I am pretty sure you have never heard about the Castillo de San Lorenzo el Real de Chagres (aka Fuerte San Lorenzo) located in the striking country of Panama. I found about this place while researching my trip to the isthmus two years ago. For some reason, I felt the itch to visit. In reality, the Fort is located in a remote and desolated place. It is not easy to get there. You even have to cross the Caribbean-side locks of the Panama Canal. I mean your car have to pass over the locks, the area where the ships wait to step up or down. If a ship is crossing, you have to wait until the process is done.
But a few difficulties are not going to stop this history lover. The Fuerte San Lorenzo was built by the Spaniards to protect the mouth of the Chagres River. The river was extremely important to the conquistadores. The gold from Peru and the silver from Bolivia used to be transported to Panama City. From the city, the treasures were transported by a short trail and then thru the Chagres to the Caribbean Sea. After this, the valuables were embarked to Spain. For these reasons, the vital trade route was guarded from the cliff side fort.
Today, some may have forgotten about the importance of the fort during colonial times. However, entities like the UNESCO have recognized the large amount of grand events that have taken place on this site. In 1980, the stronghold and other nearby fortifications were declared World Heritage Sites.
In my opinion, the Fort deserves this distinction and many more. Cruel battles took place in here. Pirates and Spaniards shed many blood tears fighting for power and fortune. The most famous attacker was Henry Morgan (yes, he really existed). This guy attacked and destroyed the fort. Then, he used the Chagres to reach Panama City. He stole all the gold and burned the city (other versions say the city was actually burned by the Spaniards). The fort was rebuilt as a stone stronghold but Admiral Edward Vernon managed to destroy it in 1740. Once again, the place was rebuilt in 1768 and those are the ruins we can observe today. History documents many more confrontations in the area.
In terms of architecture, this is not the most impressive fort I have seen. Nevertheless, architecture is not the only player in this story. We cannot overlook the impressive historical events that probably changed the history on Hispano America and Europe. If you visit Panama, you should consider a visit to this witness of the past.
Have you been to a history-rich place like the one featured here? If so, let me know in the comments section.