A bit of history from Panama


Panama with a population of 3,5 million people (67%  mestizos, 14% blakc,, 10% white, 9% others),  is the southernmost country of Central America and the whole of North America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the west, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The capital is Panama City.

The Panamanian flag day is celebrated on November 4, one day after Panamanian independence from Colombia. The Panamanian government officially described the flag in Law 15 of December 1949, as follows: The Flag of the Republic consists thus of a divided rectangle of four quarters: the upper field close to the pole white with a blue star of five points; the upper field further from the pole, red; the lower field near the pole, blue; and the lower one further from the pole, white with a red star of five points.

The stars and quarters are said to stand for the rival political parties, and the white for the peace in which they operate. Blue was the color of the Conservatives, and red the color of the Liberals.

Spanish conquer

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, Panama was widely settled by Chibchan, Chocoan, and Cueva peoples, among whom the largest group were the Cueva (whose specific language affiliation is poorly documented).

In 1501 Rodrigo de Bastidas (1460 – 1527), a Spanish conquistador and explorer,  was the first European to explore the Isthmus of Panama sailing along the eastern coast. He is acknowledged to be the first European to have claimed that part of the isthmus (An isthmus  is a narrow strip of land connecting two larger land areas, usually with water on either side), and therefore is credited with the discovery of Panama which includes the San Blas region of the Kuna Indians.

Rodrigo Bastidas' trip

Scientists believe the formation of the Isthmus of Panama is one of the most important geologic events in the last 60 million years. Though only a small sliver of land relative to the sizes of continents, the Isthmus of Panama had an enormous impact on the earth's climate and environment. By shutting down the flow of water between the two oceans, the land bridge rerouted ocean currents in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Atlantic currents were forced northward and eventually settled into a new current pattern that we now call the Gulf Stream. With warm Caribbean waters flowing toward the northeast Atlantic, the climate of northwestern Europe and eastern North America grew warmer. (However, it is actually the directly affected atmospheric circulation rather than the Gulf Stream that results in the pronounced temperature differential between Europe and the eastern US.) Evaporation in the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean caused freshwater vapor to enter the atmosphere, while leaving behind salty water. The trade winds (blowing east to west) carried the water vapor and deposited it in the Pacific by precipitation. As a result, the Atlantic became saltier than the Pacific. Each of these changes helped establish the global ocean circulation pattern in place today. In short, the Isthmus of Panama directly and indirectly influenced ocean and atmospheric circulation patterns, which regulated patterns of rainfall, which in turn sculpted landscapes

Bastidas has been call Spain's Noblest Conquistador because he had a policy of respect, humanity and friendship towards the Indians; he maintained pacifistic relations with his neighbors, the Indians Tagangas, Dorsinos and Gairas. On a trip to the interior and the territories of Bonda and Bondigua in present day Colombia, he traded for a substantial amount of gold. Bastidas had a policy prohibiting his troops from brutally using the Indians or robbing them of their goods.

His troops, many of whom had gone adventuring in the hopes of obtaining gold, asked Bastidas for a share. He refused to share it with his men, saying that he needed it to help defray the costs of the colony. Bastidas' refusal to share the gold that he had acquired greatly angered some of his men, among them his lieutenant Villafuerte, who led a conspiracy of some fifty men to murder Bastidas. One night while Bastidas was a sleep he was attacked and stabbed five times. He was able to cry out, and his men rushed to his aid. Although seriously wounded, he did not die immediately. Owing to a lack of adequate medical facilities in Santa Marta, Bastidas attempted to sail to Santo Domingo, but bad weather forced him to land in Cuba, where he died from his injuries (1527).

In 1502 Christopher Columbus on his fourth and last trip sailed south and eastward from upper Central America, explored Bocas del Toro, Veragua, the Chagres River and Porto Belo (Beautiful Port) which he named.

Columbus fourth trip
In 1508, the king of Spain, Ferdinand II "The Catholic", launched the conquest of Tierra Firme (the area roughly corresponding to the Isthmus of Panama). He created two new territories in the region between El Cabo de la Vela (near the eastern border of Colombia) and El Cabo de Gracias a Dios (the border between Honduras and Nicaragua). 

On September 25, 1513 Vasco Núñez de Balboa (1474–1519) , a Spanish explorer, crossed the Isthmus of Panama to the Pacific Ocean in 1513, becoming the first European to lead an expedition to have seen or reached the Pacific from the New World. Balboa was born in Jerez de los Caballeros in Badajoz, Spain. He verified what the indigenous people had spoken of, that the Panama isthmus had another coast to the southwest along another ocean. Balboa was the first known European to see the Pacific Ocean, which he named the South Sea. The ocean's current name was coined by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan during the Spanish circumnavigation of the world in 1521, as he encountered favorable winds on reaching the ocean. He called it Mar Pacífico, which in both Portuguese and Spanish means "peaceful sea".

Balboa trip

In 1509 Balboa set sail as a stowaway, hiding inside a barrel together with his dog Leoncico,in the expedition commanded by the Alcalde Mayor of Nueva Andalucía, Martín Fernández de Enciso, whose mission it was to aid Alonso de Ojeda, his superior. De Ojeda, together with seventy men, had founded the settlement of San Sebastián de Urabá in Nueva Andalucía, on the location where the city of Cartagena de Indias would later be built.

