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Panama advances to include Transisthmian Route on World Heritage List

Panama City, Dec 15 (EFE).- Panama is making strides in the “long and demanding” process to qualify for inclusion of its Colonial Transisthmian Route on the UNESCO World Heritage List, thanks to a plan of action involving a multidisciplinary team that includes, among others, historians, archaeologists, and anthropologists.

There is a deadline to be met as part of the process of evaluating a proposal for nomination, “which begins on February 1, when Panama has to present the full nomination”, which culminates in May 2024, when it will be known if the country made it “on the representative list,” Panama’s permanent ambassador to UNESCO, Elía Guerra, told EFE.

The Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panama is formed by a series of monuments, historic sites and cities including the Archaeological Site of Panama Viejo and the Historic District of Panama (World Heritage since 1997), the Fortifications on the Caribbean side of Panama: Portobelo and San Lorenzo (on the list of Heritage in Danger since 2012), and the colonial roads that unite them: the Camino de Cruces and the Camino Real.

The Panamanian State has given its full commitment to the process. Its strategy is to present a phased nomination, according to the country’s Culture Ministry, which is leading the plan of action.


In July 2019, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee decided to postpone the registration of the Panamanian proposal, waiting for the Central American nation to submit a revised proposal that meets a number of recommendations.

Among other issues, the Committee asked Panama to submit a proposal that would justify the Outstanding Universal Value of the route and that would guarantee long-term financial sustainability for the conservation and management of this set of sites through the proper allocation of funds.

The evaluation of the nomination, made by the advisory body International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), “found that there was a lack of information,” Guerra said.

Based on the recommendations, Panama presented in September “a proposal for consideration by the Secretariat of UNESCO,” which “had a response on November 15 and now must, before midnight on February 1, respond to all the questions asked by UNESCO’s evaluation bodies.”

“Today we are giving answers to those questions. We are not finished, we are in the middle of a process. There is a team of architects, sociologists, and historians, they are relying a lot on the Mexican experience, which already had an important route, in Colombia, and Peru. I think we are responding to each of the concerns,” Guerra said.


The multidisciplinary team seeks to show through both historical and field research with excavations, collection, and analysis “the uniqueness and importance of crossing through our isthmus for the development of America.”

The Ministry of Culture indicates that the Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá was used by the Spaniards from the 16th to the 19th century to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, becoming a vital node of the vast global transport network of the Spanish empire, hence its Outstanding Universal Value.

“The singularity of our geographical position was not born with the Panama Canal, it was born 500 years ago (…) America grew from this economic activity, migratory that occurs from Portobelo to Panama City,” the UNESCO ambassador stressed.


The Culture Ministry assured that it was actively working on the creation and implementation of the Management System for the new property through a National Commission for World Cultural Heritage.

The ministry says the Panamanian State has constituted by National Law the annual allocation of economic resources for the conservation, maintenance, research, and development of Panama Viejo, Casco Antiguo, Portobelo, and San Lorenzo, activities that are also supported with funds from boards of trustees.

The ministry also uses a $45-million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for the development of a program providing support for the conservation and management of cultural and natural heritage, and has also allocated resources to meet the recommendations of UNESCO in terms of management such as the “Management Plan – The Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panama.”

Regarding the conservation plan for endangered sites (Portobelo-San Lorenzo), Ambassador Guerra said that the Culture Ministry has been working on the visitor center for these areas because “the issue is to find a balance, an understanding that in the long run the valorization and maintenance of these sites add to the country, not subtract.”

“Work is being done so that the population understands that there are going to be changes in the administration process around the ruins, the Portobelo Customs and that they must be taken care of,” she said. EFE

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