his honor), Venezuela, Perú, Colombia and Guatemala. Simón Bolívar’s vision and the influence of this strategic and geopolitical thought endures and he remains a prominent if controversial American precursor of freedom.

The Salón Bolívar as a commemorative space is the embodiment of the ideals in the Amphictyonic Congress of Panamá of 1826. Its space safeguards and preserves both tangible and intangible elements of the Panamanian past that transcended national boundaries and became of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity, emerging from the common heritage of the American and European nations. The spirit of the place at the Salón Bolívar expresses universal values of liberty and brotherhood that were foundations of international law in America and precursor of leagues of nations such as the United Nations Organization and the Organization of American States. Beyond the remaining fabric of the 17th century edifice and former Chapter Hall of the Franciscan Convent, the cultural route, military and strategical route and the building itself jointly construct an indelible expression with the intangible values, memories, written documents and permanent character of the historical events that took place and are commemorated in the Salón Bolivar, as a place of honor. Simón Bolívar convoked the American countries to the Amphictyonic Congress of Panamá through its Circular Letter to the Nations in 1824. Two years before, on the occasion of the Independence of Panamá from Spain on November 28th 1821, Bolivar addressed a letter dated on 1st February 1822 to Colonel José de Fábrega, Governor General and Commander of the Province of Panamá, writing from the Barracks of Popayán prior to the famous battle of Pichincha. In this letter, Bolívar enthusiastically described Panamá as the Center of the Universe, whose independence was a gesture of generosity that made whole the natural scope of the Republic of Colombia so that it may fulfill its greater destiny.  Six years earlier, in one of his most important writings and widely-publicized Letter of Jamaica of 1815, he described in great detail the geopolitical virtues of the strategic geographical position of the Isthmus of Panamá as part of a vital commercial route, even prefiguring canals throughout the region, such as the Panamá Canal is today. In his Letter of Jamaica, Bolívar announced the role he foresaw for Panamá as the natural capital of the American nations, vital node of communications, logistics node for commercial routes and the nerve center of a Pan-American government and world trade. This is the background to the celebration of the Amphictyonic Congress of Panamá in 1826 at the Salón Bolívar, Chapter Hall of the Convent of San Francisco of Assisi of Panamá City.

It is entirely pertinent to say that by placing the symbolical center of the Universe and capital of his foreseen league of nations in Panamá, prefiguring the Panamá Canal and the world commercial routes converging and departing from Panamá, Bolívar renewed the validity of the transisthmian route of Panamá and put it forefront the new world developments in the wake of the end of the Spanish colonial rule and the birth of the American countries as a free and sovereign region interconnected with the rest of the world, politically, strategically and commercially. For this reason, as a marker of world history, the Amphictyonic Congress of Panamá held at the Salón Bolívar is relevant and contributes to express the outstanding universal value of the Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá. The outstanding and universal values of ideology that gave birth to enduring leagues of nations, international law, and historical associations with the memory of the Liberator, are jointly expressed by the intangible and tangible values at the Salón Bolívar taking on a dynamic, current and up-to-date character around the ideal of drawing a space of international consensus and cooperation in Panamá City. Its most recent expression is the Summit of the Americas held in Panamá in 2016.

The Salón Bolívar is a national monument by Act 63 of June 6th 1941, which also sponsors the Bolivarian Society of Panamá placing it under the Ministry of Education, and giving it the task of furthering knowledge concerning the Bolivarian ideology at national and international level, and decrees the creation of a Bolivarian Chair at the University of Panamá. Because of its outstanding symbolic, political, historical and commemorative importance, the Salón Bolívar was the venue of the Summit of the Americas process attended by 20 presidents of the American republics, under the auspices of the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1956.

 In 1974, the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (1973-1982) approved the "Tribute to Simón Bolívar The Liberator" on the anniversary of his birth, and considering that his work based on the concepts of liberty and justice as foundations for the peace and progress of peoples, has left an indelible mark on history and constitutes a source of constant inspiration, thus paying him a public tribute of admiration and respect; as registered on Annex III of the Final Act of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea.

In 1976 Panamá approved Act 91/1976 that declares de Historic Monuments Group of Casco Antiguo, later in 1997 to be included on the World Heritage List as “Historic District of Panamá with the Salón Bolívar (Panamá) (C 790)”.

In 1976 the General Assembly of the United Nations in a special commemorative plenary held on December 17th 1976, approved the Resolution 31/142 “One hundredth and fiftieth anniversary of the Amphictyonic Congress of Panamá” by which the General Assembly honored Simón Bolívar as its precursor and the Amphictyonic Congress of Panamá of 1826 as its predecessor. The Resolution 31/142 considered specifically that, “… the main objective of that Congress was to constitute an assembly of confederated countries which should establish the legal foundations for the relations between the American Republics and all the nations of the world, and should serve as «a council during periods of great conflicts, to be appealed to in the event of common danger, and to be a faithful interpreter of public treaties when difficulties arise, in brief, to conciliate all our differences», concepts which form the basis of international law of the American countries and are thus the direct predecessors of the Covenant of the League of Nations and the Charter of the United Nations”.

Due to its prominent place in world history, the Salón Bolívar was of special interest for the United Nations Organization. UNESCO and the Government of Panamá, represented by the Director General of UNESCO Dr. Federico Mayor Zaragoza and the President of Panamá Dr. Ernesto Pérez Balladares subscribed a Letter of Agreement signed in Panamá City on March 28th 1995 that gives support to the international interest to inscribe the Salón Bolívar on the World Heritage List, and provided Panamá with a UNESCO Technical Consultancy Commission to achieve the inscription in the prestigious List under the World Heritage Convention. By the commission’s recommendation, the Historic District of Panamá was included in the nomination dossier submitted in 1995. The World Heritage Committee inscribed on the World Heritage List of the “Historic District of Panamá with the Salón Bolívar (Panamá) (790)” by Decision 21COM VIIIC of 1997.

The honor bestowed by the Resolution 31/142 “One hundredth and fiftieth anniversary of the Amphictyonic Congress of Panamá”  was furthered by the inscription on the World Heritage List of the “Historic District of Panamá with the Salón Bolívar (Panamá) (C 790)” in 1997 under the justification of criterion (vi) of Outstanding Universal Value, which expressed, “Panamá City is closely linked with the discovery by Europeans of the Pacific Ocean, the history of Spanish expansion in South America, the bullion lifeline and commercial network between the Americas and Europe, and the history of piracy in the region. The Salón Bolívar is associated with Simón Bolívar’s visionary attempt in 1826 to establish a multinational congress in the Americas, preceding both the Organization of American States and the United Nations”.

