April 15, 2011
Acla was a colonial settlement established by the Spaniards on
the Northern Shore of Castilla del Oro (Now Panama)by Pedro Arias de Avila, also
known as Pedrarias, in 1515. Pedrarias had arrived at Santa Maria de la
Antigua del Darien to replace Balboa on June 30, 1514. As things
deteriorated at Santa Maria, Pedrarias moved to a new location in the general
area where Balboa had started his overland trip across the isthmus to "discover"
the Pacific Ocean.
Castilla del Oro in the 1500s
Acla was located in the Caledonia Bay,
just West of what is now called Punta Escoces, on the North
Shore of Panama. This was in the central coast of the present Kuna Yala.
The name Acla means bones of men in the native language. The
town was given this name because of the large number of bones strewn about
the nearby plains. These bones, supposedly, came from the conflicts
between two native brothers who fought to become chiefs of the region.
Acla was established principally to be the Caribbean anchor of a
trail that was planned to lead to a future town on the gulf of San Miguel on the
Pacific side of Panama. Acla became famous, or infamous, because it was
the site where Balboa was beheaded in 1519 by Pedrarias after being accused of
The unhealthy climate, the unsuitable terrain and the
hostilities with the natives caused the demise of Acla as the better locations
of the re-established Nombre de Dios and the new settlement at Portobelo proved
better choices. By 1532, the town of Acla was totally deserted.
- Luis R. Celerier