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Archaeological Site and Historic Centre of Panamá City

Date of Submission: 19/01/2015
Criteria: (ii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Panama to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Province of Panamá
Ref.: 5970

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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo: N: 995933,051; E: 666505,166
Historic Centre of Panamá City Within Casco Antiguo: N: 989913,756; E: 661089,998

Panama City is directly associated with important interchanges of human values throughout its history due to its strategic position on the Central American Isthmus. As a terminal city and link of important communication routes, Panama City contributed to the expansion of the Spanish culture, language and customs in America and to important interchange of values with American and African culture, languages, customs and beliefs, along with the spread of the Catholic religion. It also contributed to the African diaspora brought about by the slave trade and to the history of piracy in the region. The continuous flow of intercontinental and interoceanic communications through Panama City allowed this interchange to morph into new forms, expressions and human values that persist in American cultures.

The serial property ‘Archaeological Site and Historic Centre of Panama City’ has two components: the Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo and the Historic Centre of Panama City. Each component represents a different stage in the city’s development; this situation itself is extraordinary. Panama as a city whose power centre was relocated in order to continue its strategic functions in the Central American Isthmus, after a pirate attack, is a unique case in Latin America.

The European discovery of the South Sea, later known as the Pacific Ocean, brought about the need for a city terminal and connection of routes of Spanish expansion and transport of American riches; a role that Panama City fulfilled  to the point of being indispensable. Upon the destruction of its power centre by a pirate attack led by Henry Morgan in 1671 the city was relocated in order to continue its functions and reactivate the routes of commerce to the Portobelo Fairs. The relocation of Panama City was made official in 1673, at scarcely 8 kilometres from its original founding place. Elite Panamanian merchants and citizens of the 19th century aspired to follow the model of Hanseatic cities and thus exploit the vast commercial potential of Panama City’s location in the colonial and post-colonial communications network under a series of rights fostering commerce and free exchange. Panama joined Simón Bolívar’s dream of a unified American territory from Mexico to the southern Andes and was chosen by Bolívar as the potential power centre and capital of the parent government for his unified America precisely because of Panama City’s strategic location, that he considered to be equidistant to the other nations of the Globe. In his letters regarding the subject of Panama, Bolívar envisioned the construction of the Panama Canal. His Amphyctionic Congress of Panama is a precursor of the Organization of American States (OAS) and the United Nations (UN). Though Bolívar’s league of nations collapsed due to political dissent, Panama City became indivisible from the Bolivarian ideals of brotherhood among American nations, and the Salón Bolívar remains as a monument and testament of this ideal. The city’s strategic location and geopolitical importance brought about the construction of the first transcontinental railroad, an important role in the California Gold Rush, the French attempt to build a canal through the Isthmus of Panama and the successful   completion of the Panama Canal by the United States. Among the direct results of these important interchanges of human values in its strategic location in the Central American Isthmus are the various types of housing, and military and religious architecture from the 16th century to the 20th century.

Component, Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo: The founding place

The Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo is an uninhabited area within Panama City. It is also known locally as Panamá La Vieja and it coincides largely with the protected historic site defined by Panamanian law as the Conjunto Monumental Histórico de Panamá Viejo. Its buffer zone, also established by law, includes the surrounding area on both land and sea.

The site contains the remains of the Spanish settlement that is the founding place of Panama City, founded in 1519.The town’s urban centre was destroyed in Henry Morgan's invasion in 1671 and never rebuilt.  In 1673 the town was officially transferred to a small peninsula 8.0 kilometres to the southwest, where it became the core of modern Panama City's development.

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 28.70 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 hectares landward buffer zone. Further north is the Jardín de Paz, a large cemetery noted for its green landscape design. 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 hectares maritime buffer zone extends 2.0 kilometres 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.

Component, Historic Centre of Panama City: The relocated town centre

The Historic Centre of Panama City within Casco Antiguo, formerly inscribed as the Historic District of Panamá, is located 8.0 kilometres southwest of Panamá Viejo on a peninsula at the foot of Ancon Hill. The Historic Centre of Panama City encompasses the original walled quarter and its former esplanade’s area adjacent to the landward wall, covering 22.00 hectares of land. It is located within the boundaries of the national heritage Conjunto Monumental Histórico del Casco Antiguo de Panamá[1]; a historic monuments group defined by Decree Law 9 of August 27th of 1997, covering 51.04 hectares of land.It was originally inscribed by Decision CONF 208 VIIIC in 1997 as ‘the Historic District of Panamá with the Salón Bolívar (C 790)’on the World Heritage List, with 29.40 hectares.                   

