Panama // Panama City //

Plaza de Francia

The Plaza de Francia lies at the southeastern tip of the peninsula, a couple of hundred metres from the theatre, and beyond the ruined shell of the Club de Clases y Tropas – the former recreation centre for Noriega’s national guard, which was bombed during the US invasion. Enclosed on three sides by seaward defensive walls, it’s the site of a monument dedicated to the thousands of workers who died during the disastrous French attempt to build the canal. The Neoclassical French Embassy building, fronted by a statue of former president Pablo Arosemena, stands on the north side of the square. The elegant building to the east is home to the National Cultural Institute. During the colonial period the square was a military centre, with the now restored vaults under the seaward walls – known as Las Bóvedas – serving as the city’s jail; built below sea level, it is claimed that they would sometimes flood at high tide, drowning the unfortunate prisoners within.

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