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One of the first cities in the Americas, in the 1500s, Panama City was launching point for the exploration and conquest of Peru and a transit point for gold and silver headed back to Spain. In 1671 Henry Morgan with a band of 1400 men attacked and looted the city, and the ruins of the old city still remain at Panama la Vieja. Its prosperity returned when the discovery of gold in California in 1848 led to an upsurge in travellers crossing the isthmus en route to the west coast of North America. Not surprisingly, construction of the Panama Canal was a spur to major growth of the city and has led to it being today one of the most modern and multi-cultural cities in Latin America, yet retaining remnants of its fascinating history.

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