A short time later, de Ojeda sailed for Hispaniola, leaving the colony under the supervision of Francisco Pizarro, who, at that time, was only a soldier waiting for Enciso's expedition to arrive. Before the expedition arrived at San Sebastián de Urabá, Fernández de Enciso discovered Balboa aboard the ship, and threatened to leave him at the first uninhabited island they encountered; he later thought better of this and decided that Balboa's knowledge of that region, which he had explored eight years before, would be of great utility.

Balboa suggested that the settlement of San Sebastián be moved to the region of Darién, to the west of the Gulf of Mexico, where the soil was more fertile and the natives less warlike. Balboa kept his vow, and, in September 1510, founded the first permanent settlement on mainland American soil, and called it Santa María la Antigua del Darién.

The victory of the Spanish over the natives and the founding of Santa María la Antigua del Darién, now located in a relatively calm region, earned Balboa authority and respect among his companions. They were increasingly hostile towards Alcalde Mayor Fernández de Enciso, whom they considered a greedy despot because of the restrictions he imposed on their appropriation of the natives' gold.

Balboa took advantage of the situation, acting as the spokesman for the disgruntled settlers. He removed Fernández de Enciso from the position of alcalde mayor, using the following legal manoeuvre: de Enciso was now controlling an area in Veragua, to the west of the Gulf of Urabá; since he was substituting for Alonso de Ojeda, his mandate was illegitimate, because the governor of Veragua was Diego de Nicuesa, not de Ojeda; therefore, Fernández de Enciso should be deposed and arrested. Shortly after this, a flotilla led by Rodrigo Enrique de Colmenares arrived in Santa María. His objective was to find de Nicuesa, who was also facing some difficulties in the north of Panamá.

Enrique de Colmenares found de Nicuesa near the town of Nombre de Dios, badly wounded and with few men remaining, on account of a skirmish with local natives. After his rescue, Governor de Nicuesa heard about Balboa's exploits, the chieftain Cémaco's bounty, and Santa María's prosperity. He vowed that he would punish Balboa as soon as he gained control of the city, since he regarded his actions as a challenge to his authority in Veragua.

When de Nicuesa arrived at the city's port, a mob appeared, and the ensuing disturbance prevented the governor from disembarking into the city. De Nicuesa insisted on being received, no longer as governor, but as a simple soldier, but still the colonists did not allow him to disembark. He and 17 others were forced to board an unseaworthy boat with few supplies, and were put out to sea on March 1 1511. The ship disappeared, leaving no trace of de Nicuesa and his men.

At the end of 1512 and the first months of 1513, Balboa arrived in a region dominated by the cacique Careta. Balboa then proceeded on his journey, arriving in the lands of Careta's neighbour and rival, cacique Ponca. When Balboa first saw the Quarequas many of them were engaging in homosexual acts. An enraged Balboa had them killed by his dogs. Peter Martyr reported the following about the encounter:

"Vasco discovered that the village of Quarequa was stained by the foulest vice. The king's brothers and a number of other courtiers were dressed as women, and according to the accounts of the neighbours shared the same passion. Vasco ordered forty of them to be torn to pieces by dogs. The Spaniards commonly used their dogs in fighting against naked people, and the dogs threw themselves upon them as though they were wild boars or timid deer.'

Balboa by the Flemish Protestant artist Theodor de Bry

He returned to Santa María at the beginning of 1513 to recruit more men from Hispaniola. It was there that he learned that Fernández de Enciso had told the colonial authorities what had happened at Santa María Balboa's request for men and supplies had been denied: Enciso's case was by then widely known in the Spanish court. Therefore, Balboa had no choice but to carry out his expedition with the few resources that he had on hand in Santa María. Balboa started his journey across the Isthmus of Panama on September 1, 1513, together with 190 Spaniards, a few native guides, and a pack of dogs.

Balboa's main purpose in the expedition was the search for the gold-rich kingdoms promised by Panquiaco. To this end, he crossed through the lands of caciques Coquera and Tumaco, defeating them easily and taking their riches of gold and pearls.

From there, he crossed the lands of Ponca and Careta, to finally arrive in Santa María on January 19, 1514, with a treasure in cotton goods, more than 100,000 castellanos worth of gold, to say nothing of the pearls. He also sent one fifth of the treasure to the king, as the law required.

The accusations of Fernández de Enciso, whom Balboa had deposed, and the removal and disappearance of Governor de Ojeda, forced the king to name Pedro Arias de Ávila as governor of the newly created province of Castilla de Oro. Arias, better known as Pedrarias Dávila and who would later become notorious for his cruelty, took control of Veragua and managed to calm the situation.

Pedrarias was accompanied on this expedition by Gaspar de Espinosa, who held the office of alcalde mayor. As soon as Pedrarias took charge, Gaspar de Espinosa had Balboa arrested and tried "in absentia", sentencing him to pay reparations to Fernández de Enciso and others. He was, however, found innocent of the charge of murdering de Nicuesa, so he was freed shortly afterwards. Secretly, he arranged to recruit a contingent of men from Cuba. The ship carrying them berthed just outside Santa María, and its caretaker informed Balboa of their arrival, receiving in return 70 gold castellanos. Pedrarias, however, soon found out about the ship; furious, he had Balboa arrested, took away all his men and was planning to lock him up in a wooden cage.

