Nombre de Dios

Nombre de Dios is a city on the Atlantic coast of the Isthmus of Panama. Founded in 1540, it became one of the most important Spanish colonies in the New World, thanks to its role as the Spanish treasure fleet’s primary port of call and its prime position for trade.

The original purpose of the town was as a the endpoint of the Spanish silver train, and a gathering point for silver and gold from South America. Its positioning on the narrow Isthmus of Panama allowed the town to serve as a link between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and by extension, between the Spanish colonies in Peru and Chile on the western coast of Panama, and mainland Spain in Europe. Ships in the Pacific would carry silver from the mines in South America north to Panama, where it would then be carried overland by mule to Nombre de Dios. From there, the Spanish treasure fleet would take on its cargo of riches before sailing back across the Atlantic to deliver the wealth to Spain.

Unfortunately, the city’s position in swampland hindered its ability to grow a healthy population, and prevented the construction of fortifications. This meant it was an easy target for pirate raids, and in 1572, English privateer Francis Drake took advantage of this by sacking the city and raiding the silver train itself. From then on, the town’s importance and population declined, as the Spaniards began to favor Portobelo as the treasure fleet’s main port, and as the output of Peruvian mines decreased while those in Mexico grew.

The city still exists today, and holds the honor of being the oldest continuously-populated settlement in the Americas, as well as one of the oldest settlements in Panama itself.