November 10 – First Cry of Independence in Panama

Posted on November 10, 2017

This poster says "November: Month of
the Homeland."
This month is full of patriotic holidays for the Central American country of Panama. November 3 is Separation
(celebrating its separation from Colombia), November 4 is Patriotic Symbols' Day, November 5 is Colón Day (celebrating the decision that Colombian forces not fight against the separation), and November 28 is Independence Day (celebrating its independence from Spain). Did Panama really need another big patriotic holiday? 

Apparently the answer to that question is "yes!" Today's patriotic holiday is a remembrance of what is said to be the first call for independence from Spain, in 1821.

Specifically, it is a remembrance of a march in the town of Los Santos - a march led by a beautiful peasant woman named Rufina Alfaro. She is said to have shouted "Viva la Libertad" - which means "long live liberty" - and to have inspired citizens to seize the barracks housing Spanish soldiers, along with seizing their weapons. 

Supposedly, by the dawning of this date in 1821, the townspeople had achieved independence without spilling a single drop of blood.

Did you notice how carefully I wrote this holiday description? I used phrases like "said to have" and words like "supposedly." Why was I so careful?

There are many who doubt whether or not Rufina Alfaro ever existed!

Wikipedia calls Alfaro "possibly legendary." This doesn't mean that Alfaro could have been awesome - but rather that she could have been a myth! Even in Panama's parliament, arguments over was she or wasn't she real sometime break out. 

King Arthur, right.
Robin Hood, left.
Of course, there are many figures from the long ago past whose reality is disputed. Was there really a King Arthur? It's hard to say for sure - historians think that the stories may have been originally based on a king who lived in the years between 500 and 600, or maybe in the early 1000s - but we ARE sure that a lot of the details of the stories (Round Table, Camelot, Guinevere, knights like Lancelot and Galahad) are fictional. Was there really a Robin Hood (who maybe lived in the 1100s or 1200s)?

But how is it we don't know for sure about a woman who is supposed to have been leading marches in 1821?

At any rate, there really was an uprising in the town of La Villa de los Santos on November 10, 1821, and it did help lead to independence 18 days later. And whether or not Rufina Alfaro existed and helped with that uprising, there is a monument depicting her in los Santos, and she is a part of Panama's national story.

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