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Panama’s Double Independence

Undoubtedly, one of the historical milestones of Panama was when it became an independent country. This is mainly because it was not an easy process and there were several countries involved. The main intention of this

Panama's Double Independence

Undoubtedly, one of the historical milestones of Panama was when it became an independent country. This is mainly because it was not an easy process and there were several countries involved.

The main intention of this article is to summarize the process of gaining independence that Panama underwent in 1821 and 1903, and how they formed the modern culture of this beautiful Central American country.

Independence from Spain

Panama was “discovered” by Spain, on direct orders from the Spanish Monarchy, who plundered the riches of the native peoples and decided to proclaim these lands as their own.

After several years of reliance and control by the Spanish empire, Panama joined the independence processes that were thriving throughout the American continent.

Panamanian historians explain that this movement began with the “Grito de la Villa de Los Santos” on November 10th, 1821. On this historical event, Colonel Segundo Villareal proclaimed an independence proposal, that was supported by the towns of Natá de los Caballeros, Penonomé, Ocú and Parita. Subsequently, Colonel José de Fábrega continued this independence campaign and thus, without bloodshed, the Independence of Panama from Spain was finally proclaimed on November 28, 1821.

But, which were the main triggers of seeking independence? Part of the political reasons that motivated the Panamanian people to seek their freedom were the commercial restrictions imposed by the Spanish monarchy, the French Revolution (1789-1804), the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789), the independence of the United States (1776), and the rise of independence leaders such as Simón Bolivar and José de San Martín.

Panama's Double Independence

Separation from Greater Colombia

After the independence from Spain, the Panamanian territory decided to join the Greater Colombia (Gran Colombia in Spanish), mainly because many of its leaders shared and supported the ideas of the Bolivarian cause.

This cause or movement corresponds to a political agenda that takes its name from Simón Bolivar, who sought Hispanic-American unity and freedom. Bolivar believed that in order to achieve the definitive independence of the American continent, it was necessary to create a large and strong republic that could challenge the interests of any imperial power. To this end, he devised a project of regional union or the creation of a country that would go from Mexico (and even some U.S. states such as Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado) to Chile, in order to create Greater Colombia in accordance with Simón Bolivar’s phrase “one single country must be the homeland of all Americans”.

It is important to mention that although the Panamanian leaders decided to join Greater Colombia, they also decided to make it clear that they would have economic autonomy, since Panama believed in free market, mercantilism and international trade, while Greater Colombia was founded with a highly centralized and controlled economy.

After countless attempts to separate by its member states, Greater Colombia was dissolved in 1830 and Panama was annexed to the Republic of New Granada, which for all purposes of political and territorial organization, would become the current Republic of Colombia.

On November 3, 1903, as a consequence of internal conflicts and the intervention of the United States, due to its interests in the Panama Canal, Panama separated from Greater Colombia and assumed its role as an independent Republic (or relatively independent, since it would still be subject of control from to the U.S.).

For Panama, the independence was promoted by the political class who already identified with nationalist and liberalist ideas. For Colombia, Panama’s separation was orchestrated by the United States and it represented a direct attack with the purpose of appropriating the Canal.

A Month of Celebrations

Since these historical events took place in the month of November, for Panamanians this month becomes one of their favorites. It commemorates one of the most awaited festivities of the year, where the Panama remembers its fight for independence from Spain, the separation from Colombia, the “Grito de Independencia” and what it means to be a free country in the 21st century.

Beginning at dawn on November 3rd, the celebration begins with music played by Panamanian State bands. This music has evolved over time by adapting to the times with new instruments and mixing military marches with folkloric and popular tunes.

However, one instrument that is always included is the clarinet, as this was the first to announce the separation from Colombia. All the bands delight people by playing in the streets of different localities, during the parades organized by the students.

The Panamanian ancestors would be very proud of the independent country they built and fought for. Panama has become a global benchmark of cultural diversity, commerce, progress and development.

Panama is a great option to move, invest, and live. At Outlier Legal Services we know that, and that is why we are more than prepared to assist you with your immigration, business and real estate needs. Feel free to contact us.

Happy Independence Month, Panama!



She serves as an Senior Immigration Client Services Coordinator at Outlier Legal and has a degree in Political Science and is currently a Law student. María José Chavarría worked in the Visa Unit and the Immigration Management at DGME, as a consultant at the International Organization for Migration and as an observer for the TSE in the municipal elections. Dedicated and helpful are some adjectives that fit her perfectly.

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