Belisario Porras Barahona
1856 – 1942
Who was Belisario Porras Barahona?
Porras was born on the thirty-fifth anniversary of Panama's declaration of independence from Spain. Raised by his grandmother, his early education was paid for by his father in Bogotá, the capital of Colombia, which Panama was a province of at the time. He joined his father when he went to secondary school, went on to study law at the National University in 1874, and won a scholarship from the Colombian government to study in Belgium from where he later returned to the Panamanian
Working as a reporter, he aligned himself with the local Colombian Liberal Party, and was soon the target of persecution by the reigning Conservative government in Bogotá. Exiled to Nicaragua and El Salvador, he took jobs as a professor and a reporter.
As the Thousand Days War began in Colombia, the Liberals in Panama sent for Porras to lead the invasion of the Isthmus in 1900. Working with General Victoriano Lorenzo and others, he began his struggle from Costa Rica in the West. He organized a volunteer army and reached the capital where he was defeated in the Battle of Calidonia Bridge. Porras returned to exile until 1904, after his homeland had acquired its independence, and became a diplomat until becoming president in 1912. The Panama Canal was finished during his first term in office.
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