Indigenous Leader Victoriano Lorenzo

The Traces of Victoriano Lorenzo: Struggle and Legacy of The Indigenous People in Panama

Valle de Antón, Panama.

The Museo Victoriano Lorenzo seeks to transmit knowledge of Panama’s geological, religious, folkloric-ethnic, pre-Columbian history and the life of Victoriano Lorenzo. At the same time, the museum seeks to highlight the traditions of Panama’s fields. It is also known as the Valle de Antón Artisan and Cultural Center.

Victoriano Lorenzo Troya, a native of the province of Coclé, precisely from the Penonomé area, was an indigenous leader and revolutionary general. His participation in the War of a Thousand Days (1899-1902) had a strong influence in Panama, fighting against the injustices committed by the conservative authorities against the isthmus and for this reason he is considered a hero in the isthmus.


Image Source: Astrid Chang.


That is why in El Valle de Antón, in the province of Coclé, a space was opened as a tribute to the struggles of this leader in which a compendium of his history and his role in the indigenous community in Panama is highlighted, according to what José Martínez, the guide of the Victoriano Lorenzo museum, explains.


Image Source: Astrid Chang.


Until today Lorenzo is considered among the local indigenous peoples as a “hero” and leader.

Martínez, a museum guide, narrates that Victoriano was the son of an indigenous leader named Rosa Lorenzo and María Pascual Troya. His birth occurred in El cacao, Coclé when Panama was part of Gran Colombia. He was part of this area.


Image Source: Astrid Chang.


Then, when he was nine years old, his father took him to a Jesuit priest named Antonio Jiménez to help him with the chores of the Church, among other things. Even though he did not attend school, he learned to read.


Image Source: Astrid Chang.


When he turned 23 he married a young woman named María Lorenzo Mora and was later appointed mayor of El Cacao (1889), by the mayor of Penonomé.


Image Source: Astrid Chang.



In 1890, Lorenzo formally denounced the Corregidor Pedro de Hoyos, appointed by the Mayor of Capira, for the unfair collection of tithes and first fruits from the indigenous community of Trinidad.


Image Source: Astrid Chang.


The guide tells that Hoyos attacked Lorenzo with the intention of killing him, for which Lorenzo, in self-defense, killed Hoyos. After this fact, Victoriano appeared before the authorities and was detained in the Penonomé prison. He was later sentenced to 9 years in prison and confined in the Bodegas de Chiriquí, where dangerous criminals were serving sentences.


Image Source: Astrid Chang.


In prison he worked as an assistant, and became a secretary for the officers. He also became a tailor, a barber and read about law.

“During the time he spent in prison, he helped the guards in the development of the prison, and learned about defense techniques,” says the museum guide, who has been working at the museum for more than a year.


Image Source: Astrid Chang.



Back in his town, Victoriano wrote a memorandum to the Vice President of the Republic of Panama where he pointed out that for some years the indigenous people had been forced “to pay for personal work by subsidizing the Penonomé authorities in work on a new port, a business for shipowners and for merchants,” and because they opposed such work they were compelled “forcibly by police guards.”

Consequently, he asked that they be freed from forced labor, that the guarantees they previously enjoyed be reinstated, and that a “new governor of indigenous peoples” be appointed. Lorenzo was secretary to the governor of the Cabildo Indígena and gradually, he became a highly appreciated leader.


Image Source: Astrid Chang.


Faced with the injustices and iniquities committed by the local authorities against the indigenous population, in 1900 he supported the liberal side against the conservative central government in the Thousand Days War that spread throughout Colombia. At first, he and his community were only collaborators.


Image Source: Astrid Chang.


When the Liberals were defeated in July 1900 at the Battle of Calidonia Bridge, Victoriano took it upon himself to hide the weapons that the rebels managed to keep.


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Government troops moved after the indigenous people who were trying to hide the Liberal weapons, and the hamlet of El Cacao was razed and burned by a Conservative patrol, commanded by Colonel Pedro Sotomayor, in October 1900.


Image Source: Astrid Chang.


On October 29, 1900, Victoriano and his people became mountaineers, and guerrillas, and forced the official army to flee from Penonomé. Victoriano occupied Penonomé on October 10, 1901, and all the stores were requisitioned and their items seized by the guerrilla troops. The liberal troops then joined the guerrillas after watching them obtain success after success.


Image Source: Astrid Chang.


Victoriano was appointed Division General of the liberal troops and from that moment on, only reaped victories. He unleashed the aboriginal rebellion in the fight for land and freedom. The influence he exerted among the indigenous groups made him the most dangerous leader of the rebellion, as he continued to attract a growing number of supporters to his ranks.



