Panama’s Puerto Escocés (Scottish Harbor)

Children play at the beach as a local boat passes by the coast of Caledonia island in the region of Guna Yala

In the article “Independent Scotland’s last gasp forgotten in Panama jungle,” Dave Grahan (Reuters) writes about Panama’s Puerto Escocés (Scottish Harbor) where Scots founded the colony of New Caledonia in 1698. [Photo above by Carlos Jasso.] Here are a few excerpts of his fascinating article with a link to the full version below:

A few years before giving up its independence, Scotland took a bold gamble to secure a brighter future, founding a colony on the isthmus of Panama to corner trade between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The 1698 venture ended in tragedy, helping to push Scotland into political union with England and form the United Kingdom. But had it succeeded, Scots might have no need to vote in the referendum on independence this coming September.

Named after the gulf where modern Panama and Colombia meet, the Darien scheme was hamstrung from the start by poor planning and English opposition. In less than two years, disease and attacks from the Spanish Empire had wiped out more than half the 2,800 Scottish settlers, and the colony was abandoned.

Barely a shadow of it lingers in the bay known locally as Puerto Escoces (Scottish Harbor), where the Scots founded the colony of New Caledonia with an initial contingent of 1,200.

“There’s nothing there now. Nothing,” said Amalio Hackin, 47, a former resident of Puerto Escoces and ethnic Kuna, an indigenous people that in 1700 fought with the Scots against the Spanish, then the dominant colonial power in Central America.

Mangroves and mud flats have devoured the site. Among the spider webs, giant palms and tangle of creepers that fill the jungle, mere hints of forgotten dwellings appear in clearings.

[. . .] In 1979, archaeologists uncovered relics of the colony, including tools, musket balls and a well during an excavation of its old fort. But the jungle soon reclaimed the site.

[Many thanks to Rod Fusco, Mary Ann Gosser, and Jo Spalburg for bringing this item to our attention.]

For full article, see http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/21/us-panama-scotland-idUSBREA3K0JV20140421

For detailed articles on Puerto Escocés (in Spanish), see http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/spanish/latin_america/newsid_4180000/4180798.stm and http://www.banrepcultural.org/blaavirtual/revistas/credencial/septiembre1991/septiembre1.htm

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