History of Panama - History

History of Panama - History


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Panama was claimed by the Spanish in 1501. Nearly two decades later, the City of Panama was established. A part of New Granada after 1739, Panama (and the rest of New Granada) left the Empire over 80 years later. At that point, Panama became part of Gran Colombia. Panama was viewed as a potential route between the Atlantic and the Pacific as far back as 1825. By 1855, the United States had bankrolled a railroad from Colon to Panama City. In 1903, Panama broke with Colombia and soon agreed to develop a canal zone that would be under US control. Eleven years later, the mighty Panama Canal was opened. Functioning as a protectorate of the US (i.e., the US guaranteed the 'independence' of the country), the US maintained that it had the right to intervene militarily when its interests were threatened, as it did in 1918. In 1936, the protectorate status was abolished and the US agreed that it would not have the right to intervene in the cities of Panama and Colon. A new canal treaty was negotiated in 1977; it provided for the Panamanians to take control of the canal in 2000. Politically, Panama experienced some instability when the country's military head (and, basically, the leader of the country) General Manuel Noriega, was indicted by the US on drug charges. Noreiga refused to resign and the US ended up freezing Panamanian assets in US banks. A year later, Noreiga nullified the results of the election (he was losing) and made himself the sole power in the country. The US responded by invading the country, capturing Noreiga, trying him in the US and convicting him.


A Short History of Panama

Panama used to be among the colonies of Spain in America until its secession to join the Gran Columbia. It was a Spaniard&mdashRodrigo de Bastidas&mdashwho first spotted Panama in 1501 and who dropped anchor off the Caribbean Coast in Portobelo with the help of Christopher Columbus. In 1510 Vasco Nuñez de Balboa established the first successful colony and became governor of the region three years before he discovered the Pacific Ocean. Because of the strongholds established by pirates on the Caribbean Coast, the Spanish empire began to decline in 1821, forcing Panama to become part of independent Columbia from which it later seceded to establish itself as a separate republic with the help of the United States through a bloodless revolution in 1903. On November 3 of the same year, rebels headed by Manuel Amador Guerrero declared Panama as an independent republic and two weeks later, signed the Hay-Bunan Varilla Treaty granting US the right to build and administer Panama Canal, a ship canal joining Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean.

In 1968, General Omar Torrijos took over the reins of government and became a virtual strongman until his death in an airplane accident in 1981. Into the end of that decade Panama-US relations turned sour as a result of the death of a US soldier at a road block of the Panamanian Defense Forces headed by Gen. Manuel Noriega. The US eventually launched Operation Just Cause and invaded Panama in December 1989, a few days before the administration of the Canal was to be turned over to Panamanian control. The invasion, which left many PDF members killed, forced General Noriega to seek asylum in the Vatican diplomatic mission but surrendered to the US military after a few days and was subsequently arrested by US federal authorities.

On December 31, 1999, under the Torrijos-Carter Treaty, the US returned all Canal-related lands to Panama, which gained thereafter full administration of the Canal, as well as control of the Canal-related buildings and infrastructures.


The Story Behind the Panamanian Flag

Panama’s flag is red, white and blue, divided into four quarters with two white rectangles – one blue, and one red. Either white rectangle boasts a single star, blue in the top left, red in the bottom right. Every color is symbolic in the way that it represents an important element to Panamanian life.

The white in the flag represents peace. The blue star is symbolic for purity and honesty, and it also represents the Conservative party. The red star stands for authority and law, and it also represents the Liberal party of Panama.

Panama’s first President, Manuel Amador Guerrero, did not accept the first flag designed in 1903. It consisted of 13 horizontal red and yellow stripes, with a blue canton holding two golden suns. A narrow line represented the oceans uniting by way of the Panama Canal.

Though it was denied, Philippe-Jean Bunau-Varilla’s wife designed that first ever proposal for a Panamanian flag. She had taken inspiration from the flag of the United States, with elements that honor other countries, such as 13 stripes for the U.S. and using the color yellow for Panama’s connection to Colombia and Spain, whose flags both feature red and yellow prominently. She replaced the stars in the blue canton with two interconnected suns to represent North and South America.