For the reasons above, the Salón Bolívar is a commemoration space that expresses in its ideological associations and memory, further enhanced by the preserved Acts of the Amphictyonic Congress of Panamá in 1826, in interaction with its archaeological vestiges, interpretation and location, the visionary ideals of peace through consensus that gave foundations to American international law and preceded leagues of Nations such as the UN and the OAS. 

The Salón Bolívar is visited by educational institutions, diplomats and it is a bound destination of veneration by presidents of the countries of South America historically tied to the Bolivarian liberty movement, as well as those that acknowledge the momentous influence of Simón Bolívar in the creation of American international law and leagues of nations. The Bolivarian countries whose donated flags are displayed at the Salón Bolívar are Panamá, México, Bolivia, Venezuela, Perú, Colombia and Guatemala.

(3) Fortifications on the Caribbean Side of Panamá: Portobelo and San Lorenzo (existing World Heritage Site, since 1980).

On the regional scale, the military compounds at the Castle of San Lorenzo El Real de Chagre and at the fortified port town of Portobelo belonged to a larger defensive system, including Veracruz (Mexico), Cartagena (Colombia), and Havana (Cuba), in order to protect the route of commercial trade between the Americas and Spain. Portobelo, where the famous fairs were held, was one of the principal Caribbean ports and played a leading role controlling the imperial trade in the Americas. This component of the serial property “Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá” comprising both the Portobelo site and the San Lorenzo site, is a key element to the understanding of the adaptation of European building models and their impact on the New World transformation during the modern era. This particular component site demonstrates the strategic organization of the territory and represents an important concept of defense and technology development mainly between the 17th and 18th centuries. These fortifications are located along the coast of the Province of Colón.

The terminal points of the Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá on the Caribbean coast were part, not only of the defenses of Panamanian territory, but were also of part of the defense system “Strategic Triangle of Panamá” for the Caribbean and to safeguard the access to the Pacific side of Panamá. These terminal points were the mouth of the Chagres River with a small port and town guarded by the Castle of San Lorenzo El Real de Chagre, and the fortified town and bay of Portobelo, separated by a distance of about 46 kilometers.T

he town of San Felipe de Portobelo was founded in March 20th, 1597, as a Caribbean terminal of the trail through the Isthmus of Panamá (Camino Real), in the attempt to replace “Nombre de Dios” as a port of transit and trans-shipment. The need to ease the overland path along the Isthmus during the rainy season called for an alternative route. On the contrary, the Chagres River-Cruces road (Camino de Cruces), a mixed fluvial and land road, was the counterpart of Camino Real, built from Panamá City to the San Lorenzo Castle, at the mouth of the Chagres river, and so it was mainly used during the rainy season. 

The fortified port town of Portobelo comprises magnificent examples of 17th- and 18th-century military architecture, as well as the Castle of San Lorenzo El Real de Chagre is also an outstanding example of military architecture with many changes and updates in the course of two centuries. On the Caribbean coast of Panamá, both sites are integral and strategic parts of the defense strategy “Strategic Triangle of Panamá” devised and built by the Spanish Crown to protect the royal roads (Camino de Cruces and Camino Real), the access to Panamá City and its port on the Pacific Coast and with it, the access to the riches of Perú and the rest of América. These fortifications contribute to the expression of Outstanding Universal Value of the Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá as unique examples of military architecture that show by themselves extraordinary adaptation of Spanish military architecture to local conditions, technology and materials, skillfully integrated into the landscape; all with the objective to protect the military and commercial routes across Panamá, protect incoming and departing Spanish ships on the Caribbean Sea, and expelling the threat of piracy.

The first plans for fortifying the entrance to the Bay of Portobelo and the mouth of the Chagres River were prepared in 1586 by Bautista Antonelli himself. Following his recommendations, the first fortifications in Portobelo were begun in the 1590’s. As a whole, these structures comprised a defensive line to protect Portobelo’s harbour and the mouth of the Chagres River, which, again, were the Caribbean terminals of the transcontinental route across the Isthmus of Panamá, as a part of a larger territorial system often referred to as the “Strategic Triangle” of Panamá.

The defensive system includes fortifications in different styles, some of them skillfully integrated into the natural landscape as part of its military defensive design. They were also adapted to the changing needs of defensive technologies in the course of 3 centuries in order to protect the capital resources sent from colonial America to Spain after crossing the Isthmus of Panamá. In the earliest constructions, a military style with mediaeval features prevailed, while in the 18th century the structures were rebuilt in the neo-classical style, which can be observed at the forts of Santiago, San Jerónimo and San Fernando, and also at San Lorenzo. 

There are diverse fortification sites around the Bay of Portobelo, denominated San Fernando fortifications: Lower Battery, Upper Battery and Hilltop Stronghold; San Jerónimo Battery Fort; Santiago fortifications: Castle of Santiago de la Gloria, Battery and Hilltop Stronghold; the old Santiago Fortress; ruins of Fort Farnese; the La Trinchera site; the Buenaventura Battery; and the San Cristóbal site. As has been already established, Portobelo was the Caribbean terminal of the Camino Real, whereas forty-three kilometers away, at the mouth the Chagres River, the San Lorenzo Castle (originally “San Lorenzo el Real de Chagre”) with its Upper Battery as a separate structure was the terminal of the Camino de Cruces. Ultimately, the transisthmian transit through the Camino de Cruces, would always end up in the Bay of Portobelo which was the port of departure of the Spanish galleons in their way to Spain.

It’s worth mentioning that these fortifications are part of a separate world heritage property. The World Heritage Committee inscribed the “Fortifications on the Caribbean Side of Panamá: Portobelo – San Lorenzo (Panamá) (C 135)” on the World Heritage List in 1980, then inscribed them on the List of World Heritage in Danger in year 2012. The fortifications retain all their essential elements that as a whole contribute to express the outstanding universal value of the Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá. The Fortifications on the Caribbean Side of Panamá: Portobelo-San Lorenzo are a masterpiece of human creative genius. Portobelo is a remarkable example of an open fortified town, destroyed and built several times. San Lorenzo underwent the same process of renovations along the colonial era. As a group of late 16th, 17th and 18th century fortifications, they are among the most characteristic adaptations of Spanish military architecture to tropical climate and landscape features, and represent the structural and technological development of military structures in the Caribbean.

  • (4) Camino de Cruces

The Spanish Crown established the road «Camino de Cruces» or Cruces Road in the early 16th century in Panamá, in order to connect the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean with a route across the isthmus and thus, the capital of their then nascent empire with its expanding ultramarine colonies.

