Panama’s Independence Day


Today Panamanians remember, celebrate and look ahead

On this day in 1903, Panama became its own country in a coup organized by a mostly US-owned railroad company and backed by local members of the Conservative Party and the military forces of the United States. The shape of what was created soon emerged: rather than a fully independent republic, a US protectorate bisected by a US colony. But Panamanians, including the Liberals, who were starved, battered and exhausted from a recently concluded vicious civil war, accepted that and moved on from there.

Panamanians who were not Conservatives and who did not especially love the Americans accepted it because life as part of Colombia held the prospect of endless civil conflicts and weird decisions about the isthmus by people in Bogota who were motivated by other concerns. Separation from Colombia was not a nationalist revolution, but it gave Panamanians a chance to establish a national existence that suits us. Panamanian nationalism emerged in the effort to make the country whole and sovereign despite the impositions of the United States, and to make the Panamanian people prosperous and sovereign despite the impositions of these grasping little local elites. There has been much progress in both of these endeavors, but there have been setbacks and neither Panama nor Panamanians are as free as ought to be the case.

Today we celebrate the difficult birth of a dream that lives and grows stronger despite everything. The world may stereotype us, the official response to real things that the world points out may be unreasonable denial and we may suffer from lapses of confidence or courage. Still, in our unique and sometimes downright strange mix we know who we are and we care about this country.

Panama’s flag. Archive photo from Wikimedia ~ Bandera nacional. Foto archivo desde Wikimedia.


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