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Bayano, also known as Ballano or Vaino, was an African enslaved by Spaniards who led the biggest slave revolts of 16th century Panama. Captured from the Mandinka community in West Africa, it is alleged that he and his comrades were Muslim. 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.
King 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. The account written by Dr. Abdul Khabeer Muhammad based on the belief that Bayano's followers were Mandinka, and as Mandinka had been influenced by Islam, argued that they created democratic councils and built mosques. 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. Bayano gained truces with Panama's colonial governor, Pedro de Ursua, but Ursua subsequently captured the guerrilla leader and sent him to Peru and then to Spain, where he died. Bayano's revolt coincided with others, including those of Felipillo and Luis de Mozambique.
Bayano's name has become immortal in the Panamanian consciousness through the naming of a major river, a valley, a dam, and several companies after him.
- "A Brief History of Muslims in Panama"http://www.islamawareness.net/LatinAmerica/panama.html
- Pedro de Aguado, Historia de Venezuela, Book 9, chapter 10
- All account of Bayano go back to Pedro de Aguado, Historia de Venezuela, Book 9, chapter 9-13.