The site encompasses the original walled quarter and the area immediately adjacent to the landward wall, covering 22 hectares.Most of the seaward walls of the colonial fortifications and parts of the landward bastions and ditch survive and are easily recognizable.  As such, it has seven city blocks less than the component inscribed in 1997 with 29.40 hectares. It explicitly excludes the surrounding maritime context and most buildings erected on the waterfront beyond the city wall. The trajectory of the city wall is extensively documented by archeological studies, historical documents and city maps. In addition, the Executive Decree 51 of August 27th, 2004 establishes protective measures for the conservation and enhancement of value of the city wall in all of its extension.

The rest of this Conjunto Monumental Histórico covering an area of 51.04 hectares under Decree Law 9 of August 27th of 1997, including these seven blocks, covers an additional 29.04 hectares and is presented here as the Historic Centre of Panamá City’s landward buffer zone, including the buildings erected on the waterfront beyond the city wall. With its 164, 5 hectares, the seaward part goes beyond the Cinta Costera III and includes all rock formations visible at low tide.

From an administrative point of view, the Historic Centre of Panama City is part of the borough (corregimiento in Spanish) of San Felipe; the buffer zone falls largely within the boroughs of Santa Ana and El Chorrillo. In everyday Panamanian usage, the name Casco Antiguo by itself usually applies to the Historic Centre of Panama City and its immediate surroundings.The city was originally known as Panamá la Nueva or New Panama. Officially founded in 1673, it was several kilometres closer to the Perico Island port (5 km vs. 11 for Panamá Viejo) and near the mouth of a wide river that eventually became the entrance to the Panamá Canal. The relocated town not only had better access to fresh water but could also be fortified, although the chosen peninsula was far smaller than the area covered by Panamá Viejo.

From the outset, the relocated Panama City had two distinct neighbourhoods separated by a wall, ditch and esplanade. The Salón Bolívar, originally the Chapter Hall of the convent of San Francisco and marker of the place where the Amphyctionic Congress of 1826 was held, is of particular importance to the outstanding universal value of the serial property, due to its associations with the Bolivarian ideal of unity amongst freed American nations. The Salón Bolívar, which has been properly preserved, is the only surviving part of the original monastic complex of San Francisco and is located within the Palacio Bolívar, which is the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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 quarter has an orthogonal layout, whereas the area outside the walls, known historically as Arrabal de Santa Ana, is irregular. Most of the seaward walls of the colonial fortifications and parts of the landward bastions and ditch survive.

Many of the buildings within the site are identified as important for the country’s 17th- to 20th-century heritage. Most outstanding are the churches and public buildings. There are several exceptional examples of domestic architecture from the colonial period, 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 to modern times. These include not only masonry upper-class houses from the entire period, but also modest wooden houses and reinforced concrete apartment buildings erected to satisfy the requirements of a more stratified urban society.

The former Franciscan convent occupied a complete city block and was located adjacent to the city wall; the Chapter Hall of this convent was the venue for the Amphyctionic Congress summoned by Simón Bolívar in 1826 (See Figure 4). Expropiated by the government after the Franciscan Order left Panama in 1821, the building was turned into a hospital and later into a school. The wing holding the Salón Bolívar is the most complete of the remains of the old colonial building dated back to the 18th century (Tejeira, 2007: 211). The Chapter Hall of the Convent of San Francisco was identified in the decade of 1930 and restored. The Bolivarian Society of Panama[i], formally established in 1929, watches over the Salón Bolívar since 1941. Later on, the Salón Bolívar underwent extensive restoration work from 1999 to 2000; the archaeological remains of other areas of the colonial Franciscan convent were excavated in 2001 (Spadafora and Tejeira, 2001: 114). The space identified as the Salón Bolívar is on the ground floor. A second space on the upper floor was rehabilitated as the Sala de Actas (Records Hall) to hold the original Records of the Amphyctionic Congress of 1826, inaugurated in 2000 during the 10th Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Government. As a testimony to the persistence of the Bolivarian ideals associated with the place marked by the Salón Bolívar, the original Records were granted to Panama by the Federal Republic of Brazil, along with a replica of the sword presented by Peru to Simón Bolívar The Liberator in 1825 and made of 18 karat gold with embedded diamonds, engraved with the words, ‘Simón Bolívar Unidad – Libertad – 1825’ which translates to ‘Simón Bolívar – Unity – Freedom – 1825’. The sword’s replica was given to the Republic of Panama by the Government of Venezuela.(Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Panamá, N.D.)

