Discovery by Spain
The Burica Peninsula was noted by explorers who passed by sea in the 1500’s for its large population of indigenous, by Vasco Nunez de Balboa en 1513, and then explored more by Gaspar De Espinoza in 1520 for Spain. The Indigenous group “Doraces” occupied the area at that time, and where known for being warriors, a civilized people, with beautiful pottery and gold jewelry. Artifacts of this pottery are still found today in the area. The Doraces are descendants of the Nahuas (Mexico), Mayas (Guatemala) and Caribbean (Caribean Islands). Espinoza the Conquistador, and 150 soldiers entered land on the Burica peninsula and moved down the isthmus by land to establish authority in the Panama inland territory.
November 28, 1821 Panama became part of the “Grand Republic of Columbia”, which was a combination of Panama, Columbia, Venezuela and Ecuador, Independent from Spain. In 1898 Panama the Revolution army lead by Dr. Belisario Porras came from Nicaragua in three boats they entered Panama through Charco Azul, and the San Bartolo river. As the Manifesto of the Isthmus dated March 31, 1900 in Punta Burica says to: “Restore the Republic and liberate the Country” from here the Thousand day war began, bringing independence to Panama.
12 of March 1910 the Porras-Anderson Convention was held between the neighbor countries of Panama and Costa Rica, to agree on their mutual border. A partial agreement was met and signed, and the disputed areas taken to the US Supreme Court to be decided. In 1914 the ruling came out that the valley of Sixaola on the Atlantic and also Coto on the Pacific was to belong to Costa Rica. The Convention was then rejected by Panama President Belsario Porras, and Panama remained in control of both places. Costa Rica invaded Coto with 100 armed men. The US was notified as the countries took up arms against each other. Tomas Armuelles was a decorated colonel from the Thousand Days War, Porras called on him to rescue the invaded lands from Costa Rica as Commander of the Forces. The battle was on March 2, 1921 and lasted a little over 2 hours, Costa Rica suffered 24 deaths, Panama 0. Armuelles died in a train accident two weeks later when a car full of ammunition derailed. The US Sent battleships to both Oceans to calm the situation and protect US interests in both Countries. The physical fighting stopped and the diplomatic dispute continued in courts with the United Nations. Puerto Armuelles was officially named after Colonel Armuelles in 1924. The Final boundaries between the countries were not agreed on until 1944, mediated by Chile.
Sugar & Bananas
The main industry of the area from 1916-1928 was Sugar Operated by the “Panama Sugar Company” from Utah. This shifted to Bananas as Henry Sterling Blair Started Operations in Puerto Armuelles. He had been managing operations in Bocas and moved attention to Armuelles because of the Panama Disease effecting Bananas on the Atlantic. 15 of July 1927 Don Rodolfo Chiari and Henry Stirling Blair Signed Agreements between Panama and the Chriqui Land Company detailing transportation infrastructure of the area to support the population in terms of the railway and the pier systems. The Company produced more than Bananas, it produced an enclave environment, providing a first class life style in the tropical jungle, maintaining high standards in hospitals and schools, and commissaries filled with goods from ports of call at low prices.
The Company worked the lands in Armuelles for 82 years, leaving in 2009. The tensions were always there, as they always are when there is work to be done and compromise has to be made to move forward. Chiquita clearly had great success in their production, and so did the people of Armuelles. The town was a Gem, beautifully positioned against the pacific coastline and rich with the success of business, people were drawn to the place. Puerto held consulates from Latin America, often hosted visiting presidents from other countries, There was an international airport PanAm would fly to, Alamo car rental, movie theatre, golf tournaments, deep sea fishing, Puerto was the place to be for Christmas, with the best parties in the country. All of this has changed since Chiquita left, having the love and care of the company is greatly missed. And a new chapter in History will now be written…
As the great Bob Hope says,thanks for the memories. I appreciate the history lesson,especially that of Chiquita Bananas.
It’s been fun exploring the history of the area. I’m glad to know folks are enjoying reading ~ there will be lots more to come!