The colonial period
According to localcollegeexplorer, the Isthmus of Panama was conquered by the Spaniards between 1502 and 1513: first called Castilla de Oro, from 1514 it was united with the Colombian region and from 1542 it entered the viceroyalty of Peru. In the 18th century, with Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador, it was part of the viceroyalty of Nueva Granata (1717-23; 1739). The isthmus was a gathering place for slaves from Africa, brought by the Spaniards as labor for the cultivation of bananas and for the exploitation of the subsoil; the strategic position for trade between Spain and South America favored the economic life of the colony until the mid-18th century; then the pirate attacks and the exhaustion of mineral resources caused a temporary decline.
In the 19th century, with the growing British commercial activity in the region and the US interest in an interoceanic passage, the isthmus regained an important role. After independence from Spain (1819-22), the República de la Gran Colombia was established; Panama remained united with Colombia until 1903, when with the Hay-Herran treaty with Colombia, the USA undertook to build the transoceanic canal, obtaining, along the latter, the rent for 100 years of a wide strip of land 6 miles. The Colombian Parliament’s refusal to ratify the agreement was at the origin of the Panamanian revolt that resulted in the independence of the country (November 3, 1903).
The first act of the new state was the granting of a territory to the USA to build and manage the canal (completed in 1914); this concession also legitimized the US military presence within the canal area. The issue of relations with the US continued to be controversial and to dominate Panamanian politics.
During the 1940s, the struggle for power within the conservative oligarchy that ruled the country caused great instability: in 1941 a coup d’état deposed the pro-fascist president A. Arias Madrid, who was succeeded by A. de la Guardia, who in 1942 it granted several military bases to the United States. In 1949 Arias Madrid returned to power through a coup, but in 1950 he was deposed and banned from the political life of the country. Under the leadership of the new president JA Remón, a moderately reformist policy was initiated. Starting from 1961 Panama made several requests for a revision of the 1903 treaty.
The elections of May 1968 brought Arias Madrid back to power, but after a few months it was overthrown by a coup d’état led by the commander of the National Guard O. Torrijos Herrera. A progressive man and a proponent of non-alignment, Torrijos Herrera initiated a series of social reforms, backed by strong popular consensus. The period of unrest following his death (1981) was interrupted by the rise to power of MA Noriega Morena, president since 1988 and in line with Torrijos’ policy. His sympathies for the Sandinista government and the Salvadoran Marxist guerrillas, combined with accusations of personal involvement in arms and drug trafficking, led the US to decree the economic embargo against Panama (1989) and, later, the its invasion. Captured Noriega (1989), his seat in the presidency was occupied by the opposition leader G. Endara Galimany. Lasting until February 1990, the US invasion caused massive economic damage. In the following years, the persistence of economic difficulties and the social costs of the privatization policy and cuts in public spending fueled strong popular discontent, until the 1994 elections brought E. Pérez Balladares, of the Partido revolucionario democrático, to the presidency.
On the international level, in the second half of the 1990s Panama increased his relations, especially economic ones, with some countries of the northern Pacific area, while relations with neighboring Colombia experienced a progressive worsening following his entry into the Darién region. of thousands of Colombian refugees, including numerous left-wing guerrillas and members of right-wing paramilitary forces, responsible for serious episodes of violence. However, relations with the USA remained a priority, especially due to the problems connected with restoring full control of the Canal Zone and the Canal itself, which took place on January 1, 2000. In 2002 the country was removed from the list of tax havens that they did not collaborate with the international community to combat illicit trafficking;
Between 2002 and 2003 there were large protest movements against government action on the front of the fight against corruption and the reform of social services. In 2004 the presidential elections saw the affirmation of M. Torrijos, son of Torrijos Herrera, who announced a vast plan of economic and infrastructural modernization, accompanied by a renewed commitment against corruption. His plans to intervene on the social system unleashed a wave of strikes. In 2006 Torrijos achieved two important successes: the signing of a trade agreement with the United States and popular approval through a referendum of his plans to double the flow of ships in the Canal, an expansion that was completed in 2016. At the presidential elections in 2009 however, the candidate of the conservative parties prevailed R. Martinelli, who remained in office until the 2014 elections, in which the conservative JC Varela was declared the winner, succeeding him in 2019 by the social democrat L. Cortizo.