The road joined the terminal cities on both shores, Panamá on the Pacific and Nombre de Dios – and after 1597, Portobelo – on the Caribbean side of Panamá through a mixed riverine and overland route. As a cultural route and archaeological site, this component of the Colonial Transithmian Route of Panamá holds heritage elements that contribute to express Outstanding Universal Value. These elements are also of great potential to express as a whole, a separate set of outstanding universal value on its own.

The Cruces Road, was first ordered to be built in the late 1520s as the necessity to constantly cross the isthmus at its narrowest point was recognized.  It went overland for about 25 km from Panamá City to Venta de Cruces on the Chagres River, then about 50 km downriver by canoe or barge to the homonymous town of Chagres, guarded by the San Lorenzo El Real de Chagre fortress, and finally nearly 50-60 km by boat to Nombre de Dios or Portobelo.  Before 1673, when Panamá Viejo (one of the existing components of Property C790 bis) was still occupied, the Cruces Road began at the Matadero Bridge.  After Panamá City moved to its current location in Casco Antiguo (the other existing component of Property C790 bis) the Cruces Road could be considered an extension of the main thoroughfare or Central Avenue, and as such begins at the city gates or Puerta de Tierra, on the landward side of the city’s fortifications.  It ran through the suburbs following present-day Central Avenue and forked north on a bifurcation known today as “Cuchilla de Calidonia”.  From this point it followed a north-westerly course, crossing the bridge over the Curundu River and then towards Venta de Cruces, whose ruins still exist.  In the way, many towns and “ventas” or “halfway houses” were established, which lived off the business brought by the travelers on the road.  The road was almost completely paved, with basaltic cobble stones spanning an average width of 2.6 m, in an easily recognizable pattern of rectangular segments filled with smaller round cobbles delineated by broader, larger cobbles set on their sides as “master stones”; these master stones effectively formed three guide lines at both sides and the middle of the road along almost all its length or wherever paving existed. 

The Cruces road is well documented in Colonial Period documents from the 16th to the 18th centuries, and Departmental Period 19th century chronicles, maps and even photographs.  Although it was intensively used during the Colonial Period, most famously used by Henry Morgan and his pirate host on their way to sack Panamá City, its busiest period was that of the California Gold Rush after 1848 when hundreds of thousands of travelers crossed the isthmus of Panamá to and from the west coast of the United States.  This gave rise to the construction of the Panamá Railroad, which when finished in 1855 practically replaced the Cruces Road as the main route of transportation between the Atlantic and Pacific terminals in Panamá.  However its use continued even during the French (1880-1904) and then American (1904-1914) efforts to build the Panamá Canal, which virtually followed the same route as the Cruces Road and the Panamá Railroad. The Americans even gave maintenance to the road, as is evident in patches of pavement that show cobbles and a pattern different from that of Colonial times.  Finally, the creation of the Panamá Canal Zone engulfed the Cruces Road and effectively ended its use, as all the local inhabitants along its path were expelled, towns were demolished, and the route forbidden. 

Most of the overland route of the Cruces Road is preserved and lies within the boundaries of two national parks that arose from the former Panamá Canal Zone: the Parque Nacional Camino de Cruces (PNCC) and the Parque Nacional Soberanía (PNS), both protected by law.  The PNCC was created in 1993 and one of the goals of the protected area is to preserve and conserve the historical and cultural values within its borders. Recently the PNCC became the first protected area with boundaries titled as property of Ministerio de Ambiente with a total surface of 4781 hectares. As the Cruces Road crosses the core of this deeply forested area, the vegetation surrounding it acts as a buffer zone. However, the forest also affects the exposed segments of the pavement through bioturbation by roots and animal action.

On other hand, Parque Nacional Soberania is protected by Executive Decree since 1985, and covers an area of 19,500 hectares of mature secondary forest and together with Parque Natural Metropolitano, PNCC, Bosque Protector San Lorenzo and Paisaje Protegido San Lorenzo works as a transisthmian corridor that connects the Pacific with the Caribbean coast of Panamá. All these protected areas have management plans that incorporate the cultural and historic values recognized inside their boundaries.

The fluvial route of the Camino de Cruces was the Chagres River, which has been mostly dammed to create Gatun Lake and the Panamá Canal, and is thus under the Panamá Canal Authority’s (ACP) control.  Many towns and way-stations were also created along the river during the use of the Cruces Road from the 16th to the early 20th century, most of which today lie drowned under the waters of Gatun Lake and the Canal.  The only part of the fluvial route that remains untouched is the river bed to the north of Gatun Dam, in territory also managed by ACP.  Also along the river, in the former Canal Zone, there are remains of late 19th century abandoned French machinery, abandoned townships and construction sites, and American Era military and civilian installations for the defense and management of the Canal.

In 1532 the King of Spain issued an order to explore the possibility of joining both oceans with a canal through the Chagres river, which eventually resulted in the creation of the trans-isthmian road network, of which the Cruces Road is one component, the other being the Camino Real or Royal Road, and the many accessory paths along the way. Thus, it can be said that the Cruces Road is the precursor and direct predecessor of the Panamá Railroad and then the Panamá Canal, that virtually follow the same route, and that it inaugurated the “transit” phase of Panamanian history.  Both Colonial Roads and their successors, the Railroad and the Canal, that is to say the Trans-isthmian route, traverse an area of diverse landscapes in the narrowest part of the isthmus, that bear not only significant paleontological remains from the Miocene epoch onwards, but that also display a unique accumulation of evidence of human usage since Paleoindian times up to the 21st century.  There exist archaeological remains along this Trans-isthmian route that represent every period of human occupation of the Isthmus of Panamá for the last 11,000 years and in connecting this great variety and wealth of information lies the Outstanding Universal Value of the Cruces Road.

The Cruces Road, as the second land route across the American continent (the first being the Royal Road), connected not only the terminal cities on both American shores, but more importantly the continents and civilizations beyond, allowing for the non-interrupted passage and interchange in human values, first through a paved stone road, later succeeded by a railroad, the Panama Canal, concrete highways and even an intercontinental flight-hub, all following the route first devised by the Spanish crown since the early 16th century.  In and of itself, the Road is one of the very few remnants of Spanish Imperial road-building in the Americas, that with its distinctive pavement of stones aligned by master lines, finds its predecessors in the roads of the Roman Empire a thousand years before, just as the Spanish colonial city layout hearkens back to the Roman castrum. 

This very unique Spanish trans-continental road built in America, also traverses some of the earliest occupied and manipulated landscapes in the isthmus of Panama and the continent.  The original forests covering the area were first inhabited in the Paleoindian period over 11,000 years ago by peoples migrating from North to South America at the end of the last glaciation, and cleared during the Archaic period starting around 7000 years ago to allow for the development of agriculture that sustained large human populations until the early 16th century.  The area was only reforested after the catastrophic demographic collapse brought about by the Spanish invasion caused an abandonment of once cultivated areas that thus returned to primary – yet anthropogenic – forest.  Ultimately, the dense tropical forest cover observed today in the trans-isthmian zone where the Road lies, is the product of human interaction or the clash of civilizations that was propitiated by the Road itself.

