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Martyrs' Day

Martyrs' Day 2019 and 2020

January 9 is a day of national mourning for the 22 Panamanians who lost their lives during the 1964 riots over the US control of the Panama Canal Zone.

YearDateDayHoliday
20199 JanWedMartyrs' Day
20209 JanThuMartyrs' Day

In 1903, the US helped Panama succeed in their revolt against Colombia and finally win their independence. However, many Panamanians resented that fact that the US took control over the Canal Zone.

The US paid 10 million dollars to Panama for the land, paid a quarter-million dollars a year rent, and also bought all land holdings of individuals in the zone. And of course, the US built the canal. But still, it was Panamanian territory under the control of a foreign power, and this did not sit well with many.

JFK ordered the flag of Panama to be flown alongside the US flag at all non-military flag poles in the Canal Zone in 1963, but he was assassinated before this order could be implemented.

Later, an incident concerning flying the Panama flag in the Canal Zone led to a conflict in which Panama’s flag was ripped up and Panamanian student-protesters were killed. The riot then spread, and the US Armed Forces and Canal Zone police suppressed it during a three-day conflict.

The riot of 1964 not only became the reason for establishing Martyrs’ Day, but also was a major reason the US signed the treaty that ultimately ceded the canal to Panama’s control.

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