Bits & Pieces

March 29, 2011

Santa Maria de la Antigua del Darien

Rodrigo de Bastidas set sail from Spain in October 1500 in two ships with Vasco Nunez de Balboa as a member of that expedition.  He reached what is now Venezuela and continued sailing west along the coast of Colombia.  Reaching the Uraba Gulf in Colombia, he located the mouth of the Atrato River, but did not enter it nor explored it.  Continuing westward he went past what is now Nombre de Dios and possibly Puerto Bello, but did not explore these areas either before returmning home in 1501.  However, because of his excursion along this coast, Bastidas is given credit for the discovery of Panama.
Christopher Columbus, on his fourth voyage to the New World, touched the northern coast of Central America around Honduras, east of the Yucatan Peninsula, and continued east entering Almirante Bay at Bocas del Toro in Panama.  He continued east by entering the Laguna de Chiriqui, the Golfo de los Mosquitos in Veraguas, past the Chagres River and the Bay of Limon until he reached a beautiful horshoe shaped bay which he named Puerto Bello. on Novermber 2, 1502.  He spent 7 days there due to bad weather, but made no attept to settle the place.  Setting sail again, he sailed to a point at another small harbor, which he named El Retrete, and sailed for home.  El Retrete, which I have not been able to find in any map, was as far east as he sailed on the coast of Panama and was also the last place that appeared on Bastidas charts.
Columbus' claims of large quantities of gold in Veraguas led to the area west of the Gulf of Darien being named  Castilla del Oro.  The land east (South America) was given the name of Nueva Andalusia.
Map of Castilla del Oro showing location of Santa Maria de la Antigua del Darien
as well as Acla,, the Atrato River, and other points mentioned in this writing.
In 1508, the King of Spain named Alonso de Ojeda governor of Nueva Andalusia with the Atrato River as the western boundary, and Diego de Nicuesa governor of Castilla de Oro.  With Ojeda sailed two future conquerors, Hernado Cortez and Francisco Pizarro.  Ojeda made a small settlement, San Sebastian, in Colombia near what is now Cartagena, but was driven off in short time by the natives.  By the time Martin Fernadez de Enciso arrived with more supplies and with Balboa, San Sebastian was no more.  Under the direction of Balboa, they settled in the Gulf of Uraba (also known as Golfo del Darien) near the Atrato River.  In September 1510 the new settlement of Santa Maria de la Antigua del Darien was founded.  In the previous letter I covered Balboa's feat from this town.
What Santa Maria might have looked like.
Native encampment in the Darien area. - Illustration: Armand Reclus,
French Naval Officer, 1876 (Loteria Magazine)
Santa Maria de la Antigua del Darien led a difficult life among hostile Natives, disease and famine.  In 1514, Pedro Arias Davila, also known as Pedrarias, became governor of Cstilla de Oro and, in August 1519 decided to move the settlement of Santa Maria to the Pacific Coast where he founded the city of Panama.  Finally, the last Spanish ressident of Antigua, Diego Rivero, was killed, along with his whole family, in September 1524 and the town burned to the ground. Today nothing remains of what once was a thriving community.
Sources:, Wikipedia,

- Luis R. Celerier
Longview, Texas