Luckily for Balboa, around that time the Spanish Crown would finally recognize his valuable services. The king bestowed on him the titles of "Adelantado of the South Seas" and "Gobernador of Panama and Coiba". On top of this, the King instructed Pedrarias to show Balboa the greatest respect and to consult him on all matters pertaining the conquest and government of Castilla de Oro. Because of all this, Pedrarias was to release and exonerate Balboa. At that point, rivalry between Balboa and Pedrarias ceased abruptly, due in large part to the intercession of Bishop de Quevedo and Isabel de Bobadilla, who arranged for Balboa's marriage to María de Peñalosa, one of  Pedrarias' daughters, who was in Spain. Between 1517 and 1518, Balboa moved to Acla with 300 men and, using the manpower of the natives and African slaves, managed to gather the materials necessary to fashion new ships.

However, on his return, Pedrarias wrote warm letters urging Balboa to meet him as soon as possible. Balboa quickly obeyed. Halfway to Santa María, he encountered a group of soldiers commanded by Francisco Pizarro, who arrested him in the name of the governor and accused him of trying to usurp Pedrarias' power and create a separate government in the South Sea. Outraged, Balboa denied all charges and demanded that he be taken to Spain to stand trial; Pedrarias, however, together with Martin Enciso, ordered that the trial take place without delay.

Balboa's trial began in January 1519, and on the fifteenth of that month, de Espinosa sentenced him to death by decapitation. Four of Balboa's friends, Fernando de Argüello, Luis Botello, Hernán Muñoz, and Andrés Valderrábano, accused as accomplices, were sentenced to the same fate.

Although Balboa suffered a premature death, his actions and deeds are remembered by history. Several parks and avenues throughout Panama bear the name "Vasco Núñez de Balboa".
The 'fantastic descriptions' of the isthmus by Balboa — as well as those of Columbus and other explorers — impressed Ferdinand II of Aragon and Castilla who gave the territory the name of Castilla Aurifica (or Castilla del Oro, Golden Castille). He assigned Pedro Arias Dávila (Pedrarias Davila) as Royal Governor. Pedrarias arrived in June 1514 with a 22 vessel and 1,500 men armada. Dávila was a veteran soldier who had served in the wars against the Moors at Granada and in North Africa.

On August 15, 1519 Pedrarias, having abandoned Santa María la Antigua del Darién, moved the capital of Castilla del Oro with all its organizational institutions to the Pacific Ocean's coast and founded Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de Panamá (present day Panama City), the first European settlement on the shores of the Pacific.

Nombre de Dios is the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the continental Americas. Originally a major port of call for the Spanish treasure fleet, Nombre de Dios was the most significant port for shipping in the Americas between 1540 and 1580. As Nombre de Dios was situated near an unhealthy swamp and was nearly impossible to fortify, it declined in importance and the Spanish preferred to use Portobelo as their Caribbean port.

Nombre De Dios by Peter Schenk, Published in Amsterdam in 1702

In January 1596  Francis Drake died (aged about 56) of dysentery, a common disease in the tropics at the time, while anchored off the coast of Portobelo Bay where some Spanish treasure ships had sought shelter.  He became ill most likely during the Puerto Rico campaign, since during the second attack on Puerto Rico an outbreak of that disease killed 400 English soldiers, forcing George Clifford to abandon plans to make San Juan a permanent English base in the Antilles.

Before dying, he asked to be dressed in his full armour. He was buried at sea in a lead-lined coffin, near Portobelo. It is supposed that his final resting place is near the wrecks of two British ships, the Elizabeth and the Delight, scuttled in Portobelo Bay. Divers continue to search for the coffin 

Portobelo port was founded in 1597 by Francisco Velarde y Mercado, a Spanish explorer. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the city was a major silver exporting port in the Viceroyalty of New Granada and was one of the main stops for the Spanish treasure fleet. The city was guarded by three major castles, however they were under garrisoned and prone to attack.

Governor Pedrarias began building intercontinental and trans-isthmian portage routes, such as the "Camino Real" and "Camino de Cruces", linking Panama City and the Pacific with Nombre de Dios (and later with “Portobelo”) and the Atlantic, making possible the establishment of a trans-atlantic system of Treasure Fleets and trade. It is estimated that of all the gold entering Spain from the New World between 1531 and 1660, 60% had arrived at its destiny via the 'Treasure Fleet and Fairs' system from Nombre de Dios/Portobello.

To protect the Atlantic terminus of Las Cruces Trail, Spain built Fort San Lorenzo at the Chagres River's mouth. From 1587 to 1599, the fortifications evolved into a sea-level battery.

Silver and gold from the viceroyalty of Peru were transported overland across the isthmus to Porto Bello, where Spanish treasure fleets shipped them to Seville and Cádiz from 1707.

Panama was part of the Spanish Empire for over 300 years (1513-1821) and her fortunes fluctuated with the geopolitical importance of the isthmus to the Spanish crown. No other region would prove, during the 16th and 17th centuies, at the height of the Empire, of more strategic and economic importance.

Spanish galleon routes (white): West Indies or trans-atlantic route or trans-pacific route begun in 1565. (Blue: Portuguese routes, operational from 1498 to 1640)
Privateer captain Henry Morgan led a fleet of 450 privateers in 1668 against Portobelo, which, in spite of its good fortifications, he captured. His forces plundered it for 14 days, stripping nearly all its wealth while raping, torturing and killing the inhabitants.

In 1670, buccaneer Henry Morgan ordered an attack that left Fort San Lorenzo in ruins. He invaded Panama City the following year, using San Lorenzo as his base of operations. Panama city counted 10,000 inhabitants. On 28 January 1671, the Welsh privateer Henry Morgan attacked the city with 1,400 men marching from the Caribbean coast across the jungle. Morgan's force defeated the city's militia then proceeded to sack Panamá. Morgan and his army started a fire that burned the city, the attack caused the loss of thousands of lives. The city was formally reestablished two years later on January 21, 1673, in a peninsula located 8 km (5 miles) from the original settlement. The site of the previously devastated city is still in ruins and is now a popular tourist attraction known as Panama Viejo.

