Why the name of the city of Panama?

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A similar event occurred with Peru, a country that bears his name most likely in honor of a cacique who lived in the Colombian Choco whose name was Biru.

With the eagerness to visualize a historical dilemma of great relevance, that stimulates the interest to investigate about our roots, we ventured some answers that seek to solve the question that this article begins.

The designation of names of places, or regions, not only in our continent, but in the rest of the world, has usually been given according to customs that relate the place with something that distinguished or characterized the place in question; that way a place is usually known by a tree, or the name of someone who lived for a long time or made a memorable event. In the case of the period of the conquest, the custom was to assign the name of places, usually in honor of the date of some patron saint.

But it was also tradition to designate the name of places, in memory of the cacique that dominated this region. This is corroborated if we examine the names of so many cities and regions that exist throughout our territory, such as Nata, Tole, Chiriquí, Nome, among others. In the case of Panama City the old one, this custom was not the exception.

One of the first references to the name 'Panama' appears in the story made by Fernandez de Oviedo, quoted by Lombardo, when Balboa, after exploring the archipelago of Las Perlas, instead of returning by the well-known path of the Darién, chooses return to the Caribbean, for the closest coasts of the Pacific. After engaging in battles with several caciques in the region, among which Chepo and Tubanamá stand out, it records the following: 'Tello waded the river, he went to Panama, a very famous land, but he found there only a few huts of fishermen, who revered a Tavira God'.

From the aforementioned text it can be inferred that the name of Panama, without a doubt, already existed and was recognized by all of the region. From there we can establish that, in effect, this name could be derived from one of the elements that characterized the place, that is: place of many fish or butterflies; name of a Panama tree that remained there for a long time, or simply the name that was established in honor of a recognized cacique who lived on this site.

It is probable, then, that there was a cacique named Panama, who no longer lived when the Spaniards arrived. It is possible that the name of the place of Panama would be placed as part of the domain of the cacique Tubanama, as a way of highlighting the belonging of this place to the indicated cacicazgo. This last one acquires force if the proximity between both places is considered, on the one hand, and by another, the power that according to Fernandez de Oviedo had the cacique Tubanama, cacique with whom Balboa engaged in a hard battle in November of 1513.

During the conquest, it was very common for the Spaniards to change the pronunciation of the terms of the language of our natives; particularly the b for the p, so that surely it became popular among the conquistadores to say I come or I come from Panama, in memory of the cacique Tubanama. A similar event occurred with Peru, a country that bears his name most likely in honor of a cacique who lived in the Colombian Choco whose name was Biru.

From the above, there remains the task of conducting more extensive research to confirm and discard some of the theses outlined here, a task of high significance if we value the history we must tell the new generations, so I judge it as urgent and transcendent, that it must scrutinize not only the subject here indicated, but everything that implied the period of the conquest.