[i] The Bolivarian Society dates back to 1926, when the Pan-American Congress met in Panama City to commemorate the centennial of Simón Bolívar’s Amphyctionic Congress of 1826. It was the will of the Congress to establish a Bolivarian Society in every Latin American country, such as those already present in Colombia and Venezuela at the time, in order to continuously honour the legacy of Simón Bolívar The Liberator. The Bolivarian Society of Panama was formally established on the 20th of July of 1929, and maintains custody of the Salón Bolívar since 1941 (Ministerio de RelacionesExteriores de Panamá, N.D.).

[1] The Conjunto Monumental Histórico del Casco Antiguo de Panamá, in English Historic Monuments Group of the Old Quarter of Panamá City, was created in 1976 by Act 91 of December 22nd with an approximate area of 29.40 hectares. It was extended by Decree Law 9 of August 27th of 1997 to cover an area of 51.04 hectares. Executive Decree 51 of April 22nd of 2004 added an adjacent water surface area of heritage protection that was extended by Executive Decree 340 of May 16th of 2014 to cover 164.49 hectares of maritime area.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The City of Panamá was founded in 1519 in the wake of the European discovery of the South Sea (1513), which came to confirm that the New World constituted lands unknown to the Europeans of the 15th century and were not the Indias as previously thought. Panamá City was founded as a vital connection and departure point for Spanish expansion on the New World by means of land and maritime routes, especially for the bullion lifeline and the Armadilla del Mar del Sur, galleon fleet on the Pacific. Panamá had a key role for the conquest of Central America and Peru as departing port for the Conquistadors, played an important role in the African diaspora, and served as a logistics and transport node for the riches that made possible the famous Fairs of Portobelo on the Isthmus of Panamá’s Caribbean side, both cities joined by transisthmian routes.

Panamá City was the launching point for expeditions resulting in the conquest of American territories including Nicaragua and the Inca territories. With the conquest of America came about the spreading and interchange of human values, such as Spanish language and customs, Catholic religion and associated traditions with local beliefs and customs, including African customs due to the African diaspora caused by the tragedy of the slave trade. Also the important exchange of human values through the movement of goods and people across the Isthmus of Panama along the transisthmian routes was reflected in the development of unique examples of housing, military and religious architectural types in Panama City. With the domination of the narrowest point of the Americas in the heart of the Isthmus of Panama and the linking of both seas through land and fluvial routes, Panama City’s value as a vital logistics node for the Spanish empire was further established, especially associated to providing the passage to American riches that made possible the famous Fairs of Portobelo on the Caribbean coast. Because of this, Panama City became the target of piracy by famously known captains such as Sir Francis Drake (1540 – 1596) and Sir Henry Morgan (1635 – 1688), who commanded a successful attack that reduced Panama City to ruins in 1671. These ruins are known today as the Archaeological Site of Panama City. By royal order of the Queen Mariana of Austria (1634 – 1696), Regent in name of her son King Charles II (1661 – 1700), Don Antonio Fernández de Córdoba relocated the city and provided it with walls and a dry moat about 8.0 kilometres to the south west of the ruins of Panama and closer to its main port for large sailing ships on Perico Island; a short distance within the city limits considering the extent of the jurisdiction of Panama City set by the Spanish crown in the 16th century[i], spanning about 100 kilometres from river Chame to the east to river Chepo to the west, and from the Cordillera Central Range to the north to the Islas de las Perlas (Islands of Pearls) to the south, covering a distance about 30 kilometres on land and 50 kilometres by sea. The fact that there has been only one Panama City, which was relocated in 1673 after the pirate attack of 1671, was further recognized by Municipal Accord 59 of May 13th, 1953 that officially declares the founding date as August 15th of 1519 and considers the 21st of January of 1673 as the date of the relocation of Panama City[ii]. The cathedral, seat of the first diocese on continental land (Terra Firme), was relocated along with the Cabildo (the seat of the Municipality) and the Real Audiencia (Royal Spanish Court of Justice). Panamá participated in the wave of independence movements set in motion by Venezuelan General Simón Bolívar (1783 – 1830), and obtained its independence from Spain in 1821. Elite Panamanian merchants and citizens of the 19th century aspired to follow the model of Hansa cities and thus exploit the vast commercial potential of Panama City’s location in the colonial and post-colonial communications network under a series of rights fostering commerce and free exchange, which, however, did not come to be under Panamá’s voluntary adhesion to the Gran Colombia[iii]. Despite its weak economy in the first half of the 19th century, worsened by numerous fires within the city limits, Panama was considered by Simón Bolívar as the ideal place not only for the Amphyctionic Congress of 1826 precursor to leagues of nations such as the Organization of American States (OAS) and the United Nations (UN), but expressly as the seat of the capital of his dream of a unified New World integrating all nations freed from colonial servitude under the Spanish Empire. Panama thus had paramount importance for the ideals of Simón Bolívar for a unified America and its organization under a parent government respecting regional and cultural differences but also prevalent cultural similarities and brotherhood. In his Letter from Jamaica dated 6th of September, 1815, Simón Bolívar referred to Panama three times on the same ideal; he considered the Isthmus of Panama’s potential due to its central position in America as the parent nation of the New World[iv]; he discoursed upon the effect that a canal[v] across Panama and others across the Central American Isthmus reaching as far as Guatemala, joined in a federation, would have on the New World, shortening the distances of the world and strengthening commercial ties between Europe, America, and Asia, with great benefits for thus allied Central American region, with Panama established as an emporium of commerce. Bolívar compared the Isthmus of Panama to that of Corinth and envisioned Panama as the capital of the world. In his letter to General José de Fábrega upon the independence of Panama from Spain in 1821, General Simón Bolívar again described Panama as a precious emporium of commerce and of the geopolitical relationships, figuratively “the centre of the universe” that contributed to his dream of a unified league of nations called Gran Colombia. In 1822, Bolívar sent a circular letter of invitation to the governments of Colombia, Mexico, Río de la Plata, Chile, and Guatemala to hold a Congress in Panama; in this circular letter he described the chosen venue saying, “It seems to me that if the world had to choose its capital, the Isthmus of Panama would be ideal for this august purpose, situated as it is in the center of the globe, looking toward Asia on one side and toward Africa and Europe on the other” (Bolívar, 1824). In 1826, the Amphyctionic Congress finally came to be in Panama City as organized by Bolívar, and the proceedings of the Amphyctionic Congress were immortalized in the Records that are preserved in the Salón Bolívar in Panama City. The Amphyctionic Congress of Panama is the precursor to modern leagues of nations such as the Organization of American States (OAS) and the United Nations (UN). In 1830, when he departed to his last exile and death, and upon receiving an offer from General José Domingo Espinar to take up again his project for a Gran Colombia from the Isthmus of Panama, Bolívar declined and asked Espinar to return the Isthmus of Panama to the Republic of Colombia. Espinar obliged, and Panama became part of Nueva Granada[vi] (later, the Republic of Colombia). Thus Panama City became indivisible from the rise and fall of the Bolivarian dream.

