Rio Abajo- How it All Started

The Stone Church or, Iglesia de Piedra, is one of Rio Abajo’s main landmarks.

El General, famous Reggae singer and
Rio Abajo’s native son has also become
one of Panama’s icons. Image thanks to Taringa.

The known history of Rio Abajo dates from at least the 19th century when it was a vast grazing area devoted to the raising of cattle. From that point until 1914 during the construction of the inter-oceanic canal, a group of people originating from the English speaking Caribbean settled there and gave rise to urban settlements. Its rural, wide open countryside, in fact, was its first attraction for a people who were anxious to leave the squalid, crowded and expensive tenements of the big city and have a chance at owning a property of their own.

From 1925 to 1932 the rise of popular movements mostly initiated by Westindian laborers due to severe housing shortages in some sectors of Panama City led the Antilleans to go and reside in Rio Abajo, located near the banks of the Rio Abajo River.

In a show of unity and strength on the part of the Westindians’ who struggled for recognition of their rights as workers and legitimate residents and citizens of the Republic of Panama, many of them were empowered to buy land previously owned by the following: the de la Guardia, Remón, Espinosa, Ledezma, Quesada, and Lefevre families.

By 1933 initial attempts were made by the Westindians to upgrade the village of Rio Abajo to a Corregimiento, but this initiative was vetoed by Mayor Carlos de la Ossa, who considered that the Westindian community did not have within its local ranks qualified people to staff the offices of the Corregimiento.

In the year 1937, however, municipal agreement N° 20 dated June18 the Corregimiento of Rio Abajo was created. Its population according to the 2000 census is 28,714 (13,346 men and 15,368 women). As soon as the 2010 Census results are in we are sure that the population figures will be much larger as Rio Abajo is one of the most rapidly growing districts in the City of Panama.

Rio Abajo’s extension is: its total area is 33.8 km² with a population density of 6.3 per square kilometre. Its limits are as follows: to the north is the District of San Miguelito; to the south is the Corregimiento of Parque Lefevre; to the east it borders with the Corregimiento of Juan Diaz and to the west it borders with the Corregimiento of Pueblo Nuevo.

Its political divisions are known as Barrios or Barriadas and they are the following:
Villa Lorena, Villa Gabriela, Victoriano Lorenzo, La Rosita, La Marina, San Cristóbal, Villa Elena, El Porvenir, Blas Bloise, Altos del Río, La Boca Town, El Progreso N ° 1 and N ° 2, Marcasa, La Florida, Villa Maria, Villa Rica, Los Yoses, Río Abajo Centro de Calle 4ta and 19na.

Public services: Corregiduria and Centre for social work, Police, Post office, municipal library, substations nursery school, Health Centre (Clinic), National Bank, savings, Polyclinic San Cristóbal, ULAPS Social Security Fund and the Office of the Republican band.

Public Schools: Clara Ofelina Wattley, San Martín De Porras, Bilingual School El Arco Iris (Rainbow), Bilingual Educational Centre Children Of The Future, Arabe De Libya, and Mateo Iturralde.

State sponsored nursery schools: Joaquina de Torrijos, Clara Wattley, Rainbow Bilingual School and Armando Salazar.

Its six Parks are the following: Forestal of Hato Pintado, Anapolis, Luis Branca, Nidia Endara, Altos Miramar, and Miguel Negrito Quiñónez.

In my next post I will relate how I came to know the people and areas of Rio Abajo in my childhood and how I became part of the expansion of the Westindian people into this new part of the city.

This story continues.

5 responses to “Rio Abajo- How it All Started

  1. yo vivo en rió abajo y todo lo que dicen aquí esta muy bien pero no dicen
    quién es el actual corregidor de río abajo

    • Ashley,

      Gracias por tu comentario. Ya que intentamos relatar un poquito de la historia de nuestro querido Rio Abajo, no siempre estamos al tanto de todos los acontecimientos políticos en la actualidad. Por lo tanto, si averiguas el nombre del Corregidor actual, ten la bondad de mandarnoslo, por favor. Entre tanto seguiremos escribiendo…
      Saludos, LCR

  2. I think it’s a good thing to write about our barrio, in fact, there is alots of good people came out of Rio Abajo. And the toughts of someone talking about our hometown its very gratifying. Congratulations

  3. Bridgett Flores

    Nice article! Thanks for your time and effort.

  4. I grew up in Rio Abajo Calle 4th , one of the roughest neighborhoods to grow up in where most are humble people that work hard to make ends meet at least that was my experience, but surrounded by crime all the time and the all the social problems of a troubled government. The one thing I will always remember about growing up here is the Iglesia de Piedra and their pastors who offered always a kind word and guidance to the entire community. I missed that the most about living there and that everyone needed their neighbor.