Portobelo Royal Customs House Museum
Address: Portobelo Customs House, Portobelo-Colón
The city of San Felipe de Portobelo, where this museum is located, was founded on March 20th, 1597 by Francisco Valverde Mercado. It was a time of a fluctuating population, although two suburbs of huts where creoles, half-castes and slaves used to live were soon established: Guina and Ciénaga.
Merchandise, slaves and wealth arrived in galleons, reaching its peak during the fairs where a vast number of them were sold. The main building for this event was the Royal Customs and Book-keeping House. Portobelo never had a surrounding wall. However, following recommendations by military engineers, two fortresses were built to guard the harbour: San Felipe Sotomayor de Lodo Fierro (1597) and Santiago de la Gloria (1600); the Reducto de San Jerónimo was later erected (1659), though none of them resisted the attacks of pirates Morgan, Bernon and Linghills.
It should be noted that while it was attached to Colombia, Portobelo continued to be the main port in the Caribbean. Its main historic civil and military buildings are national historic monuments today. Since 1980, Portobelo’s historic monuments have been declared Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO and that is the reason why each one of the pieces, documents and objects shown in this Museum are so important.