The history of Panama has been linked, since the dawn of time, to service to
humankind. Remains dating back 10,000 years bear testimony to the transit
of human beings between Central America and South America, by means of the
it was not until 1513, when Vasco Núñez de Balboa discovered the Pacific
Ocean, that the entire world took note of the importance of Panama as a
facilitator of worldwide communications. In 1544, the overland
trans-isthmian route was opened, and it was through this passageway that Spain
channeled 60% of its colonial riches.
In 1737, the Panamanian route was abandoned by the Spanish colonial
empire because of frequent pirate incursions.
The isthmus' economic decline lasted until 1850, when constructions was
begun, by the United States of America, on the first trans-isthmian railroad.
In 1880, the French count Ferdinand de Lesseps (constructor of the Suez
Canal) began work on a similar waterway through Panama. During the last
half of the 19th century Panama experienced the effects of concentrated
interest on the part of both great powers--France and the U.S.A.--in addition to
that of Colombia, which claimed sovereignty over the territory of Panama.
To all of this was added the increasing separatist efforts by isthmians
In 1903, the overall situation was resolved with the birth of the Republic of
Panama and control of the inter-ocean region by the vigorous North American
geopolitical power, the United States. In 1914, the new Panama Canal was
opened to world commerce.
With the taking effect of the
Panama Canal treaties of 1977, the return to Panama of the areas surrounding the maritime passageway was initiated. A
new era was born in the country's history. Adjacent to the Canal, the Free
Zone and Banking Center are in the process of developing, around the
inter-oceanic zone, new business complexes such as ports, communications centers
served by underwater cable, and railroad and port renovations, in addition to
cargo and passenger transfer centers.