Despite the heavy symbolism of Madame Bunau-Varilla’s flag design, it was rejected for appearing too similar to the U.S. flag. Instead, the President’s family designed the new flag. First, his son Manuel Encarnacion Amador, a recognized and talented artist, drew up a sketch which he then gave to Panama’s first First Lady, Maria de la Ossa de Amador. She made Panama’s flag on November 1, 1903, though the creation of the flag was not without difficulty due to the need to avoid the Colombian army.

Flag Day is celebrated every year on November 4, the day after Panama’s separation from Colombia.


A Brief History of Panama

The Spanish visited Panama for the first time, in 1501, when a wealthy solicitor from Triana, Rodrigo de Bastida, organized an expedition. After arriving to the Americas, Bastidas traveled Panama&rsquos coast, from the Gulf of Darién, through the San Blas Islands, to what is known today as Portobelo. After collecting a wealth of gold and pearls along the coast, Bastidas suspending his expedition due poor ship conditions. He returned to Spain with only a portion of his treasures left.

On October 10, 1502, Christopher Columbus arrived on the coast of Veraguas. Columbus was mesmerized by the indigenous culture of the country, especially by the gold jewelry that adorned the people. Several weeks after Columbus arrived he discovered a beautiful protected bay, which he named Portobelo. On September 25, 1513, Vasco Núñez de Balboa discovered the southern sea that connected the Pacific Ocean with the Caribbean Sea for the first time, forever sealing Panama&rsquos fate and strategic importance as the bridge of the world.

Toward the end of the 1500s and throughout the 1600s, Panama was an important center for conquistadors, smugglers and famous pirates such as Henry Morgan and Francis Drake, who pillaged and destroyed cities. In 1821 the Isthmus of Panama gained its independence from the Spanish crown and became part of Simón Bolívar&rsquos Gran Colombia. This did not last long though, because Gran Colombia was dissolved and Panama became part of Nueva Granada.

Panama City - Old Panama

Founded on August 15, 1519 by Pedrarias Dávila, it was the first European settlement on the Pacific coast. Gold coming from Peru passed through Panama toward the port towns of Portobelo and Nombre de Dios, where it was loaded onto ships bound for Spain. In 1671, twelve hundred men led by the English pirate Henry Morgan ransacked and subsequently destroyed the city.

Today, you can visit the remains of the old city: the cathedral, six convents and churches, the city hall building, the House of the Genovese, Fort Natividad, the Hospital San Juan de Dios and three colonial bridges. You can also view the Casas Reales - the compound where the Spanish customs and treasury was located.

Towards the Major Square (Plaza Mayor), you'll find the City Hall, the cathedral and the Bishop's house. The Cathedral of our Lady of the Assumption, constructed between 1519 and 1626, is the best preserved of all the buildings. Following the style of the time, it is cross shaped. The bell tower was located at the back and probably served a double purpose as bell tower and watch tower of the royal houses.

Further north is the Convent of Santo Domingo, constructed in 1570 and its respective church, erected 20 years later. They are the best preserved religious buildings in the city. Panamá La Vieja offers a site museum, which exhibits a maquette of the city before 1671 as well as colonial and pre-colombine artifacts brought from Spain.

Casco Antiguo

When Panama City was destroyed in the 17th century, its inhabitants moved to the foothills of the Cerro Ancón. On January 21, 1673, Antonio Fernández de Córdoba y Mendoza founded the new city of Panama. The new location was chosen as a defense against new pirate attacks. A formidable set of walls in close the city at the beginning of 1675. The walls had two main doors, one facing land and one facing sea, in addition to these two it also had five side gates.

The new city was apportioned lots and was intended for specific functions: religious, administrative, military, commercial and residential. From its cross-sectioned design emerged 38 blocks, 3 main streets running from east to west, 7 streets running from north to south and others that were shorter.

The urban development of Panama City was interrupted during the 18th century due to various fires that devastated its streets. In 1737, the "big fire" destroyed two thirds of the city, and the "small fire" of 1756 destroyed more than 90 houses. These and other catastrophic fires help explain why so few colonial examples exist today.

Recent History

In 1846, the discovery of gold in California spurred the economic development of Panama. The first transoceanic railway was built between 1850 and 1855, connecting the two coasts. In 1880 the French began construction of an inter-oceanic canal under the leadership of Ferdinand de Lesseps. They failed in their attempt, as the workforce was plagued by debilitating diarrhea, malaria, yellow fever and typhus, and above all, due to &ldquoThe Company&rsquos&rdquo financial problems. In 1903, Panama gained its separation from Colombia. The city gradually changed its aspect, transforming itself into a cosmopolitan city with a 19th century European resemblance.

