Times of Preparation for Independence

Panama's Flag

For the peasantry and the common people of Panama the terms called for in the Wisconsin Peace Accords of November 22, 1902 would turn out to be another one of the great betrayals that they would suffer before the close of the 20th century.

Although the Colombian Army in power had declared the country to have returned to normalcy, the peace accords had been immersed in deal making, planning and shaking of hands over what was to prove to be a great step forward for the conservative forces although leaders of both factions had struck an accord to “agree to agree.”

As for the common people who made up the greater portion of the population, however, there would be no show of benignity for the former members of the opposing liberal army. To the humble or “insignificant” class of people of the country of Panama who Professor Chan Marin has described as “a class of farmers and just plain Indian people of the Bugle tribe of Veraguas and Coclé,” for them there would be no show of mercy. Those same people who had “won” the conflict for the rich and powerful elites of Panama would have to settle down to survive once more, apprehensive and afraid of what would befall them under any of the powerful elitist administrations that were soon to emerge.

It is helpful to understand all the players during this period and we must remember the West Indians who were not, by any means, living in a vacuum. A recent University of Panama study has found that the racial mixture of the people from which General Victoriano Lorenzo emerged during the latter part of the 19th century had been enhanced by people of the Negro race with whom they had been mixing since colonial times. In fact, during these turbulent times the Westindian workers out in Bocas Del Toro had also “just been” surviving despite the few advancements garnered from the American bosses who were much more successful than before.

The fact that United States commercial interests had prevailed despite a recently ended Civil War should be evidence of the enormous power the Yankees exerted in the whole region of Central America. Neither the times nor circumstances had deterred the great Panama Railroad Company from continuing to operate. There had been no interruption in their operation nor in their ability to facilitate the crossing of primarily American citizens from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast to continue their travels to the region of the newly founded state of California. The railroad, in fact, would be the precursor of all railroads in the western part of the United States having been a key in the pacification of most of the western states. It had opened to America some of the richest lands, providing a “bonanza” for Washington politicians.

Even at this juncture in the history of the country of Panama, although she was not, as yet, an independent country, the United States had already been conversing and making important deals with the Colombian government, deals that would eventually shape the country of Panama.

No one, however, was planning for or thinking about the Indian peoples, the Cholo people of Coclé, or the people of the provinces of Panama and Colon, for that matter. At this moment at the turn of the 20th century they had all seemed to vanish into the tropical landscape as the Negroes from the West Indies flocked to the country of Panama in search of what would be sure future employment.

The warship USS Wisconsin departed the coast of Panama, but the U.S. Army maintained its vigilance and its presence over “American interests.” The Colombian government, however, remained adamant in their zeal not to show any respect for the “Little Indian Man” they had executed. Victoriano Lorenzo had been publicly executed and his remains as well as his personality had been seemingly forgotten. No physical traces have ever been found of his existence, but in the minds of the people of the lower caste, Victoriano Lorenzo would live forever. The man who had inspired the people of the country time and again would be one more rally cry for future developments in the 20th century.

That despicable and cowardly act towards one of Panama’s favored sons, however, would plague Colombian and Panamanian society for some time to come, even into the 21st century.


Much of the background information for the articles regarding Victoriano Lorenzo and the early years of the country of Panama has come from the following sources. Thanks to them I have been able to piece together this important history and I am honored to list them here.


Caballero, Nicolás de J. “Reseña acerca del Santiago de Ayer,”
Revista Cultural Lotería Nº422, Panamá, ene/feb. 1999

Chong, Moisés, ” La idea de nacionalidad panameña en el siglo XIX.
Revista Cultural Lotería, Panamá (1970)

Villarreal, José Bolivar, “La Pajarilla de San José de Las Tablas.”
Revista Cultural Lotería Nº422, Panamá ene/feb. 1999

Velarde, Oscar Vargas. ” Evolución del Derecho en Panamá”
Revista Cultural Lotería Nº450-451, Panamá Edición Centenario Panamá

Arias, Tomas D. ” La ilusión del Oro en el Gobierno de Juan López de Sequeira en Coclé. Revista Cultural Lotería Nº452, ene/feb. 2004

Cedeño, Enilsa de, ” Estructura Economiza, social y política de Colombia y Panamá en el Siglo XIX.” Revista Cultural Lotería Nº452 ene/feb. 2004

Beluche, Olmedo, “Debate del Centenario”
Revista Cultural Lotería Nº461 jul./agosto 2005

Conte-Porras, José, “Antecedentes del Canal.”
Revista Cultural Lotería Nº426, sep./oct. 1999

3 responses to “Times of Preparation for Independence

  1. So they never found him… This was great. I read all of it. Even though much of the story was never taught to us in the USA. The Indians have had it rough all over the world. Very good, I liked it, can not wait to see what you have next to write about.


  2. Kyle,
    The story was never taught to us in Panama schools either. The truth about Victoriano Lorenzo is only now coming out in the writings of contemporary historians. I hope my blog adds to this resurgence of interest in the topic and in the figure of this Indian hero.
    If you have’nt already subscribed, do so since the best is yet to come.

  3. Not knowing the truth reminds me of Mao in China. People today still think he’s a hero even though he killed millions.