Spring is finally here! I happened to be in Ann Arbor today and was overjoyed when I saw the sun out and shining with a little touch of actual warmth. Even this evening was gorgeous! The light was absolutely beautiful at sunset and dusk so I took some pictures around town while I ran errands.
I thought they turned out very well considering I used an iPhone and took them from a moving car while my friend was driving.
In a previous post about Panama I wrote about Isla Grande- this beautiful island in the Caribbean. When it was time to leave Isla Grande, we took a boat to the coast (to La Guaira) and then got on an another quintessentially Panamanian bus to Portobelo. Portobelo is a picturesque, sleepy, colourful (literally) town in Colon Province. See how brightly coloured the houses are:
It’s also full of adorable little dogs:
But what it’s really famous for are the following:
– The Black Christ
– Gold; and
1. The Black Christ
A famous statue of the black christ or El Cristo Negro is housed in a church called Iglesia de San Felipe in Portobelo.
Legend has it that the statue of the black christ was carved in Spain and was being taken to Colombia, but the crew decided to leave it behind in Portobelo because it was bringing them bad luck. Portobelo is now the site of an annual festival called the Black Christ Festival.
Apparently, one third of all the gold in the world passed through Portobelo. All this gold was processed in this spanish customs house built in 1630:
Because there was gold, obviously there were pirates! Apparently, Portobelo was attacked repeatedly by pirates. The most famous one to attack and sack the town was Captain Morgan! As a result, the Spanish fortified the port. The beautiful forts are now in ruins.
Now, I’ve seen plenty of forts in India and Europe, but I found two things to be particularly striking about these forts. First, dead coral was used in the walls!
The other thing that was absolutely magical about these forts was the unparalleled beauty of the Caribbean; I’ve never seen a more gorgeous backdrop to a fort in my life! Here are some of the vistas I am talking about:
What made the forts absolutely gorgeous in my eyes was the contrast between the coral and the Caribbean blue-green; the ocean was such a striking and wonderful backdrop to the textured off-white of the coral walls of the forts.
I can honestly say that Portobelo is one of the cutest, prettiest, sleepiest little towns that I have ever been to. As I said, it was indeed full of beautiful colours.
Apparently, old American school buses are shipped over to Panama and used for public transportation. This is the most sober specimen of such a bus I could find.
Most of them are brightly coloured and decorated. I rather liked the art-work on them.
There is even a gallery in Panama City’s historic Casco Viejo neighborhood called Diablo Rosso gallery that sells painted bus doors by one of the more popular red devil artists.
I wish I’d taken better pictures of them. They are not only done up on the outside but also decorated inside with all sorts of coloured tape and some sort of furry banners. They also play incredibly loud music inside these buses, mostly spanish hip-hop and Reggae-tone.
I think they’re unique and an interesting addition to the roads, so much better than the usual boring buses we see on the streets. Unfortunately, these red devils are apparently extremely dangerous and have caused many accidents. Not only this, they cause a lot of pollution. As a result, they’re on their way out, being replaced by Government owned, clean, modern new buses.
While these new buses are more environmentally friendly and less likely to causes accidents, I think phasing out the red devils entirely would be a travesty. Perhaps the solution is clean, environmentally friendly buses, driven by well-trained, careful drivers, which are also decorated creatively with wild colours. It isn’t my place to say though. I don’t live in Panama and know very little on the subject, it’s just that I thought they were full of character and quite iconic even.