In 1914, the United States government completed the construction of the renowned Panama Canal. The United States held power over the Canal until December 1999 when the Torrijos-Carter agreements were established and the canal was transferred to full Panamanian control. The Canal measures 52 miles (80 Kilometers) long from Colón, in the Caribbean, to Panama City on the Pacific coast. A ship can cross the canal in an average of eight to ten hours. Once across, ships either ascend or descend some 26 meters through three locks: Gatún, Pedro Miguel and Miraflores. It took nearly 10 years to build, with a local labor force of over 75,000 men and women, at a cost of nearly $400 million dollars. The Canal was opened to maritime traffic on August 15, 1914. Since that time over 700,000 ships have crossed it.

Today, Panama is known for its natural beauty, great fishing, numerous beaches, abundant tropical islands as well as its friendly, festive and hospitable people. The magic that captivated Panama travelers over 500 years ago still awaits anyone who seeks to experience the country today.

Information thanks to Instituto Panameño de Turismo (IPAT): 1-800-231-0568


Pirates and Colonialism

Spain’s main interest in Panama was as a transshipment point for gold, silver, pearls and other treasures gathered from the Americas. The riches were first brought to Panama City and then transported to the Caribbean via two overland routes – the Camino Real and Camino de Cruces – before being shipped off to Europe. Interestingly enough, it was not gold that made up the bulk of this treasure, but silver, most of it from the mines in Peru. In fact, when the 17th century drew to an end, Spain had tripled the amount of silver circulating in the world, largely due to this Peruvian-Panamanian connection.

By 1670, Panama City was the New World’s wealthiest city. Other nations, including European rivals England and France, began to eye Panama greedily and hoped to break the Spanish monopoly on the region. However, the most direct threat to the Spanish gold trade came not from national fleets but from pirates. The Panamanian isthmus was often neglected and poorly protected. As a result, pirates had an easy time sacking and looting Panama throughout the Spanish era.

Sir Francis Drake was one such pirate. Drake’s first attack at Nombre de Dios in 1572 was only mildly successful. He was injured during the attack and only briefly captured the port. However, his men went on to loot a mule train along the Camino Real that was laden with gold and silver. Damaged but not dissuaded, Drake continued to raid and pillage Panama for the next twenty years. He was so successful that the queen of England even knighted him for his national service.

Drakes’ exploits were the stuff of novels. He intermixed adventure with humor and violence with cooperation. He fought countless hand-to-hand battles and even received help from escaped African slaves eager to turn the sword on their former Spanish masters. Drake eventually fell ill and died in Panama on January 28, 1596. His lead-lined coffin was buried at sea near Portobelo. In the centuries that followed, it’s been searched for countless times but never been found.

In 1597 the Spanish decided to abandon Nombre de Dios and move to Portobelo. This was a smart decision. Nombre de Dios had a shallow harbor, was exposed on nearly every side, and was difficult to defend. In contrast, Portobelo’s harbor was long and surrounded by hills, upon which the Spanish built fortifications. Despite the better location, Portobelo was not immune to external pressure: it would continue to be sacked and rebuilt for the next 200 years.

In 1668, Welsh pirate Henry Morgan attacked Portobelo. During the raid, Morgan employed especially vicious tactics—he used priests and nuns as human shields, and tortured people who refused to reveal where goods were hidden. Still, his gambit paid off and he eventually captured the port and ransomed it back to the Spanish for a huge sum. Leaving Portobelo with heavy pockets, Morgan and his men went west and captured another fort along the Caribbean coast, Castillo de San Lorenzo el Real (Fuerte San Lorenzo).

Built near the mouth of the Río Chagres, Fuerte San Lorenzo had the dubious distinction of being made of wood. Morgan shot flaming arrows into the fort and easily burned the whole thing down. The ashes still smoldering, Morgan continued up the Río Chagres en route to Panama City. Like nearly everywhere else he went, Morgan sacked, looted, and burned the place to the ground. Following the destruction, Panama City was rebuilt eight kilometers (5 mi) west at a more defensible location. This area, known as Casco Viejo or Casco Antiguo, still stands today.

