Monday, August 15, 2011
Of course in 1671 Henry Morgan sacked the city of Panama and after that the Spanish relocated it to what is now Casco Viejo. The ruins of the old city are a tourist attraction. No one can resist a good pirate story. Pedro Arias founded it, but Henry Morgan is the name every tourist associates with the place.
I am fascinated by the history of this country. I love that the stories of conquistadors and pirates are just a few blocks away. I have been inspired into all kinds reading about the Spanish colonization of Latin America. That is not to say I have romantic notions about the colonial period; the Spanish conquistadors were gold-crazy slavers who committed some unbelievable atrocities in the name crown and church. And I think it's important that we contemplate that, and that our kids contemplate that. As much as I hated studying history as a kid, I encourage my kids to study and think about it. It's an important part of understanding the world we live in; it's context.
So the kids are off school today in honour of the date. We talked about Pedro Arias quite a bit this weekend. My children's favourite detail was Balboa's execution (or poor Vasco, as my daughter calls him) and how Pedro Arias had Balboa's head displayed on a spike. It is the kind of gruesome detail that kids love but it's also an important reminder of how brutal the colonial period was.