Last Saturday, Cindy and I hopped in our rental car and drove eastwardly along the Caribbean (northern) coast to a small town called Portobelo. (No relation to the mushrooms.) We motored past this port on our way back from the San Blas Islands, but were unable to stop due to the urgency of reaching Colon secondary to our lightning strike. It was refreshing to drive away from the dirty city of Colon and into the pleasant countryside. After a beautiful drive, we arrived in Portobelo, where school children were enjoying a street carnival by the main square.
We found a parking spot right in front of the Iglesia de San Felipe (a.k.a, The Black Christ Church). The church was the last building constructed by the Spanish in 1814 before leaving Panama. It houses the Christo Negro, which is said to have washed up on the shores of the harbor. Up to 60,000 pilgrims come from around the country to worship on the feast day of October 21st, when the statue is paraded around town by a group of eighty men with shaved heads, bare feet, and robed in purple.
The other site to explore in Portobelo is the ruins of the old fort, which protected this important city on the route of the Spanish treasure fleets. The pirate, Captain Henry Morgan, captured the city in 1668, plundering almost all its wealth.