The Cruces Road contributes to express the Outstanding Universal Value of the Colonial Transisthmian Royal Route of Panamá as a link in the larger scheme of maritime and territorial Spanish rule. The Road also embodies the will of the Spanish Empire not only to unite its territories, but most importantly to connect both Oceans through a Canal, an idea that was first formalized through a Royal Decree of 1534 that ordered the Governor of Castilla del Oro to explore and find out how the land could be opened so that the Pacific Ocean could be joined with the Chagres River allowing for ships to pass.  The idea persisted in the minds of both European immigrants to Panama and the local population, so that the efforts to create a Canal persisted until the technology and resources became available to finally accomplish the vision at the beginning of the 20th century.  This idea or project engaged the labors and policies of the major world powers from the 16th century onwards, who vied for control of the isthmus and possession of this crucial nexus point.

  • (5) Camino Real.

The Camino Real or Royal Road is a road created under Spanish rule in Panamá, one of the two great routes laid out by the Spanish across the Isthmus of Panamá, the other being the Cruces Road.  It connected Nombre de Dios first, and then Portobelo (after 1597) on the Atlantic Coast, with Panamá City on the Pacific Coast, a route of between 90 – 100 km completely by land. It is also considered that this component holds heritage elements of great potential to express as a whole, outstanding universal value.

Its passage was swifter but much more expensive than travelling along the Cruces Road – the cheaper, longer, safer, more comfortable and better historically known route.  The Royal Road was started to be used as early as 1521 when a royal decree was proclaimed to procure the opening of a path between Panamá and Nombre de Dios.  At the beginning it was simply an open path through the jungles until it was partially paved by the 1570s.

Before 1673, when Panamá Viejo (one of the existing components of Property C790 bis) was still occupied this road began at the Puente del Rey or King’s Bridge and headed due north towards the Atlantic shore. Nowadays the Royal Road could also be considered an extension of the main thoroughfare or Central Avenue, and as such begins at the city gates or Puerta de Tierra, on the landward side of the city’s fortifications.  It ran through the suburbs following present-day Central Avenue and forked southeast on a bifurcation known today as “Cuchilla de Calidonia”. From here it followed a rather circuitous course along the savannas east of Panamá City, and then across the continental divide until it reached Portobelo from the east. 

The road became almost exclusively used to transport the royal treasures, namely the gold and silver bullion coming from the South American possessions of Spain.  It was most famously used in the 1570s by Sir Francis Drake in his attempt to attack Panamá City. In 1587 a barge carrying the treasure train sank in the Chagres river after departing Venta de Cruces, so onwards it was decided that the king’s property would only travel overland on the Royal Road.  Several towns, “halfway houses”, way-stations and inns appeared along its route, which lived off the business brought by the travelers and mule trains on the road, and their archaeological remains still dot the landscape.  The Royal Road was also the preferred dry season route to cross the Isthmus when the Cruces Road was more difficult to use due to the low levels of the Chagres River which impeded navigation, until 1740 when after Admiral Vernon’s attack of San Lorenzo, the Crown decided to no longer use the Panamanian route to transport its treasures, taking the longer but safer way around Cape Horn. This saw a generalized decline of the Ishtmian economy and especially of traffic on the Royal Road and its upkeep.

The road was paved most of the way and is well documented in Colonial Era documents.  Its pavement consisted mainly of limestone blocks set on their sides on the road.  Along each side of the pavement the blocks were placed forming straight lines that delineate the road spanning an average width of 1.2 m.  Although there existed a maintenance crew for the upkeep of the Royal Road, it was never fully paved.

The southern half of the Royal Road has mostly disappeared under the urban sprawl of modern Panamá City and of Madden Lake (Lago Alhajuela), formed in the 1930s in another damming of the Chagres River.  The northern half of the Royal Road, beyond the lake, is better preserved and lies within the boundaries of two national parks: the Parque Nacional Chagres (PNCH) and the Parque Nacional Portobelo (PNP). The Road is still partially used by rural settlements in its environs for communicating with each other.

PNCH is protected by Executive Decree since 1984 and covers 125,491 hectares that include 29.3% of Panamá Canal hydrographic basin. Close to 84 % of the PNCH territory is covered by madure primary forest that acts as buffer zone for the Royal Road. Additonally PNCH has a buffer zone of 5 km around the boundaries.

The historic and cultural value of the Royal Road is consigned in their Management Plan is recognized as a key value of the PNCH.

Adjacent to PNCH is the PNP, which continues connecting the Royal Road. PNP was created by law in 1976 and becomes one of the most important protected areas in the Caribbean due to its complex structure that includes coastal areas, historic buildings and primary forest in mainland. PNP covers more than 27,000 hectares of terrestrial protected area and close to 8,000 hectares of marine territory. As is the case with PNCH, the management plan for PNP recognizes and prioritizes the historical value of the infrastructure within its borders.

Because of its dynamic character, the Royal Road contributes to express the Outstanding Universal Value of the Colonial Transisthmian Royal Route of Panamá as a link in the larger scheme of maritime and territorial Spanish rule brought about by the establishment of the Trans-Isthmian Road Network, with the Camino Real or Royal Road, the Cruces Road, and the many accessory paths along the way, laid the groundwork for future developments and intensifications of the use of the narrowest part of the Isthmus to connect both oceans and the cultures beyond.  Thus, it can be said that the Royal Road together with the Cruces Road are the precursors and direct predecessors of the Panamá Railroad and then the Panamá Canal, that virtually follow the same route, and that they inaugurated the “transit” phase of Panamanian history.  Both Colonial Roads and their successors, the Railroad and the Canal, that is to say the Trans-isthmian route, traverse an area of diverse landscapes in the narrowest part of the isthmus, that bear not only significant paleontological remains from the Miocene epoch onwards, but that also display a unique accumulation of evidence of human usage since Paleoindian times more than 11,000 years ago up to the 21st century. 

