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2005 Coiba Island, a former prison, gains UNESCO World Heritage status.

1999 On 31st December, Panama takes complete control of the Panama Canal from the USA, according to the Torrijos-Carter Treaty signed in 1977.

1989 General Manuel Noriega’s legislature declares him "chief executive officer" of the government. The government claims a "state of war" with the US, which promptly invades, killing many civilians in the process. Noriega claims asylum in the Vatican Embassy, where American troops blast him with heavy metal music at a high volume for 10 days, until he surrenders.  

1983 Noriega appointed Military Leader in Panama and takes de facto power. A former CIA operative, he is implicated in a wide range of scandals.

1972 Roberto “Manos de Piedra” Durán wins the first of his four world boxing titles.

1970s Panama becomes a hub of the worldwide salsa boom. The local casinos were at the heart of the action, which attracted top musicians from New York and around the world.

1970s Panamá City becomes a world banking centre and the iconic skyline grows upwards.

1968 Omar Torrijos takes power as “Maximum Leader of the Panamanian Revolution”. His military rule lasts until his death in a plane crash in 1981, in suspicious circumstances.

1964 A student protest against US interference in Panama leaves 27 people dead and 500 injured. Today, the event is commemorated as Día de Los Mártires.

1948 Colón Free Trade Zone opens. It is the largest free port in the Americas.

1940s US presence increases as military bases are built. Increased prosperity is accompanied by increased social unrest.

1914 The first ship sails through the Panama Canal. Many labourers were brought from the Caribbean to work on the canal, adding to modern Panama’s diversity. 

1903 Panama proclaims independence from Colombia after granting the USA rights to finish the French canal project, then administer, fortify, and defend it "in perpetuity". The US Dollar becomes legal tender.

1878 Colombia grants France the right to build a canal through Panama. Conditions are tougher than expected: 22,000 workers die from yellow fever and malaria in less than a decade and the project collapses in 1888.

1855 The Panama Railway opens. It is later essential in the construction of the Canal.

1840s Tens of thousands of people travel from the east coast of the US to the west coast via Panama during the California Gold Rush in order to avoid hostile Native Americans.

1821 Panama gains independence from Spain and becomes part of Gran Colombia, a confederation of modern Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela as envisaged by Simón Bolívar. The alliance collapses 10 years later and Panama becomes part of Colombia.

1673 After an English raid destroys the original city, Panamá City is rebuilt in a new location 8km southwest of the original spot. This area is now known as the Casco Viejo. The ruins of the old city are a popular attraction known as Panamá la Vieja.

1671 Captain Henry Morgan (who you may know from the rum) destroys Panamá City and steals its entire treasure.

1572 Sir Francis Drake destroys trading port Nombre de Dios, and sets sail for England with a galleon full of Spanish gold.

1519 Pedrarias Dávila founds Panamá City on the Pacific Coast, which becomes a major gold trading port. History also remembers him for roasting indigenous people alive, feeding them to the dogs and other acts of barbarity.

1513 While searching for gold, Vasco Núñez de Balboa is the first European to see the Pacific Ocean. Balboa immediately claims the ocean and all the lands it touches for the king of Spain. His name is later used for the currency of Panama.

1501 The discovery of Panamá by Spanish explorer Rodrigo de Bastidas marks the beginning of the age of conquest and colonization in the isthmus. Local tribes defend their land with force.
Image credit: Mobilus In Mobili (CC BY 2.0) 
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