On the 3rd of November, Panama celebrates Independence Day, marking the country’s official separation from Colombia in 1903, and the establishment of the Republic of Panama. But there’s more to it: this is also the start of a month full of events and celebrations in Panama, as it is immediately followed by Flag Day, on November 4th, and Colon Day, on November 5th (which is the local version of Columbus Day, a recognition of the first colonists to reach the shores of today’s Panama). Then, the 10th of November is again a public holiday, to remember the Uprising in the Villa de Los Santos, or the first official action against the Spanish domination, and the 28th of November marks the official proclamation of independence from Spain in 1821.
As you may have noticed already, Panama has not one, but two Independence Days, which is why the holiday on the 3rd of November, celebrated with Google’s Doodle, is also known as the Separation Day. After obtaining the independence from Spain, Panama became part of the Gran Republic of Colombia, along with Ecuador and Venezuela, and made several unsuccessful attempts to proclaim its independence over the following 80 years. By 1902, the situation in the region became dangerously unstable, as Colombia was devastated by the civil conflict known as the Thousand Days’ War, while also turning into a strategic point of interest for international powers, as the construction of the Panama Canal had just started. The refusal of the Colombian Congress to pass a treaty ratifying the terms for this construction led to a major shift in US politics: determined to see the Canal finished, the United States announced their support for an independent state of Panama, and even sent a warship to protect the local authorities from a possible Colombian attack when the independence was finally proclaimed.
This close link between the birth of a new state and one of mankind’s biggest engineering achievements is certainly worth celebrating with a Google Doodle, and, of course, a parade – which is how Panamanians themselves do it: local schools prepare all year for this moment, when marching bands and children dressed in folk outfits take over the streets of Panama City. And the fact that it always rains on their parades (literally, almost every year, November being a rainy month) doesn’t dampen their enthusiasm; quite to the contrary, Panamanians laugh about it and say it wouldn’t be a proper Independence Day without a few drops of rain.