Because of its dynamic character, the Royal Road contributes to express the Outstanding Universal Value of the Colonial Transisthmian Royal Route of Panamá as a link in the larger scheme of maritime and territorial Spanish rule brought about by the establishment of the Trans-Isthmian Road Network, with the Camino Real or Royal Road, the Cruces Road, and the many accessory paths along the way, laid the groundwork for future developments and intensifications of the use of the narrowest part of the Isthmus to connect both oceans and the cultures beyond.  Thus, it can be said that the Royal Road together with the Cruces Road are the precursors and direct predecessors of the Panamá Railroad and then the Panamá Canal, that virtually follow the same route, and that they inaugurated the “transit” phase of Panamanian history.  Both Colonial Roads and their successors, the Railroad and the Canal, that is to say the Trans-isthmian route, traverse an area of diverse landscapes in the narrowest part of the isthmus, that bear not only significant paleontological remains from the Miocene epoch onwards, but that also display a unique accumulation of evidence of human usage since Paleoindian times more than 11,000 years ago up to the 21st century. 

The Royal Road, as the first land route across the American continent, connected not only the terminal cities on both American shores, but more importantly the continents and civilizations beyond, allowing for the non-interrupted passage and interchange in human values, first through a paved stone road, later succeeded by a railroad, the Panama Canal, concrete highways and even an intercontinental flight-hub, all following the route first devised by the Spanish crown since the early 16th century.  In and of itself, the Road is one of the very few remnants of Spanish Imperial road-building in the Americas, that with its distinctive pavement of stones aligned by master lines, finds its predecessors in the roads of the Roman Empire a thousand years before, just as the Spanish colonial city layout hearkens back to the Roman castrum. 

This very unique Spanish trans-continental road built in America, also traverses some of the earliest occupied and manipulated landscapes in the isthmus of Panama and the continent.  The original forests covering the area were first inhabited in the Paleoindian period over 11,000 years ago by peoples migrating from North to South America at the end of the last glaciation, and cleared during the Archaic period starting around 7000 years ago to allow for the development of agriculture that sustained large human populations until the early 16th century.  The area was only reforested after the catastrophic demographic collapse brought about by the Spanish invasion caused an abandonment of once cultivated areas that thus returned to primary – yet anthropogenic – forest.  Ultimately, the dense tropical forest cover observed today in the trans-isthmian zone where the Road lies, is the product of human interaction or the clash of civilizations that was propitiated by the Road itself.

The Road also embodies the will of the Spanish Empire not only to unite its territories, but most importantly to connect both Oceans through a Canal, an idea that was first formalized through a Royal Decree of 1534 that ordered the Governor of Castilla del Oro to explore and find out how the land could be opened so that the Pacific Ocean could be joined with the Chagres River allowing for ships to pass.  The idea persisted in the minds of both European immigrants to Panama and the local population, so that the efforts to create a Canal persisted until the technology and resources became available to finally accomplish the vision at the beginning of the 20th century.  This idea or project engaged the labors and policies of the major world powers from the 16th century onwards, who vied for control of the isthmus and possession of this crucial nexus point.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá, whose vertices are the Castle of San Lorenzo El Real de Chagre, the fortified town of Portobelo, and Panamá City, spreads from the Caribbean coast of the province of Colón to the Pacific coast of the province of Panamá. As a broad system of territorial dominion, the “Strategic Triangle” (as it was also called) formed a part of the defensive network of fortifications and communication roads, trade and associated structures established by the Spanish Crown in order to safeguard the commercial routes of the Intercontinental Royal Road across the Isthmus of Panamá. It joined the Caribbean coast with the Pacific coast through a land, fluvial and maritime communications network across the Central Mountain Range (Cordillera Central). On route from Panamá to Portobelo flowed 60% of South American silver production on its way to Spain, as well as the tragedy of slave trade. Because of its undeniable importance in world communications, the Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá, has remained current as a communications route from the 16th century onwards for it has evolved as a response to changes in technology and in the nature of the materials/goods to be transported. Through this dynamic evolution, there have been 3 distinctive historic stages. These are: (1) the Spanish colonial period (1501 - 1821); (2) the period during which Panama was a part of Colombia, with the advent of the first transcontinental railroad of America and the materialization of Bolivarian ideals in the Amphictyonic Congress of Panamá (1821 - 1903); and (3) the Republican Period (1903 onwards), with the feat of the construction of the Panamá Canal, which forever transformed the landscape and geography of the Isthmus. Of these 3 stages, the stages that meet the required conditions of integrity, authenticity, protection and management are the (1) Spanish colonial period (1501 - 1821) and the (2) the Colombian period (1821 - 1903), which, combined, include the two Spanish colonial Roads (Camino de Cruces and Camino Real) as well as the worldly renown “Salón Bolívar” (Bolivar Hall) in which the Amphyctionic Congress of Panamá took place in the year 1826.  In addition, the Strategic Triangle also encompasses territory that bears some of the earliest evidences of human occupation in Panamá and the Americas, with the finding of Paleoindian “Clovis” and “Fishtail” type spear points which date to more than 10,000 years B.P., in sites around Madden Lake near the Royal Road, as well as other Precolumbian sites from all of the Precolumbian period.

The serial property is comprised of two existing World Heritage sites (the Archaeological Site Panamá Viejo and Historic District of Panamá - with a new proposed Significant Boundary Modification; and the Fortifications on the Caribbean coast of Panamá: Portobelo and San Lorenzo) and two additional new components (the Camino de Cruces and the Camino Real), etc., comprising several archaeological sites, cemeteries, monuments, military fortifications, groups of buildings, historic urban centres and associated urban landscapes, all of which relate to the movement of peoples through transisthmian transit across the Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá, representing all periods of human occupation of the Isthmus. These components highlight the longevity of occupation, the technological achievements, the fusion of architectural styles, military architecture integrated into the landscape, styles of temples and churches, the adaptation of construction technologies to the environment and geography, and its transformation into cultural landscapes with the consolidation of transport routes.

The communication networks across the Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá evolved as did the history of Panamá. On the Spanish colonial period, because of the Spanish monopolist and political project, these networks articulated over land, fluvial and maritime roads that came to be an integral and vital part of the Intercontinental Royal Road. These networks linked together several terminal cities, coaching inn villages (ventas), ports, customs and fortifications under a trading, political and social program at the service of the Spanish Crown. The silver riches transported along these networks were part of a globalization booming process that ended in a severe worldwide economic depression. In the wake of the Gold Rush in California and during the period in which Panamá became a part of Colombia (1821-1903), the technological advancement brought about by the transisthmian railroad modernized the communications and movement of peoples and goods, along with significant social and economic changes along its route. On the same period the Amphictyonic Congress of Panamá took place. The failed French attempt to build a Canal across Panamá, another technological leap on transport across the Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá that, despite failing, exerted powerful influence on cultural expressions, language, customs and architecture in the transisthmian region. The birth of the Republic and the construction of the Panamá Canal, brought about a titanic transformation of the geographical landscape that revolutionized the Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá, and had powerful social, cultural and economic impacts throughout the country.

