Designed by Leonardo de Villanueva, this attractive plaza on the southeastern corner of the Casco Viejo peninsula is dedicated to the French effort to build the canal, and the thousands who perished in the process. An obelisk towers over the monument at the end of the plaza, where a dozen marble plaques recount the arduous task. Busts of Ferdinand de Lesseps and his lieutenants gaze across the plaza at the French Embassy—the large baby-blue building to the north of it. Next to them is a bust of Dr. Carlos Finlay, a Cuban physician who later discovered that yellow fever, which killed thousands during the French effort, originated from a mosquito bite—information that prompted the American campaign to eradicate mosquitoes from the area before they began digging. The plaza itself is a pleasant spot shaded by poinciana trees, which carry bright-orange blossoms from May to July. At the front of the plaza is a statue of Pablo Arosemena, one of Panama's founding fathers and one of its first
presidents. The plaza covers part of a small peninsula that served as a bastion for the walled city's defense during its early years. The former dungeons of Las Bóvedas line the plaza's eastern edge, and next door stands a large white building that was once the city's main courthouse but now houses the Instituto Nacional de Cultura (National Culture Institute).