In the innermost part of a bay with calm waters, Portobelo is a small town of great historical interest. Here are some ruins of the colonial period, such as the battery of Santiago de la Gloria, San Geronimo, San Fernando and the Royal Customs, which in the seventeenth and eighteenth century welcomed goods from Spain and its other colonies in America.
Other nearby fortifications are “la trinchera” (the trench), situated in the hills surrounding the village, and defense walls that are just outside of Portobelo towards the Guaira (reaching the 3 crosses, take road left) which was the last fortification project, San Cristobal, whose construction was never finished.
The Bay of Portobelo was baptized with that name in 1502 by Christopher Columbus, but was actually founded in 1597. At the time it had only about 50 homes of Spaniards, as there was “live time” during fairs and “downtime” when there was no trade. In the seventeenth and eighteenth century, Portobelo experienced a boom and loomed large, as the wealth of the Spanish kingdom passed right through here, the goods traveling from Peru to Spain and from there to the colonies.
Calle principal de Portobelo, Colon Today, inhabitants are mainly descendants of enslaved Africans brought by the Spanish to cultivate the fields and build royal buildings. Many are, in turn, descendants of the Cimarrones, who escaped slavery and founded their own villages called “palenques”. The story of the Cimarrones has great historical significance.
And thus it is born what is known as The Congos, folk ensembles that keep alive the tradition of their ancestors. From the first days of February to Ash Wednesday, on weekends there is music and dancing in many villages of the Costa Arriba. March marks the Festival of Diablos and Congos.
Portobelo’s beaches, forests and rivers are a tourist attraction for nature lovers, as well as for those who just want to rest and relax on pristine beaches. Along with its tropical forest, Portobelo is a National Park since 1976 and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980.