By the early 1700s, South America’s gold and silver mines were becoming less productive, and Panama’s privileged trading position began to wane. At the same time, the Spanish authorized other ports in Spanish America for trade and continued to level high tariffs, both of which caused Panama’s position in the Americas to decline.

Ironically, the country’s abundant gold had attracted so many pirates that the Spanish changed their route from Peru’s gold mines. Instead of taking overland shortcuts across Panama, ships began to opt for the longer but safer route around South America.

The final blow occurred in 1739, when a British fleet destroyed Portobelo and Spain ended Panama’s trading privileges. From 1740 to 1821, Panama was largely forgotten and treated as a backwater area. During this time it formed part of the Viceroyalty of Nueva Granada, which included modern-day Venezuela, Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador. The country’s economic foundation was weakening alongside the Spanish empire.


Panama City History Facts and Timeline

Panama City's history dates from when its first residents arrived some 13,000 years ago during the last ice age. The ancient shell midden (an archaeological site comprising mainly mollusk shells) in Oaks By The Bay Park contains some of the few surviving landmarks from Panama City's earliest residents.

More of these 5,000 to 2,500-year-old middens line the shores of St. Andrews Bay alongside fossils of woolly mammoths, sabre toothed cats and other long extinct wildlife. Temples were built on top of many shell middens by the year 700 AD and shell goods were traded as far north as present day New York and Minnesota.

History of the Earliest Residents

The Yucci and Chatot were the region's dominant tribes during the first Spanish contact period in Panama City history, around the turn of the 16th century. Although the Chatot soon died out, the Yucci survived by fleeing north and westwards.


Many of the region's first European visitors were pirates waiting to attack Spanish galleons filled with riches. One of these giant galleons, along with a huge cannon, was interestingly unearthed beneath a local motel during the early 1960s. Many more shipwrecks lie beneath St. Andrews Bay, which is considered the world's shipwreck capital to this day.

Permanent Settlement

In this era of Panama City's early history, the region remained sparsely populated for around two centuries, until the Cherokee and Creek tribes arrived to avoid forced relocation to the west. A retired Georgia governor and his wife were among the area's first permanent settlers and their family home later became a popular hotel.

Seminoles and white settlers formed most of the local population by the 1830s, but the area began to attract tourists interested in fishing and soaking in the Gulf of Mexico's waters. The salt extracted from the bay was said to successfully treat a number of ailments and was supplied to Confederate troops during the American Civil War (1861 to 1865). Federal soldiers frequently invaded the area's first town and destroyed it altogether in 1863.

Panama City Incorporation

Following the American Civil War, the area once again became a popular boat building, fishing and tourism community. The town of St. Andrews was officially incorporated in 1908, and Panama City was established in 1927 by annexing St. Andrews and three other neighboring communities. The city received its name because it was located on a direct rail line between Chicago and its namesake in the Central American country of Panama.

Neighboring Panama City Beach was founded in 1936, while the city itself became a prominent WWII port and shipbuilding settlement. Today, Panama City Beach welcomes the bulk of the area's beach-goers, with the city itself functioning as the Bay County's cultural, business and administrative center.

Gleaming skyscrapers stand alongside Panama City's oldest buildings in its historic downtown district. Visitors can see some of southwest Florida's most beautiful sea creatures at the Gulf World Marine Park, or get up close to exotic land animals at the Zoo World Zoological and Botanical Park.


Panama » City Info » History

On 15th August 1519, a Spanish conquistador Pedro Arias Dávila founded the capital city of the Republic of Panama, which is known as Panama City. This city emerged as the heart of expeditions, wherein the Inca Empire situated in Peru dated back 1532 was captured. Being a stopover point in the history of the American continent, Panama City became one of the most prominent trade routes, contributing the fairs of Portobelo and Nombre de Dios, which was an important Americas transit for carrying ample amounts of gold and silver to Spain.

Photo Credit:GFDL/DirkvdM

The city witnessed enormous destruction because of shocking fire, when it was sacked by the pirate Henry Morgan on 28th January, 1671. Morgan unknowingly broke the peace treaty between England and Spain and hence was arrested and carried to England in 1672. However, the city was renovated and properly re-established in a peninsula situated 8km from its original location on 21st January, 1673.

