Fiesta Patronal Virgen del Carmen, Isla Taboga

Every year on July 16 the people of Taboga pay tribute to their Patroness La Virgen del Carmen.

The holiday is based on a story passed on through the people of Taboga for centuries. According to this story around the 16th century the island and its people were plagued by pirate attacks because of its use as a port for Panama City at the time.

 One day around noon the people of Taboga Island were preparing once again to defend themselves from the pirates and as they were heading towards the beach armed with sticks and stones they saw a woman on the sand facing the approaching ships. To the pirates this woman appeared to be the commander of the armed group and upon seeing her they quickly retreated and left the island in peace. The townspeople unaware of what had happened went to the island’s church to give thanks to God. When they arrived they saw wet footprints leading up to the altar and the statue of the Virgen del Carmen’s feet were wet and covered with sand.

The people believed that she had protected them from the attack and thus named her Patron Saint and Protector of the Island of Taboga.

The island celebrates this day with a boat parade and on the weekends with special church services and celebrations.

Canal Administration Building

At only 5 minutes walking from the Balboa Inn and atop a large hill rests the Panama Canal Administration building…

The building overlooks the Pacific entrance of the canal along with parts of the city and the nearby Balboa neighborhood. It houses the administrative offices of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) however its not all business and paperwork here, the building is also known for its amazing murals that adorn the rotunda of the building. These murals are a narration of the history of the Canal and the intense manual labor that went into its construction. It is a way of commemorating the history of the Canal and all those who worked on its construction and operations.

The administration building is a 5-10 minute walk from the inn and less than a 5 min taxi ride from Albrook Airport. It’s also the starting point for the hike up Cerro Ancon, It lies right of the side of Ave Roosevelt and atop a large hill i.e. you can’t miss it. For more information about the Canal visit theirwebsite.

New history book

There is an excellent new book on the history of the Panama Canal by British writer Matthew Parker. “Panama Fever”. Subtitled ‘The epic story of one of the greatest human achievements of all time – the building of the Panama Canal’, I can really recommend this book. Fascinating and pleasant to read.

The other classic, ‘Path between the Seas’ by David McCullough, an American is also excellent reading. While covering the same topic, the different nationalities of the writers do result in a somewhat different perpective and focus. Matthew Parker gives more attention to the experiences of the average worker – mostly blacks from the West  [pathbtwnseas] Indies – on the project and you’ll read a more critical note here and there about the American power politics which is mostly absent from Mr. McCullough’s book.

These books don’t just talk about the building of the Canal, they also cover the politics behind the ‘creation of Panama’ in depth. Really fascinating stuff.

Get them at Panama Fever and Path Between the Seas.