Panama City continued to be a logistics and transport link for commercial routes with the construction of the first transcontinental railroad, the Panama Railroad, as Pacific terminal to the railroad. In 1904, Panama’s port for large vessels in Perico Island was taken over as part of the Canal Zone and became inoperable due to the construction of the Panama Canal.  The old port in Perico Island was replaced by the Port of Balboa at the entrance of the Panama Canal; the Naos, Perico and Flamenco islands sheltering the port were joined and linked to land by the construction of the Causeway of Amador. The accommodation needs of Panama Canal workers and North American and Caribbean, especially West Indian influences in architectural types developed examples of housing architecture well into the 20thcentury. Timber frame buildings flourished in the old esplanade and nearby boroughs of Santa Ana and El Chorrillo.  These include not only upper-class houses from the entire period, but also two to five stories apartment houses and wooden tenement buildings from the early 20th century, erected to satisfy the requirements of a more stratified urban society. The influence of the Panama Canal regarding building technology is seen in the introduction of several reinforced concrete buildings such as La Reformada, the city’s first skyscrapper located within the Historic Centre. (Spadafora y Tejeira, 2001: 126)

Criterion (ii): The Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo, founding place of Panama City, is an exceptional testimony of town planning of its period and culture. It exhibits an important interchange of human values since it bore great influence on subsequent developments in colonial Spanish town planning, even in areas vastly different in climate and setting. The Historic Centre of Panama City’s layout, allocation of ground plots, fortifications and buildings reflect the persistence and interchange of human values, which have been oriented towards interoceanic and intercontinental communications for several centuries at this strategic site on the Central American Isthmus. As a serial property whose components are the foundational place and a new, relocated city centre necessary to preserve the city on a strategic location in order to protect a established and vital network of communications for an European empire, Panama City stands out and alone in the Latin American region, thus becoming truly unique and exceptional on the World Heritage List.

