Heritage Alert: The Historic Center of Colón (Republic of Panamá)
To add to the already substantial national alarm, raised among other by ICOMOS Panama, ICOMOS is issuing a worldwide Heritage Alert, our most consequential expression of concern, to amplify awareness of the threats to the historic center of Colón and draw urgent attention to its poor state of conservation and condition of neglect.
Colón is probably the first city to combine the railroad with a port in the region. It is the terminal city on the Caribbean side of the Transisthmian route, which connected the Canal Zone and Panama City. Due to its significant historic past and the quality of its urban planning and architecture, it was declared a national historical monumental complex through Law 47, on 8 August 2002.
Colón is a palimpsest, a historic urban landscape (HUL). Like the HUL definition explains, Colón has a layering of cultural and natural values and attributes, extending beyond its boundaries to include the broader urban context and its geographical setting. Despite being the object of countless projects and plans, Colón is currently abandoned to total neglect. The legislation, the diagnoses and plans made for the city’s historic center have been forgotten or ignored. Over time, all this has led to its terrible state of conservation characterized by an increasing number of urban voids that generate a feeling of desolation within its historic center. To make things worse, the historic center of Colón is now threatened by demolitions and an amendment to the law that currently protects it, which was passed on 21 September 2021 without the modifications suggested by heritage conservation organizations (Bill 654, that modifies Law 47, of 8 August 2002, which designates the Old Quarter of the city of Colón as a historic monumental complex).
First image: Wilcox House -c. 1913- abandoned in 2018 (historic center of Colón, 2015) © Silvia Arroyo
Second image: Overview of the city facing the sea from Arboix Apartments (historic center of Colón, 2015) © Silvia Arroyo