The Kalu Yala Blog

Panama’s Independence Days

November 22, 2010

by Lori Rubin
Posted In: The Creation of a Culture, Voices of Kalu Yala, Wandering Thoughts

For those who might not yet be familiar with Kalu Yala’s approach to sustainability, we don’t mean  sustainability as solely an environmental concept.  We believe that sustainability encompasses more than just environmental soundness to include social soundness.

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An oversized Panamanian flag flying on Ancon Hill, which overlooks Panama City, photo courtesy of wikimedia.org

Kalu Yala is a place for the whole world that is – and must be – simultaneously intimately local.  We are proud that Kalu Yala is growing on Panamanian soil.

Thus, as designers of Kalu Yala, we recognize that celebrations of Panama’s history and independence are as part of Kalu Yala as any other land in Panama.  And November is a great month to think about that – it’s jam-packed with holidays celebrating Panama’s independence.  There are five November holidays spread throughout the month – and even some Panamanians have trouble keeping straight which holiday commemorates which event.

November 3: Separation Day

On November 3rd, Panama celebrates its separation from Colombia.

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The first flag of Gran Colombia, image courtesy of wiki.org

From 1821 until 1903, Panama was part of Gran Colombia (a short-lived republic that also included modern-day Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador).  However, Panama wanted independence from Gran Colombia.  In the mid-1800s, Panama tried and failed three times to separate from Colombia.  Moreover, from 1899-1902, a Colombian civil war broke out between conservatives and liberals, with the defeated liberal leaders later identified as the founding fathers of Panama.

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Construction of the Panama Canal, photo courtesy of usace.army.mil

Meanwhile, the French government began efforts to construct a canal across Panama.  After the French miserably failing, the United States bought out French efforts, but soon found itself clashing with the  Colombia government over payment and control of the canal.  In order to secure its right to the canal, the United States (under Theodore Roosevelt) backed a Panamanian independence movement led by prominent Panamanians.  With the support of the United States, Panama declared its independence on November 3, 1903.

The revolution was a peaceful affair and was over by November 6.  When Colombian forces landed in Panama to quell the independence movement, one Panamanian railroad official convinced the officers to ride ahead in a train to Panama City.  When the Colombian officers arrived in Panama City, they found themselves taken prisoner by Panama-based Colombian soldiers who had been paid off by revolutionaries.

November 4: Flag Day

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Official Flag of the Republic of Panama

Panamanians celebrate flag day every November 4th, the day after Panama declared its independence.  On November 1, 1903, Maria Ossa de Amador secretly began making the first Panamanian flag.  She constructed three flags based on three different designs, one of which was later adopted as the official flag of Panama.  All three flags were flown on November 3, 1903, when Panama declared its independence.

The Panamanian flag symbolizes the political situation at independence – the blue represents the Conservative Party, the red represents the Liberal party, and the white represents purity and peace.

November 5: Colon Day

November 5th is Panama’s version of Columbus Day.  It commemorates Christopher Columbus’s (Cristóbal Colón’s) arrival to the Americas.

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Approximation of Colombus' Fourth Voyage, image courtesy of www.bruceruiz.net

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Depiction of Christopher Columbus, image courtesy of monologos.com

November 10: Primer Grito de Independencia de la Villa de los Santos

Beginning with the Spanish conquest in the early sixteenth century and into the nineteenth century,  Panama was an important colony for the Spanish Empire.  Perhaps most important to the Spanish was Panama City, which was an important port for all of the treasures and resources that the Spanish plundered from Latin America.

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Depiction of Simon Bolivar, image courtesy of vheadline.com

On November 10th, Panama remembers its Primer Grito de Independencia – its first cry for independence from Spain.  On November 10, 1821, villagers in the small town of la Villa de Los Santos wrote a letter to Simon Bolivar.  The letter complained about the Spanish governor and asked Bolivar for revolutionary assistance.

Simon Bolivar was an important revolutionary hero throughout Latin America and was the President of Gran Colombia from 1819 to 1830.

November 28: Independence Day

On November 28th, Panamanians celebrate their independence from Spain.  On November 28, 1821, eighteen days after Primer Grito de Independencia, Panamanians took the first step towards this sought-after independence.  A meeting was held in Panama City and it was decided that Panama would cut off ties to the declining Spanish empire and join Gran Colombia.

*Reference: Friar, William.  Panama, Moon Handbooks, Avalon Travel (California: 2008).

One Response to “Panama’s Independence Days”

  1. Hello!

    Please, be so kind and make a brief correction on the name of Panamanian flag designer.

    Manuel E. Amador T. was de designer of it. Maria De la Ossa de Amador, his adoptive mother, buy the fabrics and with her sister-in-law Angelia B. de De la Ossa, did the first pair of flags, 2.25m long each one. Flag was adopted on November 3 1903 at night, and was “christianized, baptized” on December 20 same year.

    From 2012 to future, November 1 was sellected to commemorate Flag, Anthem and Coat of Arms.

    Thank your very much