History of Panama

Brief history of Panama summarized

A brief tour of the summarized history of Panama, a country in Central America.

Panama in its beginnings

The first human beings lived in Panama around the year 11,000 BC. By 2500 BC they had learned to make pottery, and later people from the region traded with others as far north as Mexico and as far south as Peru.

The first European to land in Panama was a Spaniard named Rodrigo Galván de Bastidas in 1501. The first Spanish settlement in Panama was in 1510. On September 25, 1513, Vasco Núñez de Balboa became the first European to see the Pacific Ocean (which he called the South Sea and which he claimed for Spain).

Then, in 1519, Pedro Arias de Ávila founded Panama City. Meanwhile, the indigenous people were decimated by European diseases, to which they had no resistance. The survivors were enslaved. The Spanish introduced a kind of feudal system in which the indigenous people were forced to work on the farms.

When Pizarro conquered the Incas in 1533 Panama became a transit point for gold on its way from Peru to Spain. The precious metal was carried overland by mule from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic coast.

However, the great riches of the area attracted the attention of the English. In 1572 Francis Drake raided Nombre de Dios. In 1671 a Welshman named Henry Morgan burned Panama City. It was rebuilt in a new place several kilometers away in 1673. Finally in 1746 the treasure route was changed. From that moment it was carried by sea around Cape Horn.

Panama in the 19th century

Panama became independent from Spain on November 28, 1821. At first Panama was part of a super state called Gran Colombia, which consisted of Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Venezuela. However, Gran Colombia was soon dissolved, but Panama remained attached to Colombia.

In 1846 the United States negotiated a treaty to build railroads in Panama. A new railroad across the Isthmus was completed in 1855. The French made the first attempt to dig a canal through Panama. Work began in 1881, but the company went bankrupt in 1889.

In 1899-1902 a civil war was fought in Colombia (which included Panama). It was called The War of a Thousand Days.

Panama in the 20th century

On November 3, 1903, Panama became independent from Colombia, encouraged by the United States. President Theodore Roosevelt was eager to dig a canal through Panama. The United States signed a treaty with Panama that gives them sovereign rights over the canal zone. Work on the canal began in 1904.

A huge force of migrant workers from different countries were brought to Panama to work on the canal and many of them died of diseases such as yellow fever. The workers included Native Americans, Indians, and Chinese.

However, on January 7, 1914, the first ship sailed through the Panama Canal. The Panama Canal was officially opened by President Woodrow Wilson on July 12, 1920.

Later Panama was an oligarchy, ruled by a number of wealthy families.

In 1936 a new treaty was signed between the US and Panama, but resentment over US rights to the canal zone grew. Finally, on January 9, 1964, the students rioted in Panama. Twenty people died in the riots. (January 9 is now the day of the martyrs in Panama.)

Then, in 1968, an army coup toppled the elected president, Arnulfo Arias. Later General Omar Torrijos became leader of Panama. In 1977 he managed to persuade the President of the United States Carter to sign a treaty that would give Panama full control of the canal by December 31, 1999.

Torrijos died in a plane crash in 1981. In 1983 he was replaced by Manuel Noriega. Noriega introduced a repressive regime. However, relations with the United States deteriorated. In 1987 the US began to apply economic sanctions.

Then, in 1988, Noriega was indicted on drug charges in the United States. In 1989 presidential elections were held in Panama and were won by Guillermo Endara. However, Noriega simply annulled the election results.

Finally, on December 20, 1989, the United States invaded Panama. They bombed Panama City. However, on December 25, 1989, Noriega took refuge in the Vatican embassy. He was captured in January 1990.

Meanwhile, Guillermo Endara, winner of the 1989 elections, was named president of Panama. In 1994 he was replaced by Ernesto Pérez Balladares. Then, in 1999, Mireya Moscoso became the first female president of Panama. Also in 1999 the Panama Canal was handed over to Panama.

Panama today

In 2004 Martín Torrijos in 2004 became president. Then, in 2009, Ricardo Martinelli became the president of Panama. Between 2007 and 2016 a new project expanded the Panama Canal.

Today Panama is a rapidly developing country and there are reasons to be optimistic about its future. Today the population of Panama is 4.1 million inhabitants. The population of Panama City is 880,000 inhabitants.

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