Criterion (iv): In both components of the property Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo and Historic Centre of Panama, house and church types from the 16th to the 18th centuries represent a different and most significant stage in the city’s development as well as the development of Spanish colonial society as a whole. Panamá Viejo is an exceptional example of the period’s building technology and architecture. The house types in the Historic Centre are exceptional owing to their narrow lots and internal disposition, which are only to be found in this part of the Americas. Its surviving multiple-family houses from the 19th and early 20th centuries are original examples of how society reacted to new requirements, technological developments and influences brought about by post-colonial society and the building of the Panama Canal.

Criterion (vi): Each component of the property represents a different stage in the city’s development. The ruins of the founding place of Panama City known as Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo are 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 and their universal impact, the bullion lifeline to Europe, the spread of European culture in the region and the commercial network between the Americas and Europe, and these same associations continued at the city´s new location after 1673 at the Historic Centre. The Historic Centre of Panama City is directly associated with the Bolivarian dream of unifying freed American nations in a league, as Simón Bolívar chose Panama City to be the venue of his Amphyctionic Congress due to its strategic position in the Isthmus of Central America and its geopolitical importance. The Amphyctionic Congress of Panamá is precursor to the Organization of American States (OAS) and the United Nations (UN) and the space known as the Salón Bolívar holds outstanding universal significance as it marks the tangible place where Simón Bolívar’s ideals of a brotherhood of American nations came to life and the proceedings of the Amphyctionic Congress of Panama were signed.

[i] “Lamentablemente no se ha conservado el Acta Fundacional de la antigua ciudad de Panamá, pero por real cédula del 6 de septiembre de 1521, se fijaron los términos y límites de ésta. Por el norte, lindaba con Nombre de Dios; por el occidente, con el asiento de Natá, que el licenciado Gaspar de Espinosa había establecido en 1520; por el oriente, confinaba con Chepo, y hacia el sur llegaba hasta la isla de las Perlas”  (Araúz y Pizzurno, 1997: 46). Castillero Calvo ofrece la descripción siguiente hecha en 1519 a pocos meses de la fundación de Panamá, de los ejidos y pastos que Pedrarias adjudicó a la ciudad: “Estos abarcaban, hacia el Este, hasta el río Chepo, llamado entonces también Río Grande, incluyendo sus riberas; hacia el Norte en dirección a Nombre de Dios, aproximadamente la mitad Sur del Istmo central, incluyendo algunas leguas río arriba del Río Chagre; hacia el Oeste, hasta los cacicazgos de Chirú, Perequeté, Tabore y Chame, ‘porque hasta allí llega la lengua Cueva’, y hacia el sur, las islas de Taboga, ‘que agora se dize la ysla de Santo Tomé e las otras pequeñas islas de la Trinidad’, nombre que aparentemente se dio originalmente al complejo de islotes en torno a Perico” (Castillero Calvo 2006: 134).

[ii] “… es el propósito mío, en representación del Honorable Concejo Municipal de Panamá, explicar los motivos que tuvimos para aprobar el Acuerdo No.59 de 13 de mayo de 1953, que declaró oficialmente el 15 de agosto como la fecha de la fundación de la ciudad de Panamá y considerar el 21 de enero como la fecha de su traslado y mudanza.” (García de Paredes, 1954: 11)

[iii]Gran Colombia, formal name Republic of Colombia, short-lived republic (1819–30), formerly the Viceroyalty of New Granada, including roughly the modern nations of Colombia, Panama, Venezuela, and Ecuador. (Encyclopædia Britannica, 2014)

[iv] "It is a grandiose idea to think of consolidating the New World into a single nation, united by pacts into a single bond. It is reasoned that, as these parts have a common origin, language, customs, and religion, they ought to have a single government to permit the newly formed states to unite in a confederation. But this is not possible. Actually, America is separated by climatic differences, geographic diversity, conflicting interests, and dissimilar characteristics. How beautiful it would be if the Isthmus of Panama could be for us what the Isthmus of Corinth was for the Greeks! Would to God that some day we may have the good fortune to convene there an august assembly of representatives of republics, kingdoms, and empires to deliberate upon the high interests of peace and war with the nations of the other three-quarters of the globe. This type of organization may come to pass in some happier period of our regeneration." (Bolívar, 1815)

[v] The states of the Isthmus of Panama as far as Guatemala, will perhaps form a confederation. Because of their magnificent position between two mighty oceans, they may in time become the emporium of the world. Their canals will shorten distances throughout the world, strengthen commercial ties between Europe, America, and Asia, and bring to that happy area tribute from the four quarters of the globe. There some day, perhaps, the capital of the world may be located-reminiscent of the Emperor Constantine's claim that Byzantium was the capital of the ancient world. (Bolívar, 1815)

