healing haven

July 21, 2008

Pirates of Panama (13)

Filed under: Enchanteur,fiction,memoir — by thalia @ 6:49 pm
Tags: , ,


Thalia inhaled the wonderful, familiar smell of the ocean and listened to the gentle lapping of the waves onto the beach.  Nearby, a group of people were dancing and delighting as the creative rainbow flowed onto the beach and everyone on it.  She was about to join them, but still felt a little dizzy from the marvelous Rainbow/Comet ride from Tholos, so she looked around for a spot where she might be able to sit quietly and gather all her senses back into the here and now.


A little ways off were what appeared to be, stone ruins barely visible above the undulating sea grasses.  She ambled along a path and came upon a cluster of old ruins.  Thalia walked over to the closest one, placing her hands on its rough surface.   She then moved from one to the other, touching the remaining stone walls and buildings, feeling the heat the stone captured from the sun.  She sat on a protruding rock, leaned back, felt the solid stone beneath and behind her, great for grounding her.  Closing her eyes, she allowed her mind to drift on the still-heard sounds of the nearby rolling tides.  The warm air soothed her skin that had become somewhat cold from the comet portion of her ride.  It felt good to feel the heat to penetrate into her, warming her core.






She smelled smoke just as she felt a sudden heat blast surging through the rocks and stones into her. Thalia jumped up and was thrown into masses of people yelling as they stampeded for cover.  “Pirates!”  “Pirates are here!  Run for your life!” “It’s Morgan the Pirate!”  Screams, smoke, chaos surrounded her as people scrambled every which way to escape.  She started to seek cover, but then realized they moved right through her, seemingly oblivious to her presence.  She was the observer of this madness—she wasn’t actually there in it. 


Thalia then recognized what she was seeing.  Years ago, when she was first married she lived in Panama for almost a year.  While there, she and her husband, and 2 of his service buddies, went to visit Old Panama—Panama Viejo—after a Thanksgiving dinner at their apartment.  She loved walking among the many stone ruins and then reading about the history of the place, which was fascinating.  Old Panama was located near the ocean.  Her husband took many pictures, most of which were turned into slides, with a few later made into photographs.



Panama Viejo, a World Heritage site founded in 1519 by Peter Arias and 100 other inhabitants, was the first permanent inhabited settlement in the America’s along the Pacific.  After being presented with a coat of arms by Charles V of Spain, the town became an important base where gold and silver gathered from Peru was sent back to Spain.  Much wealth accumulated in the port city. 



By 1610, the city grew to a population of 5,000 with 500 homes, a convent, a hospital and a cathedral.  At the beginning of the 17th century, the city had been attacked by pirates, attracted by the wealth, and by the indigenous people of Darien.  An earthquake in 1620 and the Great Fire in 1644 destroyed much of the city, which was then rebuilt. 


However, on January 28, 1671, the English pirate, Henry Morgan, attacked the city of 10,000 inhabitants with his 1400 soldiers.  The resulting fire completely destroyed the city, necessitating a new city to be rebuilt a few kilometers away.  Between the massacre and the fire, this action by Morgan the Pirate is still considered to be “the most barbarous atrocity ever perpetuated by a British privateer against Spanish colonies in America.” (Wikipedia)



Morgan was arrested and taken to England, proved he had no prior knowledge of the peace treaty between England and Spain, so was knighted in 1674 before returning to Jamaica to assume the post of Lieutenant Governor.  He died in 1688, one of the few pirates able to ‘retire’ from piracy.  Errol Flynn’s 1935 film, Captain Blood, was loosely based on Morgan’s life.


Panama Viejo was so peaceful when Thalia visited it in the early 1960’s—a contrast to those tumultuous days in 1671.  An even greater contrast was the real damage pirates do compared to the entertainment versions like Mary Martin in Peter Pan where Thalia was thrilled to see her glide across the stage in the play and loved the Walt Disney cartoon-movie version of Captain Hook. And, of course, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.  The modern version of pirates was presented in Pirates of the Caribbean.


Quite a difference between the brutal reality and the romanticized fictional.  But it is nice to be aware of both as each balances the other. 




Thalia got up and walked to join the others on the beach.  I love my time alone, but I also love time spent with people.  Good balance—to be able to ride the Rainbow and to walk the sand.


(see also http://enchanteur.wordpress.com/2008/07/23/pirates-of-panama/#comments)




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