PANAMA. The highest point in Panama city (200 m) is also an emblem of our nationality. To get away from the mundane, I chose Ancon hil...
PANAMA. The highest point in Panama city (200 m) is also an emblem of our nationality. To get away from the mundane, I chose Ancon hill for this week's therapeutic walk.
The 360 degrees of views from the top promises a joyful adventure and an opportunity to learn about Panama's recent past.
Located in the very center of the metro area, it‘s an undeveloped oasis and a haven for wild life.
You can reach the summit by car or on foot from two access points, a foot path from Mi Pueblito and foot and car access from Quarry Heights Balboa.
It takes about 35 minutes to walk up the hill; the view as you climb reveals patches of the city and with each turn you can see in the distance the new city sprouting from the old.
From the top, Ancon offers the two main sides of Panamanian development: from one side you observe the growth of the metropolitan area and from the other, you can see the Miraflores locks, the Bridge of the America’s and Panama ports.
And of course the constant flow of ships entering and leaving the canal.
On a clear day you can even spot the Centennial Bridge.
The biggest Panamanian flag in the country sits at the top.
The flag is the size of a basketball court and it was placed there after the return of the canal to the Panamanian people by the US in 2000. The hand over was ordained by the signing of the Torrijos-Carter treaty in 1977 to affirm Panamanian ownership of its land in 1977.
Before the treaty, Ancon was off limits to Panamanians and it became a symbol of the struggle for sovereignty. The tension between Panama and the US came to a peak in 1964 when students from the National Institute attempted to raise a Panamanian flag at a school inside the Canal Zone. American military police open fire on the students and many students were killed, leading to the renaming of Ave July 4 which borders Ancon, to the Avenue of Martyrs.
This critical incident led to the treaty signing and with it the achievement that many generations dreamed of: our land, our canal.
Embedded in the Panamanian collective memory is a poem by Amelia Denis De Icaza:
“What happened to your spring.. its stream dried when strangers stepped on it.?”. The “spring” Icaza names was a small stream that came down from the top and gave its name to El Chorrillo, now sadly an area with an unfortunate reputation for criminal activity.
Recently there was a proposal to build a cable car to the top of Ancon Hill but the possibility of endangering the flora and the fauna prompted strong protests. And this time the environmentalists won. Thankfully, the government issued a a decree killing the project,
Ancon hill was declared a national heritage in 2003 and is currently looked after by the Economy and Finance Ministry.
On weekends, Ancon hosts over 100 visitors, between tourists, students and locals.
Weeks days make for a quieter visit. Blue birds, toucans, neques came close to me as I sat on one bench to rest.
In no hurry to descend and surrounded by nature, I pulled out Gamboa Road Gang, an appropriate reading for the place.
Visit Ancon, its worth the climb.