The Bayano Wars were armed conflicts in the Isthmus of Panama that occurred between the Bayano of Panama and the Spanish crown.


Bayano Wars
Part of North American slave revolts
Date1548-1558 and 1579-1582
Result Spanish victory
Spanish Empire Spanish Empire Bayanos of Panama
Commanders and leaders
Unknown Bayano 
Unknown 1552:
Casualties and losses
Unknown Unknown

The Bayano Wars were armed conflicts in the Isthmus of Panama that occurred between the Bayano of Panama and the Spanish crown. The First War of the Bayano took place from 1548 to 1558, while the Second War took place from 1579 and 1582.[2] Slavery, practiced since the early sixteenth century in Panama, brought many enslaved people from Africa to Spanish America. This brought successive slave uprisings against the rulers of the time, which was the origin for the Bayano Wars.


Upon the prompt introduction of African slaves by the Spanish into the New World, a swift emergence of open revolts ensued among these captives. Illustrative of this resistance were the Cimarrones, exemplifying a trend that proliferated across the Caribbean and Central America during the 16th Century. Enslaved Africans transported to Spanish colonies sought refuge in the wilderness, forming cohesive communities that occasionally abstained from interaction with their erstwhile captors. However, more frequently, these fugitives armed themselves and engaged in guerrilla campaigns against their former masters.[1]


In Panama, entire populations of slaves sought liberation from captivity by establishing autonomous colonies in the jungles. Notably, their struggles against the Spanish garnered support from local indigenous tribes and even found alignment with Spain's European adversaries, such as the English privateer Francis Drake. King Bayano emerged as a prominent figure among the Cimarrones. In 1552, leading a force of up to 1,200 fugitives, Bayano established a palenque, or slave sanctuary, instigating a protracted war against the Spaniards spanning five years.[1][3]


Historical accounts attest to the democratic nature of the palenque named Ronconcholon. Remarkably, it accommodated a mosque for the Muslim slaves within the community. Some members of the group were purportedly Christians, having undergone conversion by their masters. Subsequently, the Spanish forces overwhelmed Ronconcholon, recapturing numerous slaves, including Bayano himself. Transferred to South America, Bayano endured captivity until his demise. In contemporary Panama, King Bayano is reverently regarded as a hero, with a river named in his honor, perpetuating his legacy.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d "Unchained — The Bloody History of Slave Rebellions". 2012-07-12. Retrieved 2024-01-12.
  2. ^ Valencia, Pedro de; Gayo, Gaspar Morocho; Fernández, Francisco Javier Fuente; Jeśus Paniagua Pérez (1993). Obras completas (in Spanish). Secretariado de Publicaciones de la Universidad de León. p. 185. ISBN 978-84-7719-393-7.
  3. ^ "Bayano, Central American Abolitionist born". African American Registry. Retrieved 2024-01-18.



Born16th century
Died16th century
Other namesKing Bayano
OccupationMaroon leader
Known forBayano Wars

Bayano, also known as Ballano or Vaino, was an African enslaved by Portuguese who led the biggest slave revolts of the 16th century Panama. Captured from the Yoruba community in West Africa, it has been argued that his name means idol.[1] Different tales tell of their revolt in 1552 beginning either on the ship en route, or after landing in Panama's Darien province along its modern-day border with Colombia. Rebel slaves, known as cimarrones, set up autonomous regions known as palenques, many of which successfully fended off Spanish control for centuries using guerrilla war and alliances with pirates, or indigenous nations who were in similar circumstances.

Bayano's forces numbered between four and twelve hundred Cimarrons, depending upon different sources, and set up a palenque known as Ronconcholon near modern-day Chepo River, also known as Rio Bayano. They fought their guerrilla war for over five years while building their community. However, the most important primary source, written in 1581 by Pedro de Aguado, devotes space to their religious life, and describes the activities of a "bishop" who guided the community in prayer, baptized them, and delivered sermons, in a manner that Aguado believed to be essentially Christian.[2] Bayano's forces numbered between 400 and 1200 Maroons, depending on various sources, and established a palenque known as Ronconcholon near today's Chepo River, later known as the Bayano River. They fought their guerrilla war for more than five years while building their community. The Spaniards with Captain Carreño at their head, managed to destroy the Bayano palenque called Rolcolcholon, and after a surprise attack managed to capture Bayano himself, who was taken by Captain Carreño to Governor Sosa who was then in Nombre de Dios. The conciliatory Governor forgave Bayano his crimes and robberies and signed a peace agreement with him, setting him free. It only served to allow him to continue his campaigns of robberies and assaults with more viciousness than before.[3]

Finally Pedro de Ursua captured Bayano and 300 of his men without losing a single soldier. Bayano was sent by the president of Panama to the viceroy of Peru who received him with curiosity to see who and how was the man who had remained for so long in opposition to the authorities, and treated him very courteously, sending him to Spain where he remained until the end of his days in the city of Seville, maintained at the expense of the Royal Treasury for life.[4]

Bayano's name has become immortal in the Panamanian consciousness through the naming of a major river, a lake, a valley, a dam, and several companies after him.

See also


  1. ^ Tardieu, Jean-Pierre (2009). Cimarrones de Panamá: La forja de una identidad afroamericana en el siglo XVI. Iberoamericana Editorial. ISBN 9788484894568.
  2. ^ Pedro de Aguado, Historia de Venezuela, Book 9, chapter 10
  3. ^ "El Rey Bayano los Cimarrones y Su Captura". EL REY BAYANO LOS CIMARRONES Y SU CAPTURA. 19 July 2022.

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