The Story Of John Wayne Island In Panama

Grace Higgins | June 25th, 2019

Panama is undoubtedly a gorgeous country with magnificent coastlines, from Gorgona to Punta Chuma you can find beautiful beaches. And in the distance, you can generally see two islands, and one of these islands is known as John Wayne Island.

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You see in Panama, John Wayne is seen as a hero. Wayne was known to be the same rebel in his private life that he portrayed in his famous western movies. During the sixties, he was part of the diplomatic fight that was asking for the independence of Panama. Even though he was a Republican, he openly had a different opinion when it came to the issues surrounding the Panama Canal.

The problem came from the fact that the canal was on Panamanian soil, yet it was completely under United States control. This had of course been disputed for years, and in 1964, the conflict between the United States and Panama really arose. A clash between the United States Military and Panamanian demonstrators on January 9th caused many fatal injuries.

You may ask why Wayne was involved in this struggle at all, the answer lies in his former wife Josephine being a native of Panama and he was actually a close personal to one of the former presidents of Panama: Omar Torrijos. This is one of the reasons why Wayne believed that the Panamanians had the right to the canal and why he sided with Jimmy Carter’s 1977 treaty that guaranteed the canal being transferred to Panama control.

This agreement ensured the Panama Canal would after 1999 be completely controlled by Panama, however, it would remain a neutral area and continue to function. The United States was also given the right to defend the canal from any threats.

A funny outcome out of this support is John Wayne received the first hate mail ever, as people believed he was not being American. And for compensation, Omar Torrijos awarded John Wayne a beautiful island off in the middle of the Pacific – which is the story of how John Wayne Island was born.

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