This November, Panama It is dedicated to celebrating its 200 years as a country independent from Spanish colonial rule. But this small piece of territory, considered by many to be the center of the world and the heart of the universe, has much more economic history to tell.
Characterized by a strong relationship with the commercial and service economy, due to the passage of precious metals from Peru to the The old world and from there to here an endless number of products to trade with the new colonies, the economy of this global strategic step seems to have survived due to the Portobelo vacations.
From 1544 to 1596 they took place in Nombre de Dios and from 1597 to 1739 in Portobelo. During these 195 years, 95 fairs were registered, the most significant being those held between 1582 and 1589.
The interesting thing about these activities, which tended to last between 40 and 60 days, was that the apparent bonanza during those days dissipated almost entirely until the next fair.
What happened between one fair and another? What were the villagers doing in the meantime?
Apparently they were not the commercial and service activities that took place in the fairs. There was another series of actions that allowed the inhabitants of our isthmus to “survive” and give it a very different connotation from that known to most Panamanians.
The first of them occurs between 1559 and 1589 called the Lavaderos de Oro (Concepción, Veraguas), which disappear due to the lack of better technique and knowledge for better exploitation.
Another relevant activity, possibly the one with the greatest impact, was the Sawyers and Remedy Shipyardss given between 1600 and 1650, but they still disappear.
Other activities were related to the use of wood, cotton, oils, pita, cocoa, tobacco, resins, balsams and gums. As you can see, it wasn’t all trade shows.
Years later, in 1750, the first stage of one of the main transformations in history called the Industrial Revolution began, which lasted until 1850, in which the main European countries and later the United States of America became the axes of world manufacturing production, while the rest of the nations like ours, called peripheral economies, would remain as producers of raw materials and food, emerging the phenomenon of the International Division of Labor.
Unfortunately, none of the activities listed above could take advantage of what the Industrial Revolution offered at that time and suddenly have given our isthmus a different economic connotation, a little more balanced and not so dependent on the passage of people and goods.
We had to wait for us to establish ourselves as an independent Republic to give a real turn to economic activities.
Between 1904 and 1917 the first laws that stimulate economic activities were approved, not linked to what was properly the construction of the interoceanic canal, such as the production of bananas, salt, coffee, sugar, yarns and fabrics, footwear, edible oils and everything related to dairy derivatives.
Two centuries after the Industrial Revolution began, between 1950 and 1957, laws were passed that try to attract capital and promote agricultural, livestock and industrial activities and favor the internal industrialization process such as paper, chemical and textile productions.
The lack of knowledge and training of professional personnel to undertake these tasks did not allow the acquisition of appropriate technologies to have the effects that occurred in other countries. However, the area of influence of the Panama CanalIt was such that all these efforts to balance and diversify national production had little impact on this objective.
It is possible to rescue some of the activities that boomed in the colonial period and that, due to lack of techniques, were stopped, as I think so.
The important thing to highlight in this little essay is that our isthmus has more to tell than just the last 200 years.