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Panama opens visitor centre to boost neglected Spanish fort

Fort San Lorenzo stands on a promontory overlooking the mouth of the Chagres River, on Panama's Caribbean coast, Friday, June 28, 2019. The fort was built 1587 to protect the entrance to the river in the narrowest section of the Panama isthmus, used by the Spanish empire to protect the terminus of the Camino Real de Cruces that moved South American treasure from the pacific coast on its way to Spain. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

SAN LORENZO, Panama — Panama has inaugurated a visitors’ centre to improve access to a colonial-era fort that due to neglect came to be placed on a UNESCO list of sites at risk.

San Lorenzo Fort on the country’s northern coast was built in the late 16th century to defend the mouth of the Chagres River at a time when the isthmus was a transit route for gold shipments from South America to the Spanish crown.

Juan Carlos Croston is president of the Portobelo and San Lorenzo Patronage. He says “there is more than 500 years of history here” and the site has “enormous potential as a tourist destination.”

Panama Canal authorities committed during a ceremony Friday to supporting enhancement and rehabilitation of the fort along with environmental, community development and education projects.

The Associated Press