The dynamic factor that acts as a conductor in the Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá is without a doubt, the need to dominate the movement of peoples and goods from one sea to the other, as its routes were critical arteries for local, regional and world commerce. The impact of the transisthmian transport through the Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá, as a driving force for world economy, was enormous, as it has also been such in terms of social tensions, and at last it was instrumental for social integration amongst the many peoples that came to be involved on the economic development of the region. Growth and densification continue throughout the Strategic Triangle of the Isthmus of Panamá (as it was also called), and it was complemented by the Transisthmian Highway and other roads. The cultural elements in the property as a whole reflect important aspects of this interchange of ideas and peoples along transport routes, especially in the terminal cities.

The Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá and its communication routes, in their different historical stages, are an outstanding achievement of engineering on most varied geographical areas, joining the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean by means of transport routes across the Cordillera Central (Central Mountain Range), across the rainforests and through very difficult terrains.  Within this territory there lies a unique collection of evidence telling the story of the evolution of humankind for the last 11,000 years, from the passage of the earliest inhabitants of the Americas, through the entire Precolumbian, Colonial, Departmental and Republican periods, up to the Cold War and the most recent Expansion of the Panamá Canal, with significant archaeological and historical artefacts, sites and buildings that bear witness to this extremely long occupational history.

Criterion (ii): The Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá was part of the Intercontinental Royal Road, and came to be one of the most important routes to unite the Spanish crown with its dominions in Central and South America. The heritage elements of  archaeological sites, architecture, technology, urban planning, military fortifications, and cultural landscapes, which are associated to the communication roads of the Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá developed mainly from the founding of their terminal city on the Pacific Coast in 1519 and exhibit an important interchange of human values.  However the area has been the site of human occupation for more than 11,000 years, holding some of the earliest archaeological sites in the American continent. Thus, the Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá bears witness to the existence of reciprocal influences between different cultural groups in joint territorial systems that have lasted millennia, but more recently articulated by the specific phenomenon of mobility and exchange, and driven by transisthmian transit in Panamá through the Spanish colonial period (1501 - 1821).

Criterion (iv): After the sighting of the South Sea (Pacific Ocean) by Europeans in 1513, which led to the founding of Panamá in 1519 as an outpost for the Spanish expansion in Central and South America, the transisthmian and maritime routes that consolidated the Spanish dominion on the Continent and its surrounding seas were established. These routes attracted to the Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá influences of architectural and urbanistic styles that were adapted and integrated into the landscape, brought about unique examples of military architecture and exceptional urban ensembles. Further, urban planning was a political instrument to express dominion on the Strategic Triangle of the Isthmus of Panamá throughout its history.

Criterion (v): The Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá is an outstanding example of land use and human interaction with the environment, expressed through its two existing world heritage properties, archaeological sites, monuments, groups of buildings, historic city centers and associated cultural landscapes, showing the network of relationships and reciprocal influences between different groups brought about by transisthmian transit. This movement of peoples across the Isthmus highlights their technological achievements, fusion of architectural styles, military architecture integrated into the landscape, styles of temples and churches, and the adaptation of construction technologies to the environment and geography that made possible the consolidation of transport routes.

Criterion (vi): Along with the Acapulco-Veracruz exchange, the Panamá-Nombre de Dios, then Portobelo exchange, played a vital role in the history of piracy, the African diaspora, the spread of the religion, culture, architectural styles, etc., all of which merged with local expressions and fed from cultural exchange, and European administrative structures in this strategic region of the Central American Isthmus for over 5 centuries. These in turn, developed towards the establishment of logistics nodes at the Strategic Triangle’s terminal cities for transport of good and peoples as well as to create spaces for political consensus of world reach and influence, as exemplified by the Amphictyonic Congress of Panamá in 1826 held at the Salón Bolívar.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Integrity

All 5 components of the serial Property meet the conditions of integrity, considering that the Archaeological Site Panamá Viejo and the Historic District of Panamá is undergoing a Significant Boundary Modification which will justify a new nomination. As a Pre-Columbian and Historic Archaeological Site with both historic ruins and stratified contexts, Panamá Viejo includes all the elements necessary to convey the Outstanding Universal Value for which this component was listed (in 2003) as an extension of the Historic District and Salón Bolívar’s original World Heritage inscription (in 1997). The size of the protected area is consistent with the distribution of the relevant physical attributes, constituting a coherent and clearly defined whole. In 2012, the Vía Cincuentenario was removed from the core area of the site, generating a new border that will contain growth from the neighbouring communities. The proposed boundary modification of this component incorporates a regulated transition area surrounding the inscribed property. With the implementation of existing zoning regulations (2006) and a National Law (2007), a land and marine buffer zone that regulates the development of the neighbouring communities and the waterfront has been established to control the erosion of its borders.

On the other hand, the Historic District of Panamá contains a sufficient representation of all the attributes that contribute to convey the Outstanding Universal Value of the Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá, particularly the urban layout, the dimension and distribution of ground plots, the remaining colonial fortifications and non-residential buildings of monumental value. A great variety of residential building typologies is also present. In almost all cases, the massing, rhythm of facade openings and long, open balconies have withstood the substantial number of architectural interventions that have taken place since the 1997 inscription, most of which have adapted the inner distributions of houses and open places within the plots to current requisites of privacy and safety.

The special protection received by the remains of the wall through the current legislation has allowed carrying out archaeological explorations that have managed to register and recover ample portions of a heritage that was thought lost. Although almost complete demolition of the landward front occurred, a part of the wall still is still standing, although hidden amongst the modern constructions. Surviving sections of the landward front can be seen with the naked eye, and the long curtain walls remains of the counter-scarp are confirmed, although they are hidden among the modern buildings that rest on it. It has practically become their internal walls, which provide extremely solid foundations to the buildings erected on it. On the other hand, the results obtained so far have identified an earlier constructive phase of the existing wall, probably built between 1673 and 1685, when the new wall curtain was built on the south flank of the city. At the same time, some spaces of military use were detected that are not mentioned in the available historical information, with ammunition and some elements related to uniforms. Similarly, the presence and analysis of the remains of fauna in the moat and some sections of the wall suggest the unhealthy conditions of the city, without adequate management of organic and inorganic waste, even until the middle of the 19th century, when its demolition was allowed, yet and fortunately, most of the city walls remain. The presence in these deposits of ceramics, pipe fragments, and other metallic artefacts would also indicate the recurrent use of some sectors of the easement as dumps. At the same time, the investigations have allowed to evaluate the state of conservation of the walls, detecting deteriorated sectors that require interventions of immediate conservation. Although restoration projects should contemplate the conservation and enhancement of the wall, it would be advisable to have an evaluation of the entire extent of its sea front and implement intervention plans, even in areas where they are not being restored. Of course, our task does not end with the delimitation of the defensive system of the city, but it seeks to question the hegemonic discourse consolidated over a hundred years of republican life. As Zaranquin and Senatore (2007) suggest, it is not possible to remain the discipline that "discovers" and "studies" the past, and somehow sustains and legitimizes systems of power. (Mendizábal and Martín, 2009: 85, 86)

