Much More Than a Canal
Panama means abundance of fishes and butterflies. The Isthmus of Panama was formed about 3
million years ago when the isthmus finally closed. Plants and animals gradually
crossed it in both directions. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, Panama was widely settled
by tribes like Cocole and Cuevas.
The arrivals of Rodrigo de Bastidas from Seville, and later Núñez de Balboa in 1513 were to change the history of Panama. Balboa discovered that another ocean lay on the other side of the isthumus. This means that Panama could now be used as a center for the trade of contraband Spanish goods, for treasures taken from Peru which had been conquered by Spain and for slave trade. Panama was a part of Spain for three hundred years. In 1821 Columbia became independent from Spain and Panama became part of Columbia.