Iglesia y Convento de las Monjas de la Concepción in Panama Viejo

In July, 1698, Mark Buke built five ships, left Leith, in Scotland, in an attempt to establish a colony in the Darién, as a basis for a sea and land trading route to China and Japan. The colonists arrived on the coast of Darién in November, and claimed it as the Colony of Caledonia. However, the expedition was ill-prepared for the hostile conditions, badly led, and ravaged by disease; the colonists finally abandoned New Edinburgh, leaving four hundred graves behind. Unfortunately, a relief expedition had already left Scotland, and arrived at the colony in November 1699, but faced the same problems, as well as attack and then blockade by the Spaniards. Finally, on April 12, 1700, Caledonia was abandoned for the last time, ending this disastrous venture. The death rate was 71% and thousands of small (and large) Scottish investors were ruined by the whole enterprise - or at least in the short term. One unforeseen legacy of the Darien debacle was its role in promoting the Union between Scotland and England just seven years later in 1707. Article 15 of the Act of Union specifically offered to repay all investors in the scheme every penny that they had invested and even to generously pay 42% interest on top. This was dependent wholly on the Act of Union being passed by the Scottish Parliament. It was little more than a bare faced bribe but it did the trick of converting many of the financial losers of the New Caledonian scheme into die hard Unionists. Scottish imperial dreams were seen as a disaster but Scots subsequently played a major role in the British empire as soldiers and businessmen," said Prof Horton. "The irony is that they turned out to be great empire builders after all".

In 1713, the Viceroyalty of New Granada (northern South America) was created in response to other Europeans trying to take Spanish territory in the Caribbean region. The Isthmus of Panama was placed under its jurisdiction. But the remoteness of New Granada's capitol Santa Fe de Bogotá proved a greater obstacle.

Viceroyalty of New Granada

As part of the campaigns of the War of Jenkins' Ear, Portobelo was attacked on November 21, 1739, and captured by a British fleet of six ships, commanded by Admiral Edward Vernon. The British victory created an outburst of popular acclaim throughout the British Empire. More medals were struck for Vernon than for any other 18th-century British figure. Across the British Isles, Portobello was used in place and street names in honor of the victory, such as Portobello Road in London, the Portobello area in Edinburgh, and the Portobello Barracks in Dublin. Although British control lasted just three weeks the effect on Porto Bello was devastating; it was largely abandoned due to a complete re-organisation of Spanish trading practices designed to make them less vulnerable.

The Spanish quickly recovered the Panamanian town and defeated Admiral Vernon in the Battle of Cartagena de Indias in 1741. Vernon was forced to return to England with a decimated fleet, having suffered more than 18,000 casualties. Despite the Portobelo campaign, British efforts to gain a foothold in the Spanish Main and disrupt the galleon trade were fruitless.

In 1744 Bishop Francisco Javier de Luna Victoria y Castro established the College of San Ignacio de Loyola and on June 3, 1749 founded La Real y Pontificia Universidad de San Javier. By this time, however, Panama’s importance and influence had become insignificant as Spain’s power dwindled in Europe and advances in navigation technique increasingly permitted to round Cape Horn in order to reach the Pacific. While the Panama route was short it was also labor-intensive and expensive because of the loading and unloading and laden-down trek required to get from the one coast to the other. The Panama route was also vulnerable to attack from pirates (mostly Dutch and English) and from 'new world' Africans called cimarrons who had freed themselves from enslavement and lived in communes or palenques around the Camino Real in Panama's Interior, and on some of the islands off Panama's Pacific coast. During the last half of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th migrations to the countryside decreased Panama City’s population and the isthmus' economy shifted from the tertiary to the primary sector.

In 1821 the liberation of New Granada was achieved, finally gaining its freedom from Spain. On November 10, 1821, the Grito de La Villa de Los Santos occurred. It was a unilateral decision by the residents of Azuero (without backing from Panama City) to declare their separation from the Spanish Empire. In both Veraguas and the capital this act was met with disdain, although on differing levels of said emotion. Panama and the other regions of former New Granada were therefore technically freed and independent. Panama began plans of liberation and independence, considering joining one of the federations that were emerging throughout the region, finally deciding for the one Simon Bolivar was creating, the Republic of Colombia (1819–1830).

Republic of Columbia  1831

In September 1830, under the guidance of General José Domingo Espinar, the local military commander who rebelled against the nation's central government in response to his being transferred to another command, Panama separated from the Republic of Colombia and requested that general Simón Bolívar take direct command of the Isthmus Department. It made this a condition to its reunification with the rest of the country. Bolívar rejected Espinar's actions, and though he did not assume control of the isthmus as he desired, he called for Panama to rejoin the central state.

By July 1831, as the new countries of Venezuela and Ecuador were being established, the isthmus would again reiterate its independence, now under the same General Alzuru as supreme military commander.

The State of Panama took in March 1841 the name of 'Estado Libre del Istmo', or the Free State of the Isthmus. The new state established external political and economic ties and by March 1841, had drawn up a constitution which included the possibility for Panama to rejoin New Granada, but only as a federal district.

In the end, the union between Panama and the Republic of New Granada (under its various names United States of Colombia 1863-1886 and the Republic of Colombia since 1886) was made possible by the active participation of U.S.A. under the 1846 Bidlack Mallarino treaty until 1903.