[vi] “Sin embargo, Simón Bolívar, próximo a partir hacia el exilio, en un viaje que jamás completaría, rechazó la invitación de Espinar y le pidió que retornase el Istmo a la República de Colombia. En realidad, su cuerpo estaba enfermo y su espíritu de lucha estaba roto. Tal vez no quería alentar en la frontera norte de Colombia otra guerra fraticida como la que amenazaba con extenderse en las tierras del sur. Tal vez pesó en su ánimo la esperanza de que algún fragmento de aquella Gran Colombia que había levantado con sangre y sudor permaneciera junta. Lo cierto es que Espinar respetó su voluntad y Panamá pasó así de ser parte de esa primera República de Colombia a integrarse al proyecto político de Nueva Granada. Siguiendo las órdenes de Bolívar, Espinar reintegró el Istmo a Colombia el 10 de diciembre de 1830.” (Aparicio 2014)

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Statement of Integrity

Both components of the serial property meet the conditions of integrity. As a Pre-Columbian and Historic Archaeological Site with both historic ruins and stratified contexts, the component Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo includes all the elements necessary to convey the Outstanding Universal Value for which this component was included as an extension of the Historic District and Salón Bolívar’s original inscription. 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 relocated 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 serial property. With the implementation of 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.

The component Historic Centre of Panamá City contains a sufficient representation of all the attributes that convey Outstanding Universal Value, 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. Development and significant conservation challenges are the most critical aspect threatening the integrity of the Historic Centre of Panama City. To address threats, the legislative and regulatory framework needs to be enforced and comprehensive interventions implemented to reverse lack of maintenance of historic buildings.

The Salón Bolívar as an attribute of the serial property conveying its outstanding universal value is testimony of the Bolivarian ideal of unity amongst American nations freed from colonial Spanish rule; it is witness to the Bolivarian ideals that reshaped the Central and South American continent giving rise and impulse to the independence movements from Spain in the first half of the 19th century. The Salón Bolívar marks the place where the Amphyctionic Congress of 1826 became a reality, and preserves a space that is directly and tangibly associated to the unattained ideal of unity and solidarity among nations that is precursor to leagues of nations such as the Organization of American States (OAS) and the United Nations (UN), thus being of outstanding universal significance. It is a venue strategically located in the Historic Centre of Panama City, settled on its extraordinary geopolitical context of global communications that Simón Bolívar The Liberator considered ideal for the capital of a parent government for his envisioned league of nations freed from the Spanish empire and seat for the Congress that would shape his ideal into reality, considering Panama equidistant to the other nations of the globe and an ideal capital and emporium of the world. That extraordinary context remains intact, demonstrated by the fact that the city has been a continuous terminal for global communications and logistics enhanced through the course of several centuries in its strategic place of the Central American Isthmus by increasingly relevant routes, communication and transport technologies including the first transcontinental railroad, the failed French Canal and the Panama Canal. Because of these reasons the condition of integrity, particularly for criterion (vi), is maintained.

Statement of Authenticity

The conditions of authenticity of both components of the serial property are maintained. Upon abandonment, the core area of the foundational place at Panamá Viejo 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.

The urban layout of the Historic Centre of Panama City, as delimited by the proposed boundary modification, 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. The remains of the Franciscan convent’s Chapter Hall identified as the Salón Bolívar, have undergone restoration in the decades of 1930 and 2000, and are carefully preserved as marker and testimony to the Bolivarian ideals upheld by the Amphyctionic Congress and subsequent international efforts to preserve its memory as well as the Salón de Actas that holds the original Records of the Amphyctionic Congress of 1826. 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 Centre of Panama City, thus providing a measure of material continuity between the two components of the serial 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 and urban scale. Many streets retain the brick paving characteristic of the early years of the 20th century. Although some 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 adaptation 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.

The property has maintained the Salón Bolívar as a testimony of outstanding universal significance of the Amphyctionic Congress of 1826, organized by Simón Bolívar for the integration of Latin America freed from colonial rule, and as decided by him that it should take place in Panama City. The tangible and direct associations of the Salón Bolívar to the Bolivarian dream of a united Latin America remain intact, meeting the conditions of integrity. The Salón Bolívar preserves beyond the material aspect of fabric, the space that contained the Bolivarian ideal of brotherhood and solidarity of Latin American nations united in the Amphyctionic Congress to secure their future progress and freedom. The associations between the spaces preserved in the Salón Bolívar, and the ideals that are a precursor to leagues of nations such as the Organization of American States (OAS) and the United Nations (UN) remain intact.

Comparison with other similar properties

All sites mentioned in this section are World Heritage Sites unless otherwise noted. It should be noted that a serial property with two historic sites ―one as successor to the other― within one modern metropolitan area is unique in Latin America and allows for no direct comparison.

