Our History

Know about our beautiful country

History of Panamá

In 1501, Rodrigo de Bastidas was the first European to explore the Isthmus of Panama sailing along the eastern coast. A year later Christopher Columbus on his fourth voyage, sailing south and eastward from upper Central America, explored Bocas del Toro, Veragua, the Chagres River and Porobello (Beautiful Port) which he named. Soon Spanish expeditions would converge upon Tierra Firma (also Tierra Firme, Spanish from the Latin terra firma, "dry land" or "mainland") which served in Spanish colonial times as the name for the Isthmus of Panama.

In 1509, authority was granted to Alonso de Ojeda and Diego de Nicuesa to colonize the territories between the west side of the Gulf of Uraba to Cabo Gracias a Dios in present-day Honduras. The idea was to create an early unitary administrative organization similar to what later became Nueva España (now Mexico). Tierra Firme later received control over other territories: the Isla de Santiago (now Jamaica) the Cayman Islands; Roncador, Quitasueño, and Providencia and other islands now under Colombian control.

In September 1510, the first permanent European settlement, Santa María la Antigua del Darién on the Americas mainland was founded. Vasco Nuñez de Balboa and Martín Fernández de Enciso agreed on the site near the mouth of the Tarena River on the Atlantic. Balboa maneuvered and was appointed Mayor on the first official cabildo abierto (municipal council) held on the mainland.

On August 28, 1513, the Santa María de La Antigua del Darién mission was erected with Fray Juan de Quevedo as the first Catholic Bishop in the continental Americas.

On September 25, 1513 the Balboa expedition verified claims by indigenous people 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 'fantastic descriptions' of the isthmus by Balboa, as well as by Columbus and other explorers, impressed Ferdinand II of Aragon and Castilla, who named the territory 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, 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.

Governor Pedrarias sent Gil González Dávila to explore northward, and in 1524 Francisco Hernández de Córdoba to settle that region (present day Nicaragua). Pedrarias was a party to the agreement authorizing the expedition by conquistadors Francisco Pizarro and Diego de Almagro that brought the European discovery and conquest of the Inca Empire (present day Peru).

In 1526, Pedrarias was superseded as Governor of Panama by Pedro de los Ríos, and retired to León in Nicaragua, where he was named its new governor on July 1, 1527. Here he died on March 6, 1531, aged 63.

Panama was part of the Spanish Empire for over 300 years (1513–1821) and its fate changed with the geopolitical importance of the isthmus to the Spanish crown. In the 16th and 17th centuries, at the height of the Empire, no other region would prove of more strategic and economic importance.

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 “Porobello”) 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.

Explorations and conquest expeditions launched from Panama claimed new lands and riches from Central and South America. Other explorations sought a natural waterway between the Atlantic and the South Sea with the hope of reaching the Molucas (Spice Islands—Maluku Islands) and Cathay (China).

In 1538, the Audiencia Real de Panama, Royal Audiencia of Panama, was established, initially with jurisdiction from Nicaragua to Cape Horn. An Audiencia Real (royal audiency) was a judicial district that functioned as an appellate court. Each audiencia had oidores (a hearer, a judge).

Strategically located on the Pacific coast, Panama City was relatively free of the permanent menace of pirates that roamed the Atlantic coast for over one and a half century, until it was destroyed by a devastating fire, when the pirate Henry Morgan sacked it on January 28, 1671. It was rebuilt and formally established on January 21, 1673, in a peninsula located 8 km from the original settlement, currently known as "Casco Antiguo” or “Casco Viejo”. The ruins of the original city are a tourist attraction known as "Old Panama".

Our Flag

The flag of Panama was officially adopted on November 3, 1903. The flag was modeled after the USA flag, however, the colored stars are said to represent...

Our Coat of Arms

The Panamanian coat of arms is a heraldic symbol for Panama. The same laws that adopted the Panamanian flag adopted these arms provisionally...

important holidays 2017

Date Celebration
1 Jan New Year's Day
2 Jan New Year's Holiday
9 Jan Mourning Day (Marthyr Day)
28 Feb Carnival Day
14 Mar Good Friday
1 May Labor Day
3 Nov Independence Day from Colombia
4 Nov The Patriotic Symbols
5 Nov Colon's Day (Colon Only)
10 Nov The Uprising of Los Santos
28 Nov Independence Day from Spain
8 Dec Mother's Day
25 Dec Christmas Day