Darien

The province of Darien is located in the east of Panama, and was formed in 1922 from the Panama province. Well known for the Darien gap – which is the only gap in the Pan-American Highway between North, South and Central America. The first European colony, in South America was established in Darien in 1510 in a town called Santa Maria la Antigua del Darien, which was later abandoned – where some of the refugees went on to found Panama City in 1519. The area was the site of the famous march to the Pacific by Vasco Nunez de Balboa in 1513.

The province was the site of the Darien scheme, which was an unsuccessful establishment of a Scottish colony in Panama, in the late 17th Century. This part of local Panamanian history contributes to the current situation in the United Kingdom, with reference to Scotland’s unity with England. It has been said that when the African slaves escaped from their captors they escaped into the jungles and formed, what is know as the Darienites today. These refugees, then called cimmarones by the Spanish, formed gangs and attacked the trade routes through the region.

The indigenous groups of this province include the Choco (Embrera) and the Kuna, which live mostly in villages scattered throughout the forests. The main town in the province today is La Palma – which is an isolated centre mostly involved with produce and livestock trade.

A large part of the province consists of the Darien National Park, which borders the Los Katios Park in Colombia. The Darien National Park is a world heritage site and categorized as a worldwide patrimony in 1983 – this park is the most extensive park in Panama, whilst being one of the most important world heritage sites in South America, it is highly valued for its genetic value. Some of the wildlife prevalent in the park include jaguars, howler monkeys, harpy eagles, giant anteaters and the endemic grey-headed chachalaca, to name a few.

The sheer beauty of the forested region is a major attraction for tourists, wishing to hike the natural terrain, with numerous opportunities of sighting wonderful bird species, wildlife and the indigenous flora.

This post is also available in: Spanish