United States of Colombia
In 1846, the United States and New Granada signed the Bidlack Mallarino Treaty, granting the U.S. rights to build railroads through Panama, and -most significantly- the power to militarily intervene against revolt to guarantee New Granadine control of Panama.

The world's first transcontinental railroad, the Panama Railway, was completed in 1855 across the Isthmus from Aspinwall/Colón to Panama City. It is estimated that from 5,000 to 10,000 people may have died in the construction of the railroad, though the Panama Railway company kept no official count and the total may be higher or lower. Cholera, malaria, and yellow fever killed thousands of workers, who were from the United States, Europe, Colombia, China, and the Caribbean islands, and also included some African slaves. Many of these workers had come to Panama to seek their fortune and had arrived with little or no identification. Many died with no known next of kin, nor permanent address, nor even a known last name.

Current Panama Canal Railway line
Current Panama Canal Railway line

From 1850 until 1903, the United States used troops to suppress separatist uprisings and quell social disturbances on many occasions, creating a long-term animosity among the Panamanian people against the US military and resentment against Bogotá.

After the successful completion of the Suez Canal in 1869, the French were inspired to tackle the apparently similar project to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and were confident that this could be carried out with little difficulty.

Ferdinand de Lesseps, who was in charge of the construction of the Suez Canal, was the figurehead of the scheme. His enthusiastic leadership, coupled with his reputation as the man who had brought the Suez project to a successful conclusion, persuaded speculators and ordinary citizens to invest in the scheme, ultimately to the tune of almost $400 million.

The construction of the Suez Canal, essentially a ditch dug through a flat, sandy desert, presented few challenges; but Panama was to be a very different story. The mountainous spine of Central America comes to a low point at Panama, but still rises to a height of 110 meters (360.9 ft) above sea level at the lowest crossing point. A sea-level canal, as proposed by de Lesseps, would require a prodigious excavation, and through varied hardnesses of rock rather than the easy sand of Suez.

The most serious problem of all, however, was tropical disease, particularly malaria and yellow fever. Since it was not known at the time how these diseases were contracted, any precautions against them were doomed to failure. For example, the legs of the hospital beds were placed in tins of water to keep insects from crawling up; but these pans of stagnant water made ideal breeding places for mosquitoes, the carriers of these two diseases, and so worsened the problem.

Construction of the canal began on January 1, 1882, though digging at Culebra did not begin until January 22, 1882. A huge labor force was assembled; in 1888, this numbered about 20,000 men, nine-tenths of these being afro-Caribbean workers from the West Indies. French engineers were well paid and the prestige of the project attracted the best of France's engineering schools, but the huge death toll from disease made it difficult to retain them — they either left after short service, or died. The total death toll between 1881 and 1889 was estimated at over 22,000.

The French in total excavated 59,747,638 m3 (78,146,960 cu yd) of material, of which 14,255,890 m3 (18,646,000 cu yd) was taken from the Culebra Cut. In 1889 the company became bankrupt, and work was finally suspended on May 15, 1889. After eight years, the work was about two-fifths completed, and some $234,795,000 had been spent.

Theodore Roosevelt, who became president of the United States in 1901, believed that a U.S.-controlled canal across Central America was a vital strategic interest to the U.S. Roosevelt opened negotiations with the Colombians to obtain the necessary rights. In early 1903, the Hay-Herran Treaty was signed by both nations, but the Colombian Senate failed to ratify the treaty.

In a controversial move, Roosevelt implied to Panamanian rebels that if they revolted, the U.S. Navy would assist their cause for independence. Panama proceeded to proclaim its independence on November 3, 1903, and the USS Nashville in local waters impeded any interference from Colombia (see gunboat diplomacy). It is a common mistake to call the 1903 events ‘Panama’s independence from Colombia’. Panamanians do not consider themselves former Colombians. They celebrate November 28, 1821, their independence (from Spain, like the rest of Hispanic America) and November 3, 1903, the separation from Colombia.

[A Panama hat (toquilla straw hat) is a traditional brimmed straw hat of Ecuadorian origin. Traditionally, hats were made from the plaited leaves of the Carludovica palmata plant, known locally as the toquilla palm or jipijapa palm, although it is a palm-like plant rather than a true palm.

Panama hats
Panama hats are light-colored, lightweight, and breathable, and often worn as accessories to summer-weight suits, such as those made of linen or silk. Beginning around the turn of the 20th century, panamas began to be associated with the seaside and tropical locales

Beginning in the early to mid-1600’s hat weaving evolved as a cottage industry all along the Ecuadorian coast as well as in small towns throughout the Andean Mountain Range. Traw hats woven in Ecuador, like many other 19th and early 20th century South American goods, were shipped first to the Isthmus of Panama before sailing for their destinations in Asia, the rest of the Americas and Europe, subsequently acquiring a name that reflected their point of international sale, "panama hats", rather than their place of domestic origin.

The popularity of the hats was increased in the mid-nineteenth century by the miners of the California Gold Rush, who frequently traveled to California via the Isthmus of Panama.In 1904, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt visited the construction site of the Panama Canal, and was photographed wearing a Panama hat, which further increased the hats' popularity. The hats were later worn by many early-twentieth century film stars (Humphrey Bogart, Frank Sinatra,etc) during films.

