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Panama History Timeline

1500's

  • (1502) Spanish explorer, Rodrigo de Bastidas, visited Panama
  • (1503) Christopher Columbus built garrison at mouth of Rio Belen (western Panama)
  • (1509-1520) Spanish colonized area of Nueva Granda (present-day Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Venezuela)
  • (1513) Vasco Nunez de Balboa, Spanish explorer, crossed Isthmus of Panama, claimed Pacific Ocean for Spain; King Ferdinand named Balboa governor of Panama and Pacific Ocean
  • (1514) 1,500 Spanish settlers went to Panama
  • (1519) Panama City founded
1600's - 1700's
  • (1624) Spanish silver fleet sailed to Panama
  • (1671) Pirate Henry Morgan defeated Spanish defenders, captured Panama
  • (1739) Admiral Edward Vernon captured Spanish city of Portobello, Panama
1800's
  • (1821) Panama became independent of Spain; joined confederacy of Gran Colombia, comprised of Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia
  • (1830) Panama became part of Colombia, after collapse of Gran Colombia
  • (1846) Panama signed treaty with US, allowed US to build railway across Isthmus
  • (1848) First California-bound gold seekers arrived in Panama enroute to San Francisco
  • (1850) City of Colon founded as Isthmus of Panama became route for California gold rush
  • (1855) US built Panama railroad
  • (1873) US marines attacked Panama
  • (1880) President Rutherford B. Hays declared US would have jurisdiction over any canal built across Isthmus of Panama
  • (1880-1902) Number of rebellions staged to gain independence
1900's
  • (1901) Second Hay-Pauncefote Treaty signed; US given extensive rights by Britain for building, operating canal through Central America
  • (1903) Panama split from Colombia, became fully independent; US bought rights to build Panama Canal, received control of the Canal Zone in perpetuity
  • (1904) US acquired control of Panama Canal zone for $10 Million; US took over construction of Panama Canal; Panama adopted US dollar as its currency
  • (1906) President Theodore Roosevelt visited Panama, became first president to make official visit outside US
  • (1914) Panama canal completed; US declared Panama Canal Zone neutral
  • (1939) Panama ceased to be US protectorate
  • (1968-81) President Arias opened vote to women; General Omar Torrijos Herrera, national guard chief, ousted president Arias, imposed a dictatorship; General Omar Torrijos died in plane crash
  • (1984) Nicolas Ardito Barletta elected president
  • (1985) Manuel Antonio Noriega ousted president Barletta
1900s continued
  • (1988) US charged Noriega with drug smuggling; Noriega declared state of emergency in wake of failed coup
  • (1989) US invaded Panama, ousted Noriega, replaced with Guillermo Endara
  • (1991) Parliament approved constitutional reforms, included abolition of standing army; privatization began
  • (1992) Noriega found guilty of drug offences by US court, sentenced to 40 years imprisonment in US prison
  • (1999) Mireya Moscoso elected Panama's first woman president; Panama took full control of Canal
2000s
  • (2002) President Moscoso set up commission to investigate corruption; Panama removed from international list of uncooperative tax havens, promised to make tax system more transparent
  • (2003) National strike over management of social security fund paralyzed public services
  • (2004) Martin Torrijos won presidential elections; Panama Canal earned record revenues of $1 billion
  • (2005) President Torrijos promised to reform cash-strapped social security system
  • (2006) Voters backed $5.2 billion referendum plan to upgrade Panama Canal; US and Panama agreed on free trade deal
  • (2007) Widening of Panama Canal began
  • (2008) Fatal shooting of union leaders triggered violent clashes between police, construction workers in Panama City; Russian warship sailed through Panama Canal for first time since WWII; Noriega released from Florida prison after serving 17 years of sentence for drug trafficking
  • (2009) US federal appeals court stated that Panama's ex-leader, Manuel Noriega, could be extradited to France; Ricardo Martinelli won presidential elections; Canada signed free trade deal with Panama
  • (2010) Noriega went on trial in Paris

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This page was last updated on April 7, 2017.