Further, in consistency with the existing 1980 world heritage inscription, the key elements that convey the Outstanding Universal Value of the “Fortifications on the Caribbean Side of Panamá: Portobelo-San Lorenzo” are located within the original boundaries. These features illustrate the evolution of military architecture developed by the Spanish colonial empire to protect the commerce route which connected South America with Spain across the Isthmus of Panamá.  The major subcomponents of the fortified system are still visible at Portobelo, where most colonial fortresses continue to be a resemblance of the original. The same consideration applies to the bay, where the forts are located. Likewise, at San Lorenzo, the fort and the Chagres river mouth have been preserved. However, the integrity of the property has been somewhat compromised to different degrees by environmental factors, by uncontrolled urban sprawl and development and by the lack of maintenance and management. A number of measures, including conservation works, enforcement of regulations and the operation of a site management unit, continue to be implemented in a sustained manner so as to prevent further erosion of the conditions of integrity, particularly at the component parts located in Portobelo.

Likewise, the integrity of the Camino de Cruces (Cruces Road) is evident within the limits of both national parks, which cover approximately 80% of the original length of this route. The integrity of the route with respect to its surrounding landscape is also given. The route it followed is well known and there are enough segments of surface archaeological remains (paved and non-paved segments)to allow for a clear reconstruction of most of the alignment from the archaeological site of Venta de Cruces to the gates of Panamá City. The archaeological remains of the Cruces Road are recognizable by the distinct arrangement of its pavement stones and construction techniques used, as well as by the modifications of the landscape associated to its presence.

Finally, the integrity of the Camino Real (Royal Road) is also evident within the limits of both national parks, which cover approximately 60% of the original length of this route. The integrity of the route with respect to its surrounding landscape is also given. There are enough segments of surface archaeological remains to allow for a clear reconstruction of the alignment from Madden Lake onwards to Portobelo, although most of the route and pavement southwards from the lake has been lost to urban and rural growth. The archaeological remains of the Royal Road are recognizable by the morphology of its pavement stones and construction techniques used, as well as by the modifications of the landscape associated to its presence.

Authenticity

Likewise, the conditions of authenticity of all 5 components of the serial Property are maintained, considering that the Archaeological Site Panamá Viejo and the Historic District of Panamá is undergoing a Significant Boundary Modification which will justify a new nomination. Upon abandonment, the core area of Panamá Viejo (the archaeological site) was never rebuilt and retained its original street layout. No reconstructions of archaeological remains have been carried out and all conservation and intervention work amongst the ruins has been done in accordance with international standards. Within the boundaries of the protected heritage area there are a few modern structures, but these are clearly identified and differentiated from the archaeological remains.

Further, the urban layout of the Historic District of Panamá may be considered to be authentic, preserving its original form largely unchanged. The organically developed stock of buildings from the 18th to the 20th centuries has changed little over time. Most of the fabric of the buildings and fortifications, as well as the public spaces, is original. There is evidence that dressed stone and other building materials from the ruins of the Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo were quarried and recycled to help rebuild the relocated settlement and for the construction of buildings and fortifications of the Historic Walled Quarter, thus providing a measure of material continuity between the two components of the Property. In some well documented cases, such as La Merced, entire church facades were reconstructed on the new site.

The property has maintained the street layout, massing and urban scale. Many streets retain the brick paving characteristic of the early years of the 20th century. Although gentrification has taken place, the traditional use has been largely preserved, with a mixture of residential, commercial, institutional and religious activities coexisting with non-traditional touristic and entertainment uses. Since the modern refurbishing of interior spaces in the buildings can potentially compromise the essence of the site by replacing traditional structural systems with modern structural materials, clear guidelines need to be enforced in the implementation of restoration and rehabilitation projects for historic buildings.

On the other hand, in terms of form, design, material and setting the component of the “Fortifications on the Caribbean Side of Panamá: Portobelo-San Lorenzo” has remained mostly unchanged through time, expressing the essence of the fortified system and the evolution of European models of military architecture from the late 16th to the 18th century in the Americas.  These military structures have largely retained the overall original form, although most architectural finishes, decorative elements and some wall sections have been lost as a result of natural decay.  The vulnerability to decay factors continues to be addressed through sustained conservation actions, carried out in accordance with scientific conservation principles and standards.

Further, the Camino de Cruces (Cruces Road) is well documented since the colonial period, and much valuable documentation is preserved in Spanish and Colombian archives. Beginning in the mid-19th century it was also documented graphically, and there are many detailed published testimonies on the actual passage. The first detailed surveys were carried out by North American map makers in the mid-19th century, and these maps were updated several times until the 1970s.  The road was still used as a rural communications artery and even as a boundary for properties until the early 20th century.  Serious academic research began with Roland Hussey’s work in the 1930s and has continued uninterruptedly to this day. All of this bears testimony of the authenticity of this royal road.

Finally, the Camino Real (Royal Road) and the Chagres River road are well documented since the colonial period, and much valuable documentation is preserved in Spanish and Colombian archives. Beginning in the mid-19th century, both were also documented graphically, and there are many detailed published testimonies on the actual passage. The first detailed surveys were carried out by North American map makers in the mid-19th century, and these maps were updated several times until the 1970s. Serious academic research began with Roland Hussey’s work in the 1930s and has continued uninterruptedly to this day. All of this bears testimony of the authenticity of these royal roads.

Comparison with other similar properties

This analysis is based on a comparison with properties of similar characteristics, both those that are included in the World Heritage List and others, whether on the Tentative Lists or not yet anticipated for inclusion. To this end the analysis framework defined by the Filling the Gaps study (Jokilehto, et al., 2005) has been used: chronological, thematic and typological frameworks. In addition, because this is a serial nomination it was necessary to take into account the component parts.

For the present comparison, we have based on the values, characteristic and attributes that have been described above and that constitute the basis on which the outstanding universal values are sustained.

Chronological framework

This framework classifies the heritage in terms of time and space. Consideration has firstly been given to a great amount of serial properties that correspond to different periods and several categories of components. A solely regional focus was not used, insofar as this would have been very limited in terms of analyzing the thematic and typological frameworks.

Nevertheless, as a result of the vast quantity of serial properties inscribed on the World Heritage List, this first universe of sites has been restricted to those that show thematic similarities and then to the ones that correspond to the specific lapse of time between 16th to the 19th centuries. However, after the chronological approach, a number of cases belonging to other typologies were also analyzed despite having a distinct chronological positioning, insofar as they are related to a very different culture.