Today, Panamanian hats are made not only in Ecuador, but in many other Latin American countries, but Ecuador remains the first and best quality exporter

The victorious Panamanians returned the favor to Roosevelt by allowing the United States control of the Panama Canal Zone on February 23, 1904, for US$10 million (as provided in the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty, signed on November 18, 1903). The Hay-Bunau Varilla Treaty was signed between frenchman Philippe Bunau-Varilla, who had promptly been appointed Panamanian ambassador to the United States, representing Panamanian interests, and the United States Secretary of State John Hay. The treaty allowed for the construction of a canal and U.S. sovereignty over a strip of land 10 miles (16 km) wide and 50 miles (80 km) long, (16 kilometers by 80 kilometers) on either side of the Panama Canal Zone. In that zone, the U.S. would build a canal, then administer, fortify, and defend it "in perpetuity."

The Panama Canal was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914; the existing 83-kilometer (50-mi.) lock canal is considered one of the world's greatest engineering triumphs.

Panama canal shepherd elevation

The fact is that, beyond the financial injection to the country’s economy and workforce, the changes brought about by the canal venture were largely positive for Panama. Well aware of the need to sanitize the area before and during the construction, engineers developed an infrastructure that guaranteed the treatment of potable water, sewage, and garbage that encompassed both the Canal Zone as well as the cities of Panama and Colon. High standards employed in construction techniques, transportation systems and landscaping maintenance operations for the Canal Zone's urban development employed during the first half of the 20th century, had no parallel in tropical regions in the hemisphere. The work of Dr.William Gorgas deploying the techniques pioneered by Cuban physician Carlos Finley made it possible to rid the area of yellow fever between 1902 and 1905. The chief sanitary officer for the canal construction hypothesized that diseases were spread by the abundance of mosquitos native to the area, and ordered the fumigation of homes and the cleansing of water. This led to yellow fever being eradicated by November 1905, as well malaria rates falling dramatically In 1907 President Theodore Roosevelt appointed U.S. Army Major George Washington Goethals of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (soon to be promoted to lieutenant colonel and later to colonel) as chief Engineer. Goethals would direct the work in Panama to a successful conclusion. The building of the canal was completed in 1914, 401 years after Panama was first crossed by Vasco Núñez de Balboa. The United States spent almost $375,000,000 (roughly equivalent to $8,600,000,000 now) to finish the project. This was by far the largest American engineering project of that or any previous era. The canal was formally opened on August 15, 1914, with the passage of the cargo ship SS Ancon. The opening of Panama Canal in 1914 caused a severe drop in traffic along Chilean ports due to shifts in the maritime trade routes.

Panama's old quarter (or Casco Viejo, Panama) features many architectural styles, from Spanish colonial buildings to French and Antillean townhouses built during the construction of the Panama Canal.

The flag of Panama was made by María de la Ossa de Amador and was officially adopted by the "ley 48 de 1925"; the Panamanian flag day is celebrated on November 4, one day after Panamanian independence from Colombia. The Panamanian government officially described the flag in Law 15 of December 1949, as follows: The Flag of the Republic consists thus of a divided rectangle of four quarters: the upper field close to the pole white with a blue star of five points; the upper field further from the pole, red; the lower field near the pole, blue; and the lower one further from the pole, white with a red star of five points.

This flag was to reflect the political situation of the time. The blue was intended to represent the Conservative Party and the red to represent the Liberal Party. The white was intended to stand for peace and purity; the blue star stands for the purity and honesty of the life of the country; the red star represents the authority and law in the country; and together the stars stand for the new republic.

During World War II, construction of military bases and the presence of larger numbers of U.S. military and civilian personnel brought about unprecedented levels of prosperity to the city.

From 1903 until 1968, Panama was a republic dominated by a commercially-oriented oligarchy. During the 1950s, the Panamanian military began to challenge the oligarchy's political hegemony. The January 9, 1964 Martyrs' Day riots escalated tensions between the country and the U.S. government over its long-term occupation of the Canal Zone. Twenty rioters were killed, and 500 other Panamanians were wounded.

In October 1968, Dr. Arnulfo Arias Madrid, elected president for the third time and twice ousted by the Panamanian military, was again ousted (for the third time) as president by the National Guard after only 10 days in office. A military junta government was established, and the commander of the National Guard, Brig. Gen. Omar Torrijos, emerged as the principal power in Panamanian political life. Torrijos' regime was harsh and corrupt, and had to confront the mistrust of the people and guerrillas backing the populist Arnulfo Arias. Torrijos was regarded by his supporters as the first Panamanian leader to represent the majority population of Panama, which is poor, Spanish-speaking, and of mixed heritage– as opposed to the light-skinned social elite, often referred to as rabiblancos ("white-tails"), who had long dominated the commerce and political life of Panama. He opened many schools and created new job opportunities for those less fortunate.

On September 7, 1977, the Torrijos–Carter Treaties were signed by the Panamanian head of state Omar Torrijos and US President Jimmy Carter for the complete transfer of the Canal and the 14 US army bases from the US to Panama by 1999 apart from granting the U.S. a perpetual right of military intervention.. The treaty came into force on 31 December 1999, since then the canal has been run by the Panama Canal Authority or the Autoridad de Canal de Panama, the ACP. Certain portions of the Zone and increasing responsibility over the Canal were turned over in the intervening years.

Torrijos died in a mysterious plane crash on August 1, 1981. The circumstances of his death generated charges and speculation that he was the victim of an assassination plot. By this time, Gen. Manuel Noriega was firmly in control of both the PDF ( Panama Defense Forces) and the civilian government, and had created the Dignity Battalions to help suppress opposition. The documents with the investigations about the cause of the accident went missing during the U.S. invasion of Panama on December 20, 1989 and have never been found.

