September 9, 2010
La Venta Inn, Sea Travel in Panama, Central Ave before 1943
1. La Venta Inn
La Venta Inn about 1946. I never visited the place,
but I believe many of the readers did.
I only went to La Venta once, that I can recall, to visit
the house of Rodolfo and Estelita Herbruger.
I never did understand the difference between La Venta and
Santa Clara. Explanations are welcome.
2. Sea Travel In Panama
1915 photo of what could be the "Panama"
Up until 1904, the predominant way of travel between the city of
Panama and the rest of the country was by means of small sailing ships along the
Pacific coast of the country. The first steamship, a paddle wheeler, went
into regular service in 1867 when two American brothers, John and Henry
Schubert, bought the vessel in order to supply their meat business with cattle
from Chiriqui. Named the "Montijo", it traveled along the coast
making a few stops along the coast picking up cattle and some
This ship was soon followed by two others, the "Cargador" and
the "Independencia". As time went by, the "Montijo" sunk in the
gulf that bears its name in the Province of Veraguas, the "Cargador", when
heavily damaged, was sold to the Panama Railroad Company to be used as a barge
and the "Independencia" met its end when it became so worn out as to be
Sometime around 1875 and 1880, another American in Panama,
Marcus J. Kelly, who was the manager of the business Arosemena Hermanos, which I
think still exists, brought two steamships to the isthmus and began operating on
the same coastal route. But this time, he included Puntarenas in Costa
Rica as a port of call. The ships carried cattle, cargo and some
passengers. However, lack of proper maintenance finally wore out these
ships which were abandoned in the mangroves at the mouth of the Rio Platanal
at Pedregal in the Province of Chiriqui. As of 1985, their iron
skeletons were still visible.
The next enterprise to try its luck on the coastal route was
the Pacific Steam Navigation Company around 1885-1890. They brought
in five ships, the "Huacho", "Casma", "Chala", "Chiriqui" and "Taboga".
The last two of these were specifically designed for the trade.
Nevertheless, in spite of these efforts, the main means of transportation on the
coastal seas was the small sailing ship.
But in 1904, shortly after Panama had gained its independence
from Colombia, the Pinel brothers, Prospero and Pablo, already owners of a large
fleet of sail ships, bought the "Cocle" of 80 tons and the
gunboat "Boyaca" from the government of Panama. Then they bought the "Taboga"
from the Pacific Steam Navigation Co. and established a regular and reliable
steamship service along the coastal cities of Panama. These ports of call,
from East to West, included La Palma in Darien, Taboga, Panama, San Carlos,
Aguadulce, Chitre, Guarare, Sona, Remedios and Pedregal as well as a few other
The ships carried passengers comfortably, cattle and other
animals and general cargo as well as mail of the newly organized postal
system. The public soon became used to this competent method of
transportation which offered safety and reliability.
Unfortunately, the "Taboga" ran into the rocks at
Punta Guanico, near Tonosi in the Province of Los Santos, at 7:50 on
the night of May 23, 1911. Twenty-three people lost their lives.
Among them were nine passengers from Santiago de Veraguas, five from Chiriqui
and nine members of the crew. The deceased passengers belonged to
distinguished families of Chiriqui and Veraguas including several young women
returning to the capital to resume their high school studies. The sinking
of the "Taboga" was a tragic event that shocked a nation only 8 years
In 1915, the two remaining and competing ship lines merged into
the National Navigation Company with a fleet consisting of the following
steamships: "Panama" of 900 tons, 200-foot length and 35-foot beam;
"David" of 150 tons, 130-foot length and 30-foot beam; "Veraguas" of 120 tons,
110-foot length and 24-foot beam; "Los Santos" of 120 tons, 110-foot length and
24-foot beam; and "Cocle" of 60 tons, 70-foot length and 15-foot
beam. On May 11, 1923, the teamer "David" collided with the "Yorba
Linda" belonging to the General Petroleum Corporation while traveling on Canal
Zone waters. The lawsuit went on for several years but I do not know the
results of the litigation. Nor do I know if the National Navigation
Company is still in business.
Sources: Epocas , April 1985 and the Internet
3. Central Ave Before 1943
Central Avenue when we still drove on the left hand side
before 1943. This is probably before the war.
I think the side street on the left is where Cafe Duran
had its place as well as Tony the Barber.
I think we are looking toward Santa Ana Plaza. Can
you help identify?
Again, we are driving on the left. This one I cannot
tell where it is, except that it is Central Avenue.
I think that is Mireille at the bottom right hand side of
the photo. Note the man in the suit.
- Luis R. Celerier