Archaeological Site of Panama Viejo
The Archaeological Site of Panama Viejo is unique in the region of Central America and the Caribbean.  This component of the proposed serial property compares favourably with similar archaeological sites within and without the said region in terms of the preservation, variety and potential interpretive value of its features and artifacts (including a pre-Hispanic occupation sequence stretching for more than 700 years before the initial European contact). The archaeological remains under the walled precinct of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, the ruins of León Viejo, Nicaragua, and the site of Puerto Real, Haiti (which is not a World Heritage Site) are clearly comparable with the Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo in terms of site size, layout, length of occupation and material culture. As an archaeological site dating from colonial times, the most obvious comparison would be to León Viejo, which was also abandoned in the 17th century, only this Nicaraguan site is much smaller and modest. León Viejo was founded in 1524 (only five years after Panamá City) by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, one of Pedrarias Dávila’s lieutenants and in this sense a factual initial connection between both settlements is possible. From the point of view of site interpretation today, however, far less is known about León Viejo than about the Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo, and much fewer visible vestiges remain today.

As an example of extensive, well-delimited remains of an early colonial city, the Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo presents a well preserved stratigraphic sequence with relatively few modern disturbances. Although most of the extant ruins and above ground features correspond to the terminal occupation, fieldwork has shown the superposition of buildings in the same place, indicating that the urban layout remained basically unchanged since the settlement consolidated in the early 16th century. Therefore the Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo allows for productive comparisons with other archaeological sites whose layout is harder to identify (as in Puerto Real) without so many recognizable public structures (as in León Viejo) or which were not abandoned and, thus, have a more compressed stratigraphic with harder to identify terminus ante quem to aid interpretations (as is the case with the contemporary early foundation of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic).  In consequence, archaeological research in the Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo has become a significant source of information and a methodological reference point both for specialists and for the general public, at an international level.

From the specific point of view of what the Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo’s street pattern and architecture were like, several comparisons are possible. Santo Domingo, founded in 1502, lies on a similar coastal site at the mouth of a river, and its fortified Torre del Homenaje is likewise located at its south-eastern corner; its layout is also somewhat irregular. In fact, some historians have proposed that Panamá City was inspired by Santo Domingo. This city, however, was never destroyed, and its present-day appearance resembles the Historic Centre of Panama City in many respects, such as its scale, the presence of several church ruins, and its domestic architecture with long, overhanging balconies. Early church architecture in Santo Domingo, on the other hand, was closer to monumental Gothic and Renaissance models in Spain. For the Dominican Republic and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean sub-region, Santo Domingo has a symbolic value comparable to the Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo for Panama. In both countries, the founding of the city was the key event in colonial history, and both were beachheads for subsequent conquest.

Churches with Mudéjar-style wooden roofs, formerly one of the Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo’s main features, are most outstanding today in Santa Cruz de Mompox, Colombia. As in Panamá Viejo, all churches in Mompox follow this scheme, likewise in its two variants: with slender wooden roof pillars or with masonry arcades. Such churches, however, are not unique to Panama or Mompox, for they may also be found in other lowland Colombian cities, as well as in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Venezuela and as far south as Paraguay. In any case, in all of these places, craftsmen took advantage of the existence of extremely resistant tropical hardwoods unknown in Spain. It should be noted, however, as an important fact, that Panamá Viejo’s churches are, by far, older than in Mompox and all other comparable sites.

Historic Centre of Panama City
When the original dossier for the ‘Historic District of the Town of Panama with the Salón Bolívar’ was initially submitted in 1995, the ICOMOS evaluation stated that “this nomination raises again the problem of Spanish colonial towns in Latin America. A number have been inscribed on the World Heritage List since Quito in 1978. Others figure on tentative lists from State Parties in Latin America. No further inscriptions should be considered until a comparative study of this type of property has been completed, since it is impossible to make a reasoned decision based on valid comparative data relating to historical significance, artistic and architectural importance, etc.” The ‘Historic District of the Town of Panama with the Salón Bolívar’ was inscribed in 1997, but coarse generalizations on the character and history of Latin American cities remain a common problem to this day. Fortunately, academic studies have multiplied since the 1990s. In Panama, several detailed histories of the Historic Centre, its layout, and its architecture have been published since 1999, the most recent one in December, 2013. These allow for detailed comparisons.

There are evident superficial similarities between Havana, Old San Juan, Cartagena, Santo Domingo, and the Historic Centre of Panama City. All five are fortified; all have houses with narrow facades, patios, and long balconies and all show the effects of modernization since the 19th century. But significant (and often subtle) differences abound.