Torrijos died shortly after the inauguration of US President Ronald Reagan, just two months after Ecuadorian president Jaime Roldós died in strikingly similar circumstances. Like other Republicans when the canal treaty came before the U.S. Senate, Reagan alleged that Democratic U.S. president Jimmy Carter had "given away" a U.S. asset—the Panama Canal and the Canal Zone. In the 1976 Republican primaries, Reagan claimed regarding the canal: "We built it, we paid for it, it's ours, and we should tell Torrijos and company that we are going to keep it."

Despite undercover collaboration with Ronald Reagan on his Contra war in Nicaragua (including the infamous Iran-Contra Affair), which had planes flying arms as well as drugs, relations between the United States and the Panama regime worsened in the 1980s.

The United States froze economic and military assistance to Panama in the summer of 1987 in response to the domestic political crisis and an attack on the U.S. embassy. General Noriega's February 1988 indictment in U.S. courts on drug-trafficking charges sharpened tensions. In April 1988, President Reagan invoked the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, freezing Panamanian Government assets in U.S. banks, withholding fees for using the canal, and prohibiting payments by American agencies, firms, and individuals to the Noriega regime. The country went into turmoil. When national elections were held in May 1989, the elections were marred by accusations of fraud from both sides. A PRD-led coalition nominated Carlos Duque, publisher of the country's oldest newspaper, La Estrella de Panamá. Most of the other political parties banded behind a unified ticket of Guillermo Endara, a member of Authentic Panameñista Party, along with vice-presidential candidates Ricardo Arias Calderón (no relation to Arnulfo Arias) and Guillermo Ford.  When Guillermo Endara won the Presidential elections held in May 1989, the Noriega regime annulled the election, citing massive US interference. Foreign election observers, including the Catholic Church and Jimmy Carter certified the electoral victory of Endara despite widespread attempts at fraud by the regime. In May 10 1989, Endara, Arias Calderón, and Ford rolled through the old part of the capital in a triumphant motorcade, only to be intercepted by a detachment of Noriega's paramilitary Dignity Battalions. Arias Calderón was protected by a couple of troops, but Endara and Ford were badly beaten. Images of Ford running to safety with his guayabera shirt covered in blood were broadcast around the world.

Attack on Guillermo Ford
On December 20, 1989 the United States troops commenced an invasion of Panama.   Losses on the U.S. side were 23 troops and 3 civilian casualties, while Panamanian losses were 150 troops and 500 civilian casualties. Among the victims was a the 31-year-old Spanish photographer, Juan Antonio Rodriguez Moreno, who was was caught in crossfire and shot outside the Marriott Hotel in Panama City early on Dec. 21.

Invasion of Panama
On the fifth day of the invasion, Noriega and four others took sanctuary in the Apostolic Nunciature, the Holy See's embassy in Panama. Having threatened to flee to the countryside and lead guerrilla warfare if not given refuge, he instead turned over the majority of his weapons, and requested sanctuary from Monsignor Laboa. He spent his time in a "stark" room with no air conditioning or television, reading the Bible for the duration of his stay. Prevented by treaty from invading the embassy of the Holy See, U.S. soldiers erected a perimeter around the Nunciature. Psychological warfare was used in an attempt to dislodge him, including blaring rock music, and turning a nearby field into a helicopter landing zone. Reportedly the song "I Fought The Law" by The Clash was played repeatedly along with "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N' Roses; another song in the line-up was "Too Old To Rock 'n' Roll: Too Young to Die" by Jethro Tull. After ten days of demoralization, Monsignor Jose Sebastian Laboa told Noriega that he had no choice but to surrender to the American soldiers at the front gate.

The combatants withdrawal began on December 27. The US was obligated to hand control of the Panama Canal her to Panama on January 1 due to a treaty signed decades before. Endara was sworn in as President at a U.S. military base on the day of the invasion.  After ten days of Operation Nifty Package, Noriega surrendered on January 3, 1990. He was detained as a prisoner of war, and later taken to the United States. General Manuel Noriega is now serving a 40-year sentence for drug trafficking.

President Endara took office as the head of a four-party minority government, pledging to foster Panama's economic recovery, transform the Panamanian military into a police force under civilian control, and strengthen democratic institutions. During its 5-year term, the Endara government struggled to meet the public's high expectations.

Ernesto Pérez Balladares was sworn in as President on September 1, 1994, after an internationally monitored election campaign.On May 2, 1999, Mireya Moscoso, the widow of former President Arnulfo Arias Madrid, defeated PRD candidate Martín Torrijos, son of the late dictator. The elections were considered free and fair. Moscoso took office on September 1, 1999.

In 2004, Martín Torrijos junior again ran for president but this time won handily.

In October 2006, Panamanians approved an ambitious plan (estimated to cost $5.3 billion) to expand the Canal. The Panama Canal expansion project, also called the Third Set of Locks Project, doubled the capacity of the Panama Canal by adding a new lane of traffic allowing for a larger number of ships, and increasing the width and depth of the lanes and locks allowing larger ships to pass. The new larger size of ships, called New Panamax, are about one and a half times the previous Panamax size and can carry over twice as much cargo. The expanded canal began commercial operation on 26 June 2016.

The more modern areas of Panama city have many high-rise buildings, which together form a very dense skyline. There are more than 110 high-rise projects under construction, with 127 already built. The city holds the 45th place in the world by high-rise buildings count.

