Panama History Timeline

Panama History Timeline

North America

Panama is located in both Central America and South America, bordering the Atlantic Ocean to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the south, Colombia to the east and Costa Rica to the west. The area includes the narrowest part of the American continent.

According to areacodesexplorer, the capital is called Panama City, and is the largest city in the country with almost 700,000 residents.

In the mid-1980s, General Manuel Noriega took control of Panama, and during his messy 5-year dictatorship, democracy disappeared, the economy was severely damaged, drug trafficking from South America increased, and the population lived in fear of further repression.


1502 – The Spanish explorer Rodrigo de Bastidas, who had mapped the northern coast of South America, visited Panama.

1503 – Christopher Columbus established a garrison at the mouth of the Rio Belen (western Panama).

1509-1520 – Spain colonized the territory of Nueva Granda (“New Granada”, present-day Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Venezuela).

1513 – Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa crosses the Panama Canal, declaring the Pacific to be Spanish territory. King Ferdinand made Balboa governor of Panama and the Pacific.

1514 – 1500 Spanish settlers travel to Panama.

1519 – Panama City (Panamá Viejo) was founded on August 15 by the Spanish conqueror Pedro Arias Dávila and 100 other people, ca. 10km east of its current center ( Casco ), and thanks to its geographical location at Panamatangen quickly became a significant city.

1573 – In March, Francis Drake accomplishes his greatest feat during his travels in the Caribbean – he hijacked a Spanish silver transport at the Nombre de Dios. His crew, consisting of French hijackers and elusive African slaves, sailed off Darien (present-day Panama) to search for the Spanish ship. He found the ship in the port of Nombre de Dios, and captured a large quantity of gold. He had to give up the silver as there were not enough crew to take the Spanish ships with him and his own ship did not have enough space in the cargo. When he returned to Plymouthon August 9, 1973, there were only 30 English sailors left on board, all rich after the successful hijacking. But to his great disappointment, his achievement could not be officially recognized as the Queen had signed a temporary ceasefire with Philip II of Spain.

1610 – Panama City reaches a population of 5,000, with 500 houses and a few monasteries, chapel, hospital and cathedral.

1624 – Spanish silver fleet sails to Panama.

1644 – A major fire in Panama City destroys, on February 21, 83 religious buildings, including the cathedral. At this time there lived approx. 8000 people in the city.

1668 – Captain Henry Morgan, leads an attack on the city of Portobelo, which was well fortified at the time. He besieged the city for two weeks before conquering and plundering the city.

1671 – Panama City is attacked on January 28, by English pirate captain Henry Morgan and his 1,400 men marching from the Caribbean coast and jungle to the city. Morgan’s forces defeated the city’s militia and continued looting Panama. Morgan’s attacks caused thousands to be killed. It is not known who gave the direct order to blow up the city’s gunpowder magazines, which resulted in the fire that destroyed the city. Morgan and his men returned to Jamaica as heroes, but were called back to England in 1972 to “answer” for their actions, as they had been accused of breach of treaty and piracy by Spain.. However, he was given two years’ “house arrest”, where he was free to move around, where he used his reputation to flatter the celebrities. Morgan, however, was able to prove that he did not know about the treaty, and instead of punishment, he was knighted by King Charles II in 1674 and had him returned to Jamaica, where he became deputy governor from 1675. There he died as a wealthy man, with three plantations, 129 slaves, and his personal fortune was £ 5,063, August 25, 1688.

1673 – Panama City is rebuilt on its current site. The old urban area is preserved as a ruined area, which in 2003 was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

1739 – Admiral Edward Vernon conquers Portobello. The attack showed how vulnerable Spanish trade practices were, and led to changes in the way they were conducted. The Spaniards then changed tactics and went from larger fleets visiting few ports to small fleets that were more flexible and visiting a wider range of ports.

1821 – Panama becomes independent from Spain ; joined Greater Colombia, consisting of Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia.

