Every 3 November, Panama celebrates Separation Day, commemorating its separation from Colombia in 1903. This should not be confused with “Independence Day”, which refers to Panama’s declaration of independence from Spain on 28 November in 1821.
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Soon after independence from Spain, Panama was made a part of Colombia, which was formerly known as New Granada. Colombia was a part of “Gran Colombia” at the time, which also included modern day Venezuela and Ecuador. This grand state soon fell apart, but Panama was still trapped as part of Colombia.
In 1831, a failed uprising occurred in Panama. From 1840 to 1841, Panama briefly escaped Colombian rule. The desire for separation remained fairly strong in Panama for a long time. But it wasn’t until 1903, when the U.S.A. intervened, that Panama would become a sovereign state of its own.
The U.S. essentially wanted to build a canal through Panama to connect the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, but Colombia opposed it. Therefore, the U.S. supported Panamanian separation to further their own interests in regard to the Panama Canal. Colombia finally acquiesced without a fight when the U.S. sent a warship to protect Panama.