As a late 17th century foundation, the Historic Centre of Panama City was planned and built under very peculiar conditions, with less improvisation and far closer control by resident military engineers than in the early 16th century, when the founding of new settlements was still rather adventurous. Whereas Cartagena, Havana and Santo Domingo are relatively irregular and were fortified a posteriori in the wake of Spain’s wars with other European powers, in Panama the fortifications and the town itself developed concurrently, as an organic whole. Plot distribution also turned out comparatively regular, far more so than in places like Cartagena. In addition, Panama’s fortifications largely represent a specific time period during Charles II’s reign (1672-1686), while Cartagena’s walls took very long to build and show archaic traits (the orillons on one of the bastions, for example) not present in Panamá.

Compared to the other colonial port cities, church architecture is clearly unique in the Historic Centre of Panama City, where archaic Mudéjar-style building techniques were continued during the 18th century and beyond. On the other hand, such differences are not too evident today due to the cosmetic superimposition of European-style veneers (columns, vaults etc.) which often conceal the original architecture.

Domestic architecture at the Historic Centre of Panama City, with its multiple-storey houses and apartment buildings, today seems closer in appearance to other port cities than a century or two ago, when wooden architecture was far more prevalent in Panama. Nonetheless, modernisation had unique effects in each city, and these differences should not, by any means, be underestimated. In each city, for example, there were objective differences in the way balconies were built or wall openings were proportioned and decorated. An 18th century wooden balcony in Havana is different from one in Panama City or Cartagena, and house entrances were far more decorated.  Compared to all other port cities, late colonial architecture in Panamá was quite simple and unadorned, yet elegant and worthy of recognition. Most houses were also significantly smaller, with tiny courtyards.

Since Havana and San Juan remained Spanish possessions until 1898, architectural developments in both cities developed far closer to European stylistic models during the 19th century than in the Dominican Republic, Colombia or Panama. Havana´s architects were far better informed about such subjects as the classical orders than architects or craftsmen on the mainland, and so these were used with great expertise.

Panama also shows a strong early presence of imported building materials of industrial origin. Reinforced concrete for building balcony slabs, for example, appears as early as the 1860s. Ready-made decorative details were acquired by catalogue. In this sense, compared to the Historic Centre of Panama City, a city like Cartagena remained conservative: by the end of the 19th century, most balconies were still wooden, just as in colonial times.
Connections with the United States were particularly strong in Panama after the California Gold Rush, and for this reason the Historic Centre of Panama City shares many an architectural trait with the Vieux Carré (French Quarter) in New Orleans (Lousiana), not a World Heritage Site, but still one of the most important and exceptional historic centres in the region. As in Panama, prefabricated iron railings and florid balcony supports ordered by catalogue and “French” doors with louvers were popular. These were mass-produced in Northern factories and often shipped to Panama via New Orleans,long a mecca for the Panamanian elite.

On the premise that Panama City is one of the most important link cities in communication and trade routes from the 16th to the 20th century, including mass movement of people such as enslaved people, emigrants and soldies on military campaigns of conquest; and considering that Panama City is related to the history of piracy in the region; and that Panama City was pioneer in urbanism and building construction as the first European city on the Pacific coast of America; and also considering that Panama City contributed to the expansion of European culture and customs in America, it is evident that the serial property ‘Archaeological Site and Historic Centre of Panama City’ as a whole is comparable in regards to its significance to the World Heritage property Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City. Located in England, Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City was the major port for mass movement of people, including enslaved people and emigrants from Northern Europe to America, and in that context was pioneer in the development of technologies related to transport systems, port management and building construction in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. The city and port of Liverpool are an exceptional testimony to the development of maritime mercantile culture and contributed to the building of the British Empire. It was a centre of the slave trade until its abolition in 1807 and for emigration from northern Europe to America. Liverpool is an outstanding example of a world mercantile port city, which represents the early development of global trading and cultural connections throughout the British Empire. Yet technological  innovation on each of the two properties differ, the significance of both properties as cities in strategic locations that were indispensable for the development of communication networks that facilitated conquest and colonization of America by a European empire, and were significant in the history of piracy and the slave trade. It is evident that their strategic location determined their character, the developmentof their attributes and their importance in world history. Thus for both properties, their significance supports their outstanding universal value.

As a serial property whose components are the foundational place and a new, relocated city centre necessary to preserve the city in a strategic location in order to protect a established and vital network of communications for an European empire, Panama City stands out and alone in the Latin American region, thus becoming truly unique and exceptional on the World Heritage List.