Planting of Flags: a legacy of patriotism


Under the bright sunlight and to the sound of folk music and traditional dances, the City of Knowledge Foundation holds its long-established annual Planting of Flags, an institutional event that evokes the memories of our homeland by having the event’s participants raise Panamanian flags and plant them in front of the Foundation’s main building as a symbol of love for Panama. This event has been held for over 15 years to mark the beginning of the national month’s festivities and this year, it was celebrated in a special way.

“All Panamanians carry within ourselves that feeling of pride for our homeland and when we see these flags, we feel even more profoundly that love for the motherland in which we were born. Having a flag in hand, listening to our music and seeing our traditional dresses, makes us reminisce of our childhood and the school times when we learned to appreciate our culture, our stories and traditions. In addition, we remember all the love and respect that they instilled in us for our country” remarks Ben Bravo, Vice President of Administration and Finance and the precursor of this initiative.

60 years ago, a group of about 75 young university students, in a clandestine and secret operation, surprised the US authorities that administered the Panama Canal and planted 65 Panamanian flags in a peaceful, civic and silent way in several symbolic places, simultaneously, and in different key points of the Panama Canal Zone.

This historical act demanded the revision of the Panama Canal Treaties, as well as of Panamanian sovereignty in the area. The Planting of Flags ceremony is inspired by this patriotic feat of May 2, 1958, known as Operation Sovereignty. That same gesture also inspired the patriotic march in November of the following year and led the President of the United States to recognize that both flags should be hoisted in the Canal Zone, as established by the Chiari-Kennedy Agreement. It was then an epic feat through which young people defied the jurisdictional limitations of the time and demonstrated their tenacity, testifying to their belief that the Panamanian flag was worth putting their own lives at risk.

Inspired by this patriotic feat, the Planting of Flags at the City of Knowledge has established itself as a testimony of gratitude to all the generations of Panamanians who fought to regain sovereignty throughout the national territory. Traditionally, 300 flags are planted 20 feet apart, in an almost mathematical alignment that can be evidenced in the perfect lines that are drawn between one and another, and that are visible from different angles of the campus. “Everywhere you look you can see a perfect alignment and that is a beautiful thing,” says Mr. Bravo. “We plant our national symbol to the earth to remember those times when this land was still under foreign jurisdiction,” he adds. What was coined then as a slogan of the time, today is a beautiful reality: flags were planted and sovereignty was reaped.

Throughout these years, 15 special guests have had the honor of participating in this event which paints with the national colors the City of Knowledge campus, recalling the sense of belonging that unites us. Hundreds of people traditionally attend each annual ceremony to remember with great joy the events that built what we are today as a country.

“This event is the one in which the Foundation’s employees participate each year on a voluntary basis, usually around 50” points out Mr. Bravo, as a sign of the special significance that the celebration has for the institution. “The greatest achievement of this ceremony is seeing how we come together as a community to feel empowered by the place where we were born, waving a single flag that symbolizes all the past epics and marks social change in our history,” he concludes.

A special event in 2020

2020 surprised us with a profound message of returning to the essential: science, education and collective work in response to the great challenges that we have faced and will face as humanity.

For this reason, the event’s standard bearer was Panamanian scientist Sandra López Vergès, health researcher in the areas of virology and immunology at the Gorgas Memorial Institute for Health Studies (ICGES).

In her speech, Dr. Lopéz highlighted the importance of contributing through collective experience to build a country with a vision of development that is open to the world. She affirmed that for this reason, it is necessary to rely on education, health, science, agriculture, humanities and art, reiterating the importance of working hand in hand with all disciplines to join forces and add from different perspectives to the construction of a future designed for everyone.

The event, which was held with reduced capacity and under strict security measures, had a space to remind attendees why the City of Knowledge exists for: “our founders, when they dreamed the City of Knowledge, they did so thinking of creating a space to face the great challenges of humanity in the XXI century. We are walking towards that goal and much has been achieved, thanks to many people,” highlighted Jorge Arosemena, Executive President of the City of Knowledge Foundation. He also added that  “a new generation, like Dr. Sandra’s, is called to consolidate a more just, sustainable and inclusive homeland.”

In this very special year, the participants left a key message: just as previous generations contributed to becoming a free and sovereign country, in the same way it is up to us to advance in the construction of our nation project, to leave a better country to future generations, where we may live in peace, with a prosperous, democratic and sustainable future.

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