On Ancon Hill is a bronze statue of a woman whose poetry endeared her to the Panamanian people. Her poem “To Ancon Hill,’ mourns the loss of this strip of land, the Canal Zone, that cut the country into two sections and inspired the demand for its return to Panama.
Amelia Denis de Icaza was a ground breaker. She was the first woman whose poetry was published in her own country. Her poems reflected her emotional attachment to, and understanding of, social and cultural subjects.
She was born in Panama City on the 28th of November 1836 and received her early education at the Primera Escuela Elemental de Niñas (the First Elementary School for Girls) in the Santa Ana area of Panama City. Even as a young child she showed interest in literature and she began writing poetry. Her parents encouraged her interests.
Twice married, she was the mother of 4 children. Amelia Denis de Icaza spent considerable time in Guatemala but moved to Nicaragua where she lived for the last 4 years of her life. She died in Managua, Nicaragua on August 15, 1911, at the age of 74. Her remains were returned to Panama in 1936 on what would have been her 100th birthday.
Her statue on Ancon Hill is located near to the base of the tall flag pole which flies a flag the size of a basketball court. Ancon Hill was part of the land taken to build the Panama Canal. Between 1914, when the canal opened, to 1979, the canal and surrounding area was controlled by the United States, which built it. Amelia De Icaza was saddened by this and wrote her poem to have the land returned to Panama.
Her wish came true in 1977 with the treaty signed by U.S. President Carter and Panamanian Head of State Torrijos. This treaty agreed to return 60% of the Canal Zone to Panama in 1979. The canal and the remainder of the land, now called the Reverted Area, was returned on noon (Panama time) December 31,1999.
When you visit Ancon Hill, you have a bird’s eye view of the coastline and Casco Viejo. The flag is located up a path beyond De Icaza’s memorial statue. From below, in the city, the large flag is plainly visible, a symbol of Panamanian sovereignty. It flies every day of the year, in good part because of a poem written by Amelia Denis De Icaza many decades ago.