Colonial History and Chiefdom Remains
Tuesday evening, we made it to Panama City . On our trip from Santo Domingo, we spent a night in Penonome which is located on the highway between Santo Domingo and Panama City. Penonome is an incredibly busy city; it came across as a hub for travelers and transportation of goods. Keeping with that, our hotel had a clientele mixed of what we deemed to be business people and truck drivers. The stop allowed us to explore some cultural history on the way.
Archaeology and History
As we left Santo Domingo, we stopped at the town of La Villa, also in Los Santos province. La Villa is home to a beautiful colonial church, as is Parita, and it hosts a more well-known Corpus Christi celebration. In Parita last year, we noted a concern that the La Villa celebration was being more prominently featured than Parita, though Parita is aiming for more promotion thorough for instance media. We visited the church of La Villa, and central area of town.
The size, lay-out of town square and some of the imagery featured in the church was interesting relation to both Parita and Santo Domingo. La Villa also hosts a local museum. It's named the national museum, though there is some discontent as it is focused on this part of the country, not the whole country. There are political reasons behind this going back to when Panama was establishing a separate identity. The museum was closed, but we were allowed to enter the court yard and examine artifacts on display outside. Some of these are still used in certain rural areas, and they have been part of the daily lives of the people that our research participants define themselves as the carriers of the tradition from.
Tuesday morning we visited El Caño, an archaeological site right outside Penonome.
Excavations of burials dating to between 800-1550 CE. It is thought these were ordinary people in a chiefdom, not the chief family or warriors. Other burials have documented what is thoughts to be the chief and his family. The excavations have unearthed burials and remnants of the chiefdoms living here before and at the time of the arrival of the Spanish. It is likely that the culture at Parita pre-colonization was similar to what is being discovered here. It also gives some interesting input into our contemplation of Panama's pre-Hispanic contact with cultures further North and South of Panama, and how that might be seen in celebrations, in particular Corpus Christi.
A particular fascinating discovery at this site was indication of inherited social status, which speaks to the complexity of the social organization of these chiefdoms.
Panama La Vieja
Having returned to Panama City, we visited Panama La Vieja Wednesday afternoon. This is the old town of Panama City, however there are actually two old towns and the naming is confusing.
The remnants of a house in Panama La Vieja, belonging to a prominent family. Imagine people living here, waling through the rooms, and listening to the bells of the nearby cathedral. Our hotel is located in Casco Antiquo, which is the historical part of the town, from 1760's. Panama La Vieja was the capital for the Spaniards in Panama from early 1500's until 1760;s, when it was abandoned after a pirate attack and subsequent fires. Both sites are by the water and provide for trade and transit point for goods from other places in Latin America. The historical center was called Casco Viejo until about 20 years ago, when it was changed to Casco Antiquo to facilitate tourist's orientation. However, not all signs have been changed and as the residential area around Panama La Vieja is also named La Vieja, confusion can arise. As a significant part of our study is tourism, this is interesting and relevant in terms of traditions, facilitation of tourism, and what changes may mean for locals.