Thematic framework

According to Filling the Gaps, “the thematic framework identifies people’s responses to their cultural environment” (Jokilehto, et al., 2005:13), and includes the following principal themes:

- Expressions of Society
- Creative Responses and Continuity
- Spiritual Responses
- Utilizing Natural Resources
- Movement of Peoples
- Developing Technologies

The thematic framework has been used in the comparative analysis to measure the extent to which The Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá fills a gap left by other properties that could coincide in chronological terms and with regard to typological characterizations. Being a cultural route, the thematic approach for comparison should mainly analyze heritage routes, particularly cultural routes. It can be understood, based on the thematic framework, as an example of movement of peoples.

The Incense RouteDesert Cities in the Negev, Israel, which was inscribed in 2005 as a cultural landscape, is actually a series based on a system of trading routes, similar to the Panama´s from the thematic approach but different following the chronological framework.

The most similar case is the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, Mexico, due to the fact that both are significant sections of the Intercontinental Royal Road, although covering different territories and with specific functionalities.

Heritage of Mercury. Almaden and Idrija is also part of the Intercontinental Royal Road, but as a complementary series. Hence, its dynamic character is shown only by means of the relationship between both sites, with references to the whole network.

The Intercontinental Royal Road has not been inscribed on the World Heritage List, but several of its sections have features that portray values that could be understood as outstanding and universal. Their significance depend on the historic importance in transforming a territory and creating a new society. These particularities make both the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro and The Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá key pieces in Iberoamerican culture that share chronological and thematic characteristics but vary in functionality and typology of components. They also share the very important historic axis of Spanish conquest – colonization – independence and the theme Movement of Peoples is merged with the not less important one: the necessity of defense and territorial control.

Other cases that are not heritage routes exhibit certain similarities, such as Kunta Kinteh Island and Related Sites (Gambia), that covers a similar lap of time and, although in a different region. Its main theme is similar: European conquest and colonization of foreign  territories: “Together, these sites illustrate all the main periods and facets of the Afro-European encounter along the River Gambia, a continuum that stretched from pre-slavery times to the independence period” (WHC Ref: 761rev) However, although it represents interaction of peoples, it is not as dynamic as a cultural route.

Pearling, Testimony of an Island Economy (Bahrain) is not a cultural route but a series based on a dynamic process that shows a tradition although its similarities with Panama’s case lay only on it.

Typological framework

On analyzing the properties included in the typological framework, to start with we excluded all of those cases that, despite corresponding in a strict sense to the chronological period, did not in any way coincide with the typology that corresponds to the Panama’s series.

If we consider as the “type” the heritage route as a category of World Heritage, The Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá should be compared with several properties. They would be the Route of Santiago de Compostela (Spain), Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France (France), Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem (Palestine), Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range (Japan), Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (Mexico), Qhapaq Ñan. Andean Road System (Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru), Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang'an-Tianshan Corridor (China, Kazakhstan Kyrgyzstan).

The first four routes, although three of them constituted axis that developed cultures, are based on pilgrimage, while the rest implied trade and dominion of vast territories. However, there are certain similarities among components, because, disregarding cultural and chronological differences, most of them include a great amount of types such as shrines, towns, fortifications, bridges, housing facilities, markets and of course roads. Comparing the architectural or engineering elements of the components would be unnecessary because although several features could be similar, there is a wide spectrum of differences.

The most important typological comparison can be based on the structure of the series and the way it shows the route. The Route of Santiago de Compostela (Spain) is a linear cultural route which mainly constitutes a series of long sections and sites, while the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France (France) is not linear, as a complex ensemble of monuments and few sections of the roads. The Japan property was not inscribed as a cultural route but as a cultural landscape. Its series’ layout, although with small dimensions, is of the same type as the French example.

The Qhapaq Ñan. Andean Road System, with a linear pattern, constitute other complex cultural route, created along centuries by the superposition of other routes until the Inca Trails were overlapped with them. It does not share the same chronological framework of Panama’s case but it is also a merged theme of conquest and colonization. And there is, of course, the Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang'an-Tianshan Corridor, probably the most complex, taking into account that it is not the completely silk roads’ network. In this case, the proportion between roads and sites is higher than in others.

The Causses and the Cévennes, Mediterranean agro-pastoral Cultural Landscape (France), although includes a cultural route based on transhumance, is a clear example of cultural landscape.

The Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá shows a pattern different to the above described ones, what constitutes one of the features that support its outstanding universal value following criterion iv. The territorial structure, called “The Strategic Triangle”, a network that at the same time structured transportation and defense is a particular case of cultural route layout that affects the territory on a very clear way, creating an overall system that persists in current times.

Other cultural routes not inscribed on the World Heritage List

Apart from future extensions of the ones already inscribed, several cultural routes are already on Tentative Lists and others have not been considered for inscription. Some of them are pilgrimage routes, such as the Huichol Route through the sacred sites to Huiricuta (Mexico); some are based on commerce as in the case of Trade Pilgrimage Routes of North-Western Ghana. All of them can be included on the thematic framework of “movement of peoples”, but do not state the relationship between trade and defense as in the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro and the Panama’s proposed series.

The nomination currently under preparation Viking Monuments and Sites (Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Norway), in addition to corresponding to different chronological framework and to a very different culture, has been approached as a transnational series disregarding possible cultural routes.

The Gold Route in Parati and its landscape (Brazil) shows some similar characteristics, being a colonization route that was developed during Iberoamerican colonial times, but it is more related to mining development than to the whole control of a strategic territory. The Cultural Itinerary of Francis Xavier (Spain) shows, with certain chronological coincidence, the development of culture and faith but on a very different thematic and typological basis.

The Klondike (Canada), on the Tentative List since 2004 is a potential serial transnational nomination that includes as one of its main components a cultural route that, although short in time, was important for territorial development, but is very different to Panama’s case.

The Mesta Livestock trails (Spain), in the Tentative List since 2007 is an important cultural route, but very different to The Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá, as in other cases based on transhumance.

Summarizing, The Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá can be compared with the overall cultural route Camino Real Intercontinental (not inscribed nor in the Tentative Lists) and the only section of it that is on the World Heritage List, The Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. It could also be compared with other sections of the Intercontinental Royal Road that are not inscribed nor on Tentative Lists. However, Panama’s and Mexico’s routes are the ones that most clearly developed an universal role, guaranteeing not only trade through a territory but protecting it to allow colonization and, in the case of the Transisthmian Route, making possible the link between Pacific and Atlantic oceans and therefore the development of Spanish  Empire.