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For years, the colorful town of Portobelo has been a drive-by tourism attraction, known primarily for the fortress
ruins of Spanish conquistadors of a century past and the Black Christ that draws thousands of pilgrims every
October 21st.
Once a primary port city of the Colon Province during the Spanish colonial period, Portobelo (which means
Beautiful Port) has a rich history and Caribbean culture, but was never more than a quick stop for a modern tourist
on the way to some of the nearby islands or marinas.
But this is changing.
Over the last few years, the Portobelo Bay Foundation (Fundación Bahía de Portobleo), has been actively working
to improve Portobelo’s quality of life by promoting comprehensive and sustainable development through culture,
while preserving the community’s identity.
One of the foundation’s projects is the Escuelita del Ritmo or Little School of Rhythm, founded in 2009 to promote
culture, art and discipline through music education – stimulating creativity and an aesthetic appreciation.
Free classes are available, including piano, percussion, saxophone, violin, dance, base, singing trumpet, clarinet
and even woodworking lessons. So far, the facilities house five music rooms, a dance room, workshops, study halls,
English and computer labs, a recording studio and a multi-use room for recitals, concerts and cinema.
The result is an inspiring environment brimming over with positivity, as young boys and girls build their knowledge
and self-esteem through art and music. There are now over 90 students.
The foundation also works to promote Portobelo’s biodiversity and cultural richness as a fundamental practice for
sustainable development, particularly in the tourism industry – an important income source to help revitalize the
area, which continues to struggle to improve education, health and overall wellness in the area.
And the change is apparent, evident in the success of the teachers, students and ultimately the community, who
working together to grow a better future for this sleepy but still beautiful port.
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The foundation also operates two hotels in town,
Casa del Rayo Verde and Casa Congo from which
all proceeds are reinvested into the work of the
Casa Congo also houses some of the foundation’s
workshops, as well as a restaurant and art gallery.

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