Panama Artificial sea passage, cut into the Isthmus of Panama, the easternmost and thinnest part of the region that unites North America with South America. This section is included between the Gulf of Darién in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Panama in the Pacific; the middle part, not wider than 75 km. The channel develops, with a predominant direction from NW to SE, for a total length of 81.2 km (including extensions in the open sea; the average amplitude of the tide is much greater in the mouth of the Pacific, almost 4 m, which at the entrance to the Atlantic, around 30 cm). The northern entrance (in the Atlantic), is located off the Bay of Limón; after 11 km the canal enters the mainland and remains at sea level for 12 km until the Gatún locks, where its level is raised to 26 m asl by means of the waters of Lake Gatún, formed following the damming of the Chagres river. Across the lake, the canal enters the narrow cut of Culebra (approx. 12 km) and reaches the Pedro Miguel locks, which bring its level back to 16.50 m. It then crosses the reservoir lake of Miraflores and another system of locks brings the canal back down to sea level. The outlet to the Pacific is in the SE, near Balboa, a district of the city of Panama. The width varies between 350 and 90 m in the sections that do not include the locks; the minimum depth is 13 m; the dimensions of the locks are: length 300 m, width 33 m, depth 21 m. The canal structure and the double lock system allow ships to transit in both directions. The duration of the journey is 7-8 hours. In June 2016 the canal expansion works started in September 2007 were completed,
The search for a passage from the Atlantic to the West, already the aim of Columbus’s voyages, after the discovery of the Pacific Ocean and the existence of the Central American isthmus made by V. Núñez de Balboa in 1513, was essentially resolved in the problem of construction of an interoceanic navigable canal. H. de la Soma carried out explorations in the Río Grande and in the Chagres (1527) and A. de Saavedra Cedrón studied in 1529 the possibility of opening a canal through four routes: del Darién, Panama, Nicaragua, Tehuantepec. The same routes were proposed in 1550 by the Portuguese A. Galvão. From the time of Philip II to the whole of the eighteenth century, Spain abandoned the projects for fear of conflict with other European powers. New explorations at the end of the eighteenth century and above all the reports of A. von Humboldt at the beginning of the nineteenth century aroused interest in the opening of a waterway. The first US plans to build a canal were interrupted by the Secession War. In the meantime, the Société civile du canal interocéanique bought from the government of Bogotá (1878) an exclusive 99-year concession for the construction of a canal; was redeemed in 1880 by the Compagnie universelle du canal interocéanique de Panama, established in 1879 and chaired by F. de Lesseps, the builder of the Suez Canal. Excavations began in 1880, but in 1889 the Company failed. The Compagnie nouvelle du Canale de Panama took over, which in 1899 was already in economic difficulties. The internal crisis of the new French company coincided with the growing US interest in a transoceanic transit route. After obtaining the concession for the construction of the canal from the newly independent state of Panama, in 1904 the USA took possession of the area. In 1907 the work was entrusted to the military genius, under the direction of colonel GW Goethals, who assumed supreme power over the area and was therefore its first governor (1912-17). The Canal was crossed by the first ocean liner on August 3, 1914, opened to trade on August 15, 1914, officially inaugurated on July 12, 1915. The total cost was approximately 350 million dollars. The maritime movement increased after World War II, reaching a peak of 14,033 ships in 1974 and then stabilizing a little above 12,000 units. The commercial movement, on the other hand, recorded a constant increase. Traffic is heavy in both directions. Following the entry into force (October 1979) of the Canal Treaties, this was administered, until 31 December 1999, by thePanama Canal Commission (which replaced the previous Panama Canal Company), a US government agency. On January 1, 2000, the Canal Zone and the Canal itself were effectively returned to full Panamanian sovereignty by the US.
GULF OF Panama Large inlet of the Pacific Ocean, on the coast of the Panamanian state. The sea inside is shallow (less than 200 m): just outside it the depth increases rapidly reaching and even exceeding 3000 m. Inside the bay there is the small Archipelago of Pearls.