The Trump International Hotel & Tower is the tallest building in Panama City. Its similar style to the Burj Al Arab, a hotel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, has been noticed, and court proceedings over the similarities took place

Despite Panama's upper-middle per capita GDP, it remains a country of stark contrasts. Perpetuated by dramatic educational disparities, over 25% of Panama's population lived in national poverty in 2013.

Since the early 20th century, Panama has gained a reputation worldwide for being a tax haven. In 2016, the release of the Panama Papers caused a huge global financial scandal: On 3 April 2016, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) announced that 11.5 million confidential documents from the Panamanian firm Mossack Fonseca had been leaked to them. These documents, dubbed the "Panama Papers", reveal how clients hid billions of dollars in tax havens.Comprising documents dating from the 1970s to the present, the 2.6 terabytes of data was given to SZ in 2015 by an anonymous source. Because of the amount of data, SZ enlisted the help of the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

The Darien Gap

The Darién Gap is a notorious and vast tract of virtually impenetrable mountains jungle populated largely by guerrillas and drug traffickers with a healthy sideline in kidnapping (on the Colombian side at least). It’s also the site of the last remaining gap in the Pan-American Highway, there are no roads  connecting Colombia and Panama. The Darién Gap is subject to the presence and activities of the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which has committed assassinations, kidnappings, and human rights violations during its decades-long insurgency against the Colombian government. FARC rebels are present on both the Colombian and Panamanian sides of the border.In 2000, two British travelers, Tom Hart Dyke and Paul Winder, were kidnapped by suspected FARC guerillas in the Darién Gap while hunting for rare orchids, a plant for which Dyke has a particular passion. The two were held captive for nine months and threatened with death before eventually being released unharmed and without a ransom being paid.

Darien gap
The Darién Gap (Spanish: Región del Darién or Tapón del Darién) is a break in the Pan-American Highway

The Darien National Park can be found at the Darien gap. It is situated on the border between South and Central America and consists of a wide range of habitats including sandy and rocky coastlines, mangroves, swamps, upland and lowland tropical forests. Two Indian tribes, the Chocó and the Kuna live in the property. The Chocó do not intermarry with other Panamanians and Colombians. Their land is community owned and community farmed and everyone in the village pitches in to work at harvest time. If one hunter gets a larger animal, such as a peccary or a tapir (macho de monte), everybody in the village shares the meat. Bercelio Moya, a member of the tribe, portrayed the Indian Boy who always followed De Niro's character in The Mission, and Columbus' translator Utapan in Conquest of Paradise.

Some famous people from Panama:

John McCain (born 1936) is an American politician who currently serves as the senior United States Senator from Arizona. He was the Republican candidate for the 2008 U.S. presidential election. McCain followed his father and grandfather, both four-star admirals, into the United States Navy, graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1958. He became a naval aviator, flying ground-attack aircraft from aircraft carriers. During the Vietnam War, he was almost killed in the 1967 USS Forrestal fire. In October 1967, while on a bombing mission over Hanoi, he was shot down, seriously injured, and captured by the North Vietnamese. He was a prisoner of war until 1973. McCain experienced episodes of torture, and refused an out-of-sequence early repatriation offer. His war wounds have left him with lifelong physical limitations. John McCain was born on August 29, 1936, at Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone.

Miguel Bosé (born 1956): Bosé was born in San Fernando Hospital in Panama City, Panama, the son of Italian actress Lucia Bosè (real name Lucia Borloni) and bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguín. He is also a cousin of Carmen Ordóñez. He grew up in an environment surrounded by art and culture. Close friends of his family were Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway. His godfather was Luchino Visconti and Pablo Picasso was the godfather of his sister Paola Dominguin. In 1983, 1984, and 1985, he participated in the "Llena Tu Cabeza De Rock" television specials on Puerto Rico WAPA-TV. But it was in 1985 that he became an international superstar, when his song "Amante bandido" rose to the top of the charts all over Latin America and in Spain, while he started to decline in Italy (where he had a parallel career, singing in both Italian and English – he would go back to the top there in 1994, by winning Festivalbar (the second musical event after the Sanremo Music Festival) for the third time). The video to that song also became one of the most widely seen Spanish music videos, with Bose playing both a Superman style superhero and an Indiana Jones type of adventurer in it.

Ursula Burns (born in 1958): Burns was raised by a single mother in the Baruch Houses, a New York city housing project.  Both of her parents were Panamanian immigrants. She attended Cathedral High School (New York City), a Catholic all-girls school on East 56th Street in New York. She went on to obtain a bachelor of science degree in Mechanical Engineering from New York University Tandon School of Engineering (then Brooklyn Polytechnic) in 1980 and a master of science in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University a year later. She serves as Chairman (since May 2010) of Xerox and was the CEO of the company from July 2009 to December 2016. As such, she was the first black-American woman CEO to head a Fortune 500 company. She is also the first woman to succeed another woman as head of a Fortune 500 company, having succeeded Anne Mulcahy as CEO of Xerox. In 2014, Forbes rated her the 22nd most powerful woman in the world.

Jorge Gabriel Cham (born in 1976) is a Chinese Panamanian cartoonist and roboticist best known for his popular newspaper and web comic strip Piled Higher and Deeper (PhD Comics). Cham lives in the United States, where he started drawing PhD Comics as a graduate student at Stanford University. He has since been syndicated in several university newspapers and in four published book collections.

No comments:

Post a Comment