History in Bocas del toro

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The history of Bocas del toro is often surprising to those who are not familiar with the ancient roots of the Caribbean. In fact, a wide variety of Indians inhabited the area years before it was ever "discovered". There are recently discovered artifacts to prove it.

The 16th Century

Beginning in 1502, which is when Christopher Columbus landed in Admiral Bay, the appeal of Bocas del toro was apparent. The ocean was clear and there were tons of fruitful plants. Original Indian tribes such as the Guayimi, Bokota and Teribe had been surviving off of natural resources for quite some time.

The 18th Century

It was not until the 1700s that large groups of permanent settlers began to call Bocas del toro their home. The Jamaicans were the first large group to really inhabit the area. The English soon followed in the late 1700s, by settling first in Boca Drago. The English began to successfully raise cattle and chicken in cleared out fields on the island.

The 19th Century

Eventually in the 1800s, the profit potential of fruit was discovered and the residents of Bocas del toro were able to make a living off of the trading and shipment of bananas. Mahogany wood and live sea turtles also became popular means of trade for the islanders. It was not until much later that the intense decrease in sea turtle population would render rules and laws prohibiting their trade.

Settlers continued to move to Bocas del toro due to successful trading opportunities, and in 1880 the market for bananas exploded. About 20 years later, the United Fruit Company was established and incorporated the trading and shipping of sugar cane, cocoa, and coconut as well.

The 20th Century

Bocas del toro continued to flourish, and in 1903 the successful fishing community was recognized as a major asset to the archipelago. The advancements of fishery have categorized Bocas as the third most important province in Panama.

Years later, transportation throughout the chain of islands progressed and a road was built in 1981 from Gualaca to Chiriqui Grande. This particular road made Bocas del toro accessible by land from the mainland of Panama.

Although natural resources such as fruit and coffee are still highly important to the economy of Bocas, tourism has greatly taken over. Travelers from around the world visit Bocas del toro annually, just to walk along the pristine beaches and hear the sounds of exotic birds in the morning.

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