Panama has a long and rich history. There have been people living in Panama for over twelve thousand years. These native populations excelled in pottery making and were well known for their burial sites. Around the start of the sixteenth century, Rodrigo de Bastidas became the first European to claim part of Panama’s Caribbean coast. A year later, Christopher Columbus arrived in Panama. He explored the territories in the Western part of Panama and drew maps of the area by hand. Later, Balboa would also arrive in Panama and confirm that there was another coast of Panama. He would call the ocean that he saw the South Sea, which later became known as the Pacific Ocean.
Once it was known that there was another ocean and it could be accessed through Panama, the country began to grow as an economic force. This was good for the Spanish but proved to be devastating for the natives who had lived on Panama for thousands of years. The Spanish controlled Panama for over 300 years, during which much of the native population was wiped out. By the middle of the 18th century, Panama’s status as an economic stronghold had diminished. It was easier to take other routes to the oceans rather than going through Panama. There was also a pirate presence in the area which made it a less than popular choice for merchants to travel to and from. In 1821, Panama became part of Columbia.
One of the most important historical events in Panama was the building of the Panama Canal. Construction of the canal started in the late 1800’s but was stopped because over twenty thousand workers died from yellow fever within five years. Around this time, one of the investors on the project made a deal with the United States regarding the canal. In 1903, Panama declared itself as an independent country and separated from Columbia. The United States agreed to assist with the construction of the canal provided that they were given rights on both sides of the canal. President Theodore Roosevelt set into motion the “Panama Doctrine” which, in part, eliminated the mosquitoes which carried yellow fever and malaria. The United States was key in creating and protecting the canal which became strategically important during World War II.
Panama today continues to grow in its economic status and the quality of life for its citizens. Panama’s beaches are some of the most beautiful in the world, and the Panama real estate market has grown as beachfront properties have become in high demand. Tourism also is growing in places such as Bocas del Toro where attractions and beaches bring in many people looking to enjoy a Panama beach vacation.