Founded in 1581 as a reducción de Indios – a place where conquered indigenous groups were forcibly resettled so as to be available for labour service – and briefly the capital of the isthmus after the destruction of Panamá Viejo, PENONOMÉ was named after Nomé, a local chieftain cruelly betrayed and executed here by the Spaniards after years of successful resistance. Now the capital of Coclé Province, Penonomé doesn’t have much to see apart from a small museum, though it makes a good enough base for exploring the surrounding area, and if you’re in the area during Carnaval, make sure you catch Penonomé’s unique aquatic parade.
From the junction with the Interamericana, Penonomé’s busy commercial main street, referred to as either Vía Central or Avenida Arosemena, runs a few hundred metres to the Plaza 8 de Diciembre. Featuring a statue of Simón Bolívar and the inevitable bandstand, the square is flanked by government buildings and the Iglesia de San Juan Bautista. A few blocks southwest, a small museum exhibits pre-Columbian ceramics and colonial religious art.