1830 – Panama becomes part of Colombia, following the collapse of Greater Colombia.

1846 – Panama signs a treaty with the United States that allows them to build railroads across the Panama Canal.

1850 – The city of Colón is founded by Americans, while the Panama Canal becomes the route for gold rush hunting in California. Construction of the railway began in 1850, and on January 28, 1855, the entire stretch could be taken into use.

1873 – US Marines attack Panama on 7 May.

1880 – The first real attempt to build a Panama Canal under French leadership on January 1 – technical problems and high mortality, due to malaria, yellow fever and other tropical diseases, forced the French to abandon the project – a total of 21,900 workers died. The project was taken over on February 23, 1904, for $ 10 million, and completed by the United States in the early 1900s, and the canal opened in 1914.

1903 – The Hay-Bunau Varilla Treaty is an agreement between the United States and Panama and is signed on November 18, two weeks after Panama’s independence from Columbia. The agreement agreed on the terms for the sale of the rights to build a canal through Panama as well as for a US-controlled military zone on both sides of the canal.

1906 – President Theodore Roosevelt visits Panama, becoming the first American president to make official visits outside the United States.

1939 – Panama ceases to be a US protectorate.

1952-1955 – Colonel José Antonio Remón Cantera was president from October 1, 1952 until his death on January 2, 1955. He was assaulted on a racetrack and shot by an unknown number of assailants with sub-machine guns. He died 2 hours later. Two other men were killed in the attack, including one of Remón’s bodyguards. The crime has never been formally solved, although the lawyer Rubén O. Miró confessed on January 12, 1955.

1962 – The first permanent bridge over the Panama Canal was the Puente de las Américas, which was completed in 1962. It was the only bridge connecting North America and South America until the Puente Centenario opened in 2004.

1968-1981 – Omar Efraín Torrijos Herrera, was de facto leader of Panama between 1968 and 1981. Torrijos was extremely intolerant of political opposition. Many of his political opponents were imprisoned, expelled from the country, killed or “disappeared” in a mysterious way. Moreover, the public sector throughout his time was plagued by corruption and nepotism, which made Panama the country with the highest public debt per capita. General Omar Torrijos died at the age of 52 when an airplane he was on board crashed into a mountain wall during a severe storm on July 31, 1981.

1977 – It is decided that the Panama Canal in its entirety will be transferred to Panama on December 31, 1999.

1983-1989 – General Manuel Noriega was the country’s dictator, but was never publicly president, but had been chief executive officer for a short period in 1989. He was removed from power and extradited to the United States during the US invasion of Panama on December 20. 1989. The United States withdraws its forces from Panama on January 31, 1990.

1992 – Noriega is convicted of drug crimes by a U.S. court, and sentenced to 40 years in prison in the United States.

1999 – Mireya Moscoso elected Panama’s first female president; Panama took full control of the canal on December 31, as promised by the United States.

2002 – President Moscoso sets up a commission to investigate corruption; Panama was removed from the international list of uncooperative tax havens, and promised to make the tax system more transparent.

2004 – The Panama Canal earned a record $ 1 billion in revenue.

2007 – Expansion of the Panama Canal begins.

2008 – Fatal shootings of union leaders trigger violent clashes between police and construction workers in Panama City ; Noriega released from Florida jail after serving 17 years in prison for drug trafficking.

FILM: Scenes from Quantum of Solace were recorded in Panama. Filming began on February 7th. A sequence that required hundreds of extras was recorded at Colón (Port-Au-Prince, Haiti) and at Fort Sherman and at Howard Air Force Base. Old Union Club in Casco Viejo (Bolivia) and Instituto Nacional de Cultura (Andean Grand Hotel, Bolivia)

2009 – Noriega is indicted in Paris.

2015 – The Panama Papers is a leaked set of data consisting of 11.5 million secret documents compiled by the Panamanian company Mossack Fonseca, which contains detailed information on more than 214,000 offshore companies, including identities of owners and directors.

Panama History Timeline