Bayano was a Mandinka slave living in Panama during the mid-1500s. His significance is in leading Panama’s largest slave rebellion during this time.
King Bayano in Panama
The most known rebellion occurred in 1552 but its exact location is lost to history. The accepted location was onboard a slave ship that was on its way to Darien, Panama. He would take up with the Cimarron rebel slave forces who battled the Spanish for some time. The Cimarron often operated in cooperation with and as pirates, fighting the Spanish on land and sea.
The size of his forces was in the hundreds to low thousands. For roughly five years his forces fended off the Spanish from their base, a village named Ronconcholon. This village was located in the upper part of the Chepo River. This particular part of the water way is often referred to as the Bayano River. Bayano would attack colonial treasure and resource caravans and amassed quite a fortune.
Towards the end of his life in Panama, King Bayano had an active truce with the colony’s governor Pedro de Ursua. This truce stated that his forces wouldn’t be targeted if they didn’t take in any more slaves—a common treaty with rebels who establish their own community such as the Maroons. He would eventually make it Spain where he would die living off his looted wealth.