During the days when the Panama Canal Zone was a reality, the highway that divided the Canal Zone with Panama City was a busy and highway known as Fourth of July Avenue. After the Panama Canal Treaties, the name was changed to Martyrs’ Avenue after the unfortunate and violent events of January 9, 1964.
Martyrs’ Day is a Panamanian holiday which commemorates the January 9, 1964 riots over sovereignty of the Panama Canal Zone. The riot started after a Panamanian flag was torn during conflict between Panamanian students and Canal Zone Police officers, over the right of the Panamanian flag to be flown alongside the U.S. flag.
U.S. Army units became involved in suppressing the violence after Canal Zone police were overwhelmed, and after three days of fighting, about 21 Panamanians and four U.S. soldiers were killed. The incident is considered to be a significant factor in the U.S. decision to transfer control of the Canal Zone to Panama through the 1977 Torrijos-Carter Treaties.
As I write this blog post, this important thruway—which connects the metropolis to the countrywide using the Bridge of the Americas—is being expanded and a monument to the martyrs is planned to be built on a rotunda in the middle of the highway. The street will have seven lanes, being the widest highway in the city, and the only one with a short a four-lane-tunnel. It’s a very impressive infrastructure.
Below are several pictures depicting the expansion being carried out by the Ministry of Public Works (Ministerio de Obras Públicas). The monument to the martyrs is not yet ready and the expansion is still underway.