Panama History Part 1

By | November 22, 2021

As a country located in Central America according to, the Isthmus of Panama was visited for the first time by the Spanish conquerors during the expedition of the Triana scribe, Rodrigo de Bastidas, in 1501. Bastidas sailed the Caribbean coast of the current province of Colón and the islands of the archipelago of the Comarca de San Blas. Due to the poor condition of his ships, Bastidas suspended his expedition and returned to Spain.

The October of October of 1502, on his fourth voyage, Christopher Columbus reached the Atlantic coast of the isthmus, in the provinces of Bocas de Toro and Veraguas. On November 2, he reached a beautiful bay in the current province of Colón, which he baptized as the name of Portobelo or Puerto Bello. He came into conflict with Cacique Quibián, Lord of Veragua, when from January 6, 1503 he entered the river that he called Belén, and settled on its western bank. The natives tried to divert him to the gold extraction of rival caciques, and later they debated in bloody battles until the Hispanic expulsion.

Due to its geography, Panama occupies a strategic position. That was key for all the countries to which it belonged during its history. Its slender silhouette measures only 80 kilometers in its narrowest areas, making this land the ideal figure to unite two oceans. This factor was of great interest to Spain, which from the beginning of the 16th century turned the country into a crossroads between the seas and an important commercial center within its empire.

Spain transported its wealth by boat to the port of Portobelo in the province of Colón. From there, mules and cayucos loaded the merchandise across the isthmus to Panama City to distribute to their colonies in America.

This concentration of wealth attracted English pirates and corsairs such as Francis Drake, who ravaged Portobelo in 1596 and Henry Morgan who set fire to and sacked the first Panama City in 1671. It was transferred to the current Old Town of the capital, becoming a focus of development for the future republic.


Motivated by the airs of freedom in its neighboring countries, Panama became independent from Spain in November 1821. The matter was not surprising since his communication with Spain had deteriorated. However, the independence process was so peaceful that Simón Bolívar himself commemorated it. After independence from Spain, Panama voluntarily joined Gran Colombia, Bolívar’s dream. That new nation was made up of Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador.

At first, this historic union greatly benefited the country, giving way to a new vision of Latin American leaders who promoted great regional development. At this time, the United States was granted authorization to build the first trans-isthmian railroad.

Separation from Greater Colombia

In 1830 the First Separation of Panama from Colombia takes place. Gran Colombia was going through political chaos because Venezuela and Ecuador made the decision to separate from the confederation, Sucre had been assassinated and Bolívar was out of government. General José Domingo Espinar, Military Commander of the Isthmus, declared the separation of Panama on September 26, 1830, not agreeing with the instability of the government of Joaquín Mosquera, Bolívar’s successor. Espinar offers Bolívar the government of the Isthmus, to fight for the adhesion of the other countries of the confederation, however Bolívar was ill and declined the offer, asking Espinar to reintegrate the Isthmus back to Gran Colombia. Panama was reinstated to the confederation November to December of 1830, demonstrating the possibility of an independent nation of Gran Colombia.

After 17 attempts to separate and 4 declared separations with a subsequent reinstatement of the union with Colombia, the failure of the construction of the canal by the French, the Thousand Day War transferred to Panamanian territory, the execution of the Victorian liberal caudillo Lorenzo, the rejection of the Colombian Senate of the Herrán-Hay Treaty for the construction of the interoceanic canal by the United States serves as a trigger for a new separatist movement led by José Agustín Arango, Dr. Manuel Amador Guerrero, Federico Boyd, Tomás Arias and Manuel Espinosa.

The afternoon of the 3 of November of 1903 the City Council of the City of Panama presided over by Demetrio H. Brid met under the will of the people to be free and to establish a separate, independent, and sovereign government without the subordination of Colombia, under the name of the Republic of Panama, a decision that immediately found support in the rest of the country. However, the Colombian government did not immediately recognize Panama as an independent nation. In order to solve the existing tense situation, the Panamanian government twice sent a diplomat to the city of Bogotá, but on both occasions that nation rejected the offer.

The 30 of March of 1922, the Congress of the United States ratified the Thomson-Urrutia Treaty, which granted Colombia compensation for 25 million dollars, for the purpose of “eliminate all the disagreements produced by the political events that occurred in Panama in 1903 ” , in addition to granting Colombia the right to free transit through the Canal for warships and troops. As a result of this treaty, the exchange of Ambassadors, Nicolás Victoria Jaén for Panama and Guillermo Valencia for Colombia, which marks the beginning of diplomatic relations and the recognition of both countries.

It is not until the 8 of maypole of 1924 that Colombia, on the initiative of the government of the United States, this country recognizes as an independent nation. The 20 of August of 1924, signed in Bogotá the Victoria-Velez Treaty, which established the current borders between the two countries, which was taken as reference Colombian law of the 9 of June of 1855.

Panama History 1