19. The streets of the city

19. City Streets

The 1513 royal instructions indicated that the new American towns should show a clearly ordered design, especially in terms of streets and the distribution of lots; the land should be shared equally.  They also made reference to the ideal place for the main plaza and the main church.

However, the city was not so much designed according to rigorous plan, as it was adapted to the local circumstances.  Although the design is by no means a perfect square; the streets were neither strictly straight nor parallel and moreover the blocks were different sizes.  On the other hand, towards the North, the entire city was not designed with the same enthusiasm; the outskirts were irregular, with paths that followed the area’s topography.

The importance of the design of Panama City, especially in terms of the main square and the church, was maintained as a directive principle throughout the entire colonial period in Hispanic America.  A large part of the design of Panama Viejo has been conserved and can be seen at plain sight.  Its main streets were



La Carrera Road or Royal Road

It was the city’s main road; it allowed the access to and from the city through the Matadero Bridge.  This road was also the entryway for the merchandise that arrived from the Western part of the Isthmus and from Europe on the Las Cruces Trail, from Portobelo to Panama.






Santo Domingo Road

Its name is due to the fact that it was the road that went from the Main Square towards the Santo Domingo Convent.  This road arrived at the King’s Bridge, and from there on it led onto the Royal Road, which connected the city with Nombre de Dios and Portobelo on the North of the Isthmus of Panama.







Empedrada Road

This road, which connected the main religious buildings, began from the Main Plaza and ended at the San Francisco Convent.  San Juan de Dios Hospital, La Concepción Convent and Compañía de Jesús were all on this road.  Its name is due to the fact that most of it was pebbled (“empedrada” is pebbled in Spanish).






Obispo Street

This road passed in front of where the city’s Bishop resided for a long time, and it ran from East to West.

There were other roads such as Calafates, very close to the Tasca port, close to the space where the boats were caulked, which explains its name, from the Spanish word calafatear; and the Pontezuelas road, which led towards the city outskirts, towards the North.