On the other hand, Morgan was knighted by King Charles II of England in 1674 and appointed as the Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica. This stood up as a reward for him instead of punishment for his devastating work in Panama.

The ruins of the devastated place became an important part of the World Heritage Site, which was termed as Panamá Viejo, located in the suburbs of Panama City, including the historical districts of Panama.

At present, the largest city of the Republic of Panama is stepping forward in the path of progress. With ongoing development, it has become a hub for international trading and shipping activities.


Panama History

The history of Panama has been very much influenced by the country's location. Found where Central America meets South America, Panama straddles both the Atlantic and Panama Oceans. Before the age of the airplane, Panama would figure as a major transportation link, and for hundreds of years, the infamous Panama Canal would live on as only a notion. All over Panama, vestiges of its past can be found. The town of Portobelo, which is found near Colon, maintains Spanish colonial relics that date back to the 1500"s. Panama's living history can be observed through its 7 surviving groups of indigenous peoples. The Kuna Indians have control over their own autonomous region, and they still live in traditional villages on the San Blas Islands. Though Panama's indigenous groups have adopted plenty of modern approaches to things, they still display traditional clothing and handicraft items. Panama is moving quite nicely into the world's mainstream arena, and more and more visitors are getting the chance to visit Panama to learn about Panama history and Panama's warm people.

Pre-Colombian populations are known to have inhabited Panama as far back as 11,000 years ago. Among the most dominant cultures to thrive in Panama before the coming of Europeans was the Cueva. The Cueva peoples lived mostly in eastern Panama in the region of the Darien Province. In the 1500"s, however, the Spanish would arrive seeking riches and land in the New World. The Cueva culture would be wiped out during Spanish colonization, and the Kuna would come to inhabit the lands that the Cueva formerly occupied. The Spanish would found their first settlement in Panama way back in 1510, which is among the more interesting facts about Panama. At north coast Panama posts like Portobelo, the Spanish would plan and prepare their invasions of Peru. These invasions would shove off from the country's southern Pacific coast. The Spanish founded Panama City in the year 1519, and the city served as an important docking station for treasure-laden Spanish ships. Panama Viejo (Old Panama) is where the city originally stood, and you can visit its ruins today on cultural tours. In the 1600"s, the Spanish would move Panama City to its present day location, just about 5 miles from Old Panama. The colonial-era buildings found in Panama's Casco Viejo district are among the city's best attractions.

In the 1600"s and 1700"s, the Spanish in Panama saw many pirate and buccaneer attacks compromise their safety and riches. By the 1700"s, the Spanish chose to bypass Panama, sending their homeland-bound ships around Cape Horn instead. After this decision, the history of Panama would see the country suffer a marked period of decline. Panama would become a province of neighboring Colombia in 1821. As the mid-1850"s neared, however, significant events would lead Panama to begin its journey towards independence. The United States was awarded the rights to build a railroad in Panama in 1846. This Panama Railway would help bring Panama out of the darkness and back into the light. When gold was discovered in California, gold miners from the east coast of the United States, would take a boat to Panama. There, they would board the Panama Railway train to cross the Panama Isthmus. Once on the southern side of the country, it was on to another boat in the Pacific Ocean. This route was favorable to crossing the United States by land, as dangerous Native American tribes were known to present quite a problem.


History of Panama

The history of Panama has been shaped by its strategic location between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean. The native Cuevas and Cocole tribes quickly disappeared after the Spanish arrived with their weapons and diseases in the early 16th century. Panama City, on the Pacific coast, thrived as Spain conquered and plundered Peru. Caravans loaded with gold traveled overland across the narrow isthmus from Panama City to be loaded on galleons bound for Spain.

However, this wealth attracted pirates and, in the early 1700s, Panama’s Caribbean shore was dotted with so many pirate strongholds that shippers chose instead to sail around Cape Horn to Peru. Panama’s importance rapidly declined, and Spain did not contest its inclusion as a province of Colombia when that country won its independence from Spain in 1821.

