PANAMA: The Conquerors' Trail

. . . Like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes

He star'd at the Pacific—and all his men Look'd at each other with a wild

surmise—Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

Thus did John Keats, with a poet's fine contempt for quibbling research,* immortalize the moment in 1513 when Vasco Núñez de Balboa became the first recorded European to gaze upon the Pacific Ocean. Balboa's discovery led to the conquest of Peru, and by 1535 the Spaniards were feverishly carting the gold and silver loot of the luckless Incas over Panama's Camino Real...

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