This month marks the 500th anniversary of the Spanish conquistador Vasco Núñez de Balboa’s first sighting of the Pacific Ocean, and Smithsonian Magazine writer Franz Lidz retraces Balboa’s historic trek across Panama in the company of Juan Carlos Navarro ’83, former mayor of Panama City and an early favorite in Panama’s 2014 presidential elections.
“Imagine what Balboa thought as he hiked through the rainforest,” Navarro tells the writer. “He had just escaped from the Spanish colony of Hispaniola—the island that comprises present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic—an arid, spare place with a rigid system of morality. He lands in a humid jungle teaming with exotic wildlife and people who speak a magical, musical language. He’s told that not far off are huge amounts of gold and pearls and an even huger sea.”
Read the full story, published 8/13 by Smithsonian Magazine.