Panama, Traces of the Conquerors Remain

The Isthmus of Panama was visited by the Spanish conquerors for the first time as the result of an expedition organized by a wealthy solicitor from Triana, Rodrigo de Bastidas, in 1501. Bastidas traversed the north coast from the Gulf of Darien, through the Kunas Islands, to what is today known as Portobello. After collecting a wealth of gold and pearls, Bastidas had to suspend his expedition due to the poor condition of his ships and return to Spain with only a portion of the treasure.

Panama, Where Spain Founded the First City

On October 10, 1502, Christopher Columbus arrived on the coast of Veraguas and was mesmerized by the gold jewelry worn by the Indians. Several weeks later, on November 2, the discoverer came upon a beautiful protected bay, which he baptized with the name Portobelo. It was on Panamanian soil that Spain founded the first city on solid ground: Santa Maria la Antigua del Darien. On September 25, 1513, Vasco Nunez de Balboa discovered the southern sea and connected the Pacific Ocean with the Caribbean Sea for the first time, forever sealing Panama’s fate and strategic importance as the bridge of the world. Toward the end of the 1500s and throughout the 1600s, Panama was an important center for conquistadors, smugglers and famous pirates such as Henry Morgan and Francis Drake, who pillaged and destroyed cities.

Panama Cuts Ties with Spain and Joins the Americas

In 1821 the isthmus gained its independence from the Spanish crown and became part of Simon Bolivar’s Gran Colombia. This military leader convened a caucus in Panama in 1826 with the objective of creating a great confederation between Gran Colombia, Central America and Mexico. But he was never able to realize his dream. Gran Colombia was dissolved and Panama became part of Nueva Granada.

The first transoceanic railway was built between 1850 and 1855, connecting the two coasts in less than two hours. In 1880 the French began construction of an interoceanic canal under the leadership of Ferdinand de Lesseps. But they failed in their attempt, as the workforce was plagued by debilitating diarrhea, malaria, yellow fever and typhus, and above all, due to serious financial problems. In 1903, Panama gained its separation from Colombia.

The Panama Canal, a Great Work of Human Ingenuity

The United States government in 1914 completed the Panama Canal, one of the wonders of the modern world. As a result of the Torrijos-Carter agreements, it was transferred to full Panamanian control on December 31, 1999. The Canal measures 52 miles long from Colón, in the Caribbean, to Panama City on the Pacific coast. A ship can cross the canal in an average of eight to 10 hours. Once across, ships either ascend or descend some 26 meters through three locks: Gatún, Pedro Miguel and Miraflores. It took 10 years to build the Canal with a local labor force of over 75,000 men and women, at a cost of approximately $400 million dollars. The Canal was opened to maritime traffic on August 15, 1914. Since that time over 700,000 ships have crossed it.

In 1968, the commander of the Panamanian National Guard, Omar Torrijos Herrera, seized control of the government. Although he ruled as a populist dictator, Torrijos Herrera is revered as a hero of Panama because he negotiated the treaty with the United States returning the canal and the Canal Zone back to Panama on January 1, 2000.

After Torrijos Herrera’s death in 1983, General Manuel Noriega became head of the Panama Defense Forces. When Noriega’s party lost the 1989 elections, Noriega’s cronies physically attacked the winning candidate on national television, and Noriega remained in power with the income provided by drug trafficking. In December 1989, Noriega appointed himself dictator and formally declared war against the United States.

The next day, a U.S. soldier was killed by Panamanian soldiers and the most powerful country in the world sent 26,000 troops into the streets of Panama City and Colon. Thousands died in the fighting, and Noriega claimed asylum in the Vatican Embassy. The Vatican staff finally released Noriega into U.S. custody, partly to stop the assault of loud rock music that U.S. loudspeakers directed at the embassy compound both day and night. Noriega was arrested, tried, and convicted on money laundering charges and sent to prison for a 40-year sentence.

Still suffering from his beating by Noriega’s cronies, Guillermo Endarra, the winner of the 1989 election, finally took office, but corruption and social unrest were hallmarks of his regime. Ernesto Perez Balladares (El Toro) won the 1994 election with largely fulfilled promises to fight corruption, improve Panama’s economy, and implement nationwide health services. Running with the campaign slogan, “The Canal Is Ours” Mireya Moscoso, the widow of a popular former president and head of the conservative Arnulfista Party, won the presidency in 1999 and celebrated with her people when the year 2000 dawned with the canal finally belonging to Panama.


Watch the video: Διώρυγα του Παναμά


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