PANAMA CITY – Spain’s King Felipe VI emphasized on Sunday the significance of the common history and legacy of Spain and the Americas, both for the two regions and for the rest of the world, in a speech delivered in Panama City on the 500th anniversary of its founding.
“As we all know and as illustrious Hispanicists have emphasized, without Spain one cannot understand the history of the Americas and without the Americas one can’t understand the history of Spain,” the head of state said recalling the words of British Hispanicist John Elliot.
The king spoke at the Old Panama archaeological site, where he kicked off the official agenda of his visit to the Central American country.
The main reason for Felipe’s visit to Panama is to attend – on Monday – the ceremony to transfer power from current President Juan Carlos Varela to Laurentino Cortizo.
Although it had not initially been scheduled, Varela decided to accompany the Spanish monarch on the first day of his visit, with Felipe attending various events surrounding the 500th anniversary of the founding of Panama City by Spaniard Pedro Arias Davila.
In an address delivered a short distance from the emblematic tower of the city’s old cathedral – and accompanied by Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell, Panamanian Foreign Minister Isabel de Saint Malo and her incoming replacement, Alejandro Ferrer – King Felipe paid homage to the early days of the first Spanish city to be founded on the Pacific coast in the Americas, an historic event for the Spanish-speaking world.
The king said that Panama City, like only a few cities in the world, serves as a geographical axis for international relations and an example of globalization, having been open to the world for centuries, first as a key location on the routes connecting the two hemispheres at the isthmus and later with the Panama Canal, which he said currently constitutes the world’s main interocean trade route.
“In these 500 years, Panama has not ceased to be the world’s necessary interconnection point and – as the Panamanians say with full justification – it is, since its founding by Spain, the bridge for the world and the heart of the universe,” the monarch said.
All this has contributed, Felipe said, to Panama’s transformation into the image of the modernity he said is becoming visible in the rest of the continent and into a country capable of generating growth.
He said that this has been a project Spain has both witnessed and in which it has been an active participant via its private sector, especially in developing Panama’s main infrastructure.
He also emphasized Spain’s cooperation in the preservation and refurbishment of Old Panama with aid provided through the Heritage Program for Development of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), the Spanish agency responsible for the management of Madrid’s international development cooperation policy.
Felipe said that the links between Spaniards and Panamanians also extend to their common identification of the challenges confronting their societies and the aim of achieving fairer mutual and sustainable development, adding that their common past has enabled the two nations to jointly build a present that is guiding the way to the future.
He also recalled his 2012 visit to Panama with now-Queen Letizia, although he was still Spain’s crown prince at that time, when they attended the ceremony commemorating the 500th anniversary of Vasco Nuñez de Balboa’s discovery of the Southern Ocean, nowadays known as the Pacific.
The king also referred to the presidential inauguration on Monday, noting that he intends to convey to both Cortizo and Varela the support and friendship of the Spanish people, government and crown.