Every year in Panama our calendar begins with the commemoration of one of the most significant historical events of the twentieth century, The Day of the Martyrs of January 9, 1964. According to some historians and to those participants who survived the patriotic manifestation, the events of that fateful day created a ‘horizon of expectation’ that culminated in the country’s decolonization, territorial integration and the reversion of the Panama Canal to Panamanian hands in 1999.
Martyrs’ Day is an important part of the arduous process of nation building in Panama and as part of that process, the creation of national heroes. It was on January 9 that the country earned 21 young heroes, all students who died defending the country’s sovereignty against U.S. military and civilian presence stationed in the Canal Zone. These heroes- children really- have been collectively exalted by the Panamanian people throughout the years and continue to be remembered through patriotic and culturual activities.
Today, 49 years later, our martyrs of the January 9 continue to be remembered with a national day of mourning – Día de Duelo- and with various memorial sites, an idea taken from French historian Pierre Nora referring to the placement of street names, the unveiling of monuments and other tangible and intangible works, such as poetry, novels and paintings, in addition to the maintenance of the ‘eternal flame’ in the Ascanio Arosemena Training Center where the Balboa High School Library was once located on the Canal Zone .
It is imperative to recall the sublime sacrifice of these youngsters and that their valor and conviction does not fall into oblivion and become part of what modern historians are beginning to call “inter-generational ingratitude.”
In remembering our National Martyrs of January 9, 1964 we recall the elimination of the tall chain link fence that surrounded the Canal Zone, a powerful symbol of the neocolonial status of Panama in the twentieth century. But, we ask ourselves, “What are the new ‘fences’ that face Panama in the XXI century?”
We’ve provided some videos for you of that momentous day and the images of some of those soon to be martyred children who continue to be honored and remembered in our collective conscience.
Our source for this post came from La Estrella.