Unexpected Twist

The guide Martínez tells that Victoriano was appointed general of the liberal troops and this group was favored thanks to Lorenzo’s action during the development of the Thousand Days War from Chiriquí to Panama.

Lorenzo played an important role because he was the leader of the indigenous people. He had a lot of dominance.


Image Source: Astrid Chang.


However, when the liberals were preparing to attack Panama City, they were surprised with the news that the liberal group and the conservatives had signed a peace treaty called, Wisconsin, aboard an American ship of the same name.

History indicates that the heads of the parties signed the Peace Treaty and did not take into account Victoriano, who was preparing to attack the city. The lack of information left him in a disadvantageous position as he was considered a “traitor” for violating a peace agreement of which he was not aware.


Museo Victoriano Lorenzo. Image Source:


Despite the Peace Treaty, the conservatives wanted to get rid of the leader of the indigenous people and tarnished his identity. For this, they created secret clauses that were not written in the treaty, to facilitate the arrest, trial and execution of Lorenzo. “They looked for a way to take revenge on the leader of the indigenous people and tarnish his work in favor of defending the people from him,” says the museum guide.


Museo Victoriano Lorenzo. Image Source:


After several unsuccessful arrest attempts, Lorenzo became known as “the invincible.” Later, he was accused of leading a riot in rejection of the peace agreement signed between liberals and conservatives. They arrested him with a false promise of granting him a passport to travel abroad.

On November 28, 1902 he was captured. He attempted to escape on Christmas Eve, but was recaptured, then imprisoned on a government ship.

“They accused him with a rigged file in which he was accused of violating everything agreed in the 1903 peace treaty. On May 14 he was submitted to a council, in which some of the judges present were enemies of the leader of the indigenous people. On May 15, 1903 they pronounced his death sentence,” says Martínez.

But what happened? Victoriano died of 36 shots, of which 35 hit him. Martínez explains that of the six judicial officers who shot him, only one was supposed to have live ammunition. It turns out that the number of impacts he received shows live ammunition by the group, which means that he had no way of saving himself because only one was supposed to have had ammunition, as was tradition.


Museo Victoriano Lorenzo. Image Source:


“The history of that time specifies that if someone missed shooting or only wounded him, he could stay alive and be saved; however, if all the guns were loaded with live ammunition, Victoriano had no way of surviving,” he stresses.

Thus, the lifeless body of the indigenous leader was left lying on the ground and, once he was killed, he was paraded around the city on a cart with the intention of “intimidating his followers that if anyone followed his steps, they would also end up dead.”

His body was buried in a common grave and they did not put any type of identification on it. Today, the exact place where he is buried is unknown, there is only one tombstone built as a tribute in the Amador cemetery, located in the neighborhood of El Chorrillo; and in the Casco Antiguo a plaque was placed in his memory, and it is located near where he was shot at that time.


In 1966, the Government of Panama returned Victoriano his right as a citizen and the trial to which he was subjected was declared totally illegal. His title as general was restored as a tribute to his legacy.

Lorenzo is considered a teacher of a Panamanian caudillo, and since then he has been followed by the popular masses, especially because of his origins, since he was related to the leader of the indigenous Urraca, who appears on the one hundredth coin in Panama.

An image representative of the moment in which he was promoted to general is exhibited in the museum. The museum space is decorated with materials and resources used by the indigenous people at that time, either for their defense or for food, as well as keeps historical pieces of the time.


If you want to visit the Victoriano Lorenzo museum, which has several exhibition halls, where not only is the history of the indigenous leader related through a guide, but also the religious history of the area, its geography, pre-Columbian history, among others, you can visit the museum from Monday to Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Admission is $3.50 for adults and $1.75 for minors and seniors. In social networks, you can follow them as @Vlmuseum.


Astrid Chang | Correspondent for Panamá

Astrid Chang has a degree in Journalism with an Emphasis in Audiovisual Production. Since 2018, she has been a journalist at La Estrella de Panamá. Her work in the newspaper was initially as an intern, where she developed in the area of sports, nationals, social networks and the web. Later, she was hired to lead the themes for World Youth Day and to be a presenter for the segment “Flash Economy.” She later became part of the Café Estrella team, a new content proposal by ‘La Decana’. In this booklet she has written articles on the environment, technology, health, sports, society, music, culture, sexuality, art, fashion and tourism. Likewise, she has organized and directed projects with visual artists for the International Book Fair of Panama. She too, was sent special to cover the Lima 2019 Juegos Parapanamericanos, and currently she is the coordinator of sports issues in the newspaper. She has training in journalistic leadership.