Panama // Panama City //

Iglesia de San José and Plaza Herrera

On Avenida A at the corner with Calle 8 is the Iglesia de San José. Built in 1673 and since remodelled, the church is exceptional only as the home of the legendary Baroque Golden Altar, one of the few treasures to survive Henry Morgan’s ransacking of Panamá Viejo in 1671 – it was apparently painted or covered in mud to disguise its real value.

One block west of San José, Avenida A emerges onto Plaza Herrera, a pleasant square lined with nineteenth-century houses. This was originally the Plaza de Triunfo, where bullfights were held, but was renamed in 1922 in honour of General Tomás Herrera, whose equestrian monument is at its centre. Herrera was the military leader of the short-lived independence attempt in 1840; he went on to be elected president of Colombia, but was assassinated in 1854. Note that beyond the plaza lies the no-go slum area of El Chorillo, which was devastated during the US invasion of Panama, leaving hundreds dead and thousands homeless.