Commercial Hub of the World with a History that Wonders the World
Gigantic ships, civil areas that were military bases and a unique historical legacy in the world. In 1903, Panama and the United States signed a treaty by which the northern country would undertake the construction of
Gigantic ships, civil areas that were military bases and a unique historical legacy in the world.
In 1903, Panama and the United States signed a treaty by which the northern country would undertake the construction of an interoceanic canal for ships to transit through the Isthmus of Panama. This monumental project was completed in 10 years at an approximate cost of $387 million.
The engineering challenges included digging through the Continental Range, building the largest dam in the world at that time, designing and building the most impressive locks a canal had ever seen, putting in the largest gates ever to be hung, and solving daunting environmental problems.
The previous and unsuccessful experience of the French, made it very clear to the Americans the following: the only way to be able to recruit the workforce that they would need for such a monumental work, was to make sure to create a healthy, safe and pleasant environment for their employees coming from different destinations, ethnicities and cultures.
At first, the Northerners were in charge of cleaning up the terminal cities of Panama and Colon, especially to eradicate the malaria mosquito and yellow fever that had claimed so many lives. They then created entire communities that would include hospitals, churches, grocery stores, educational centers, and social clubs. An area that was home to up to 100,000 people during the Second World War.
Even today, 20 years after the end of the North American chapter, one can feel on the streets, sidewalks and buildings of those communities, that air that was breathed in the areas belonging to the Canal Zone. “The Zone” government not only managed the Canal operations, but also all the secondary activities that supported that infrastructure. They also made sure to preserve the lifestyle and customs that were rooted in the United States, which created a differentiation between the Zonian (those who were born in that area) of the Panamanian population.
Those who were born or those who lived for many years in the Zone, still feel the impulse of wanting to return to Panama. Some share their longings through clubs, letters, and websites. Many stayed, raised families with Panamanians and assumed a bilateral culture. Although, it was that cultures were intermingled and even traditions such as “Thanksgiving” or “Halloween” are still celebrated in some Panamanian homes.
The influence of almost a century of history of the Canal Zone, is perceived then, in some Panamanian customs, since they have shaped a lot in our preferences and sympathy for that culture, among other things.
Places to Visit in the Pacific
- Miraflores Locks
A space where you can live a unique experience of the Panama Canal is the Miraflores Visitor Center. In the exhibition rooms, the history, biodiversity, operation of the canal and its international importance are shown in a didactic way. The building has three levels that allow observing the operation of the canal, the passage of ships through the locks and their movement. The best place to take photos and keep a memory of this engineering marvel of world.
- Amador’s “Causeway”
Built in 1913, with rocks excavated from the Culebra Cut during the construction of the Panama Canal, the Amador Causeway, also known as the Causeway, links Panama City with four islands: Naos, Perico, Culebra and Flamenco.
The site was part of a US military complex called Fort Amador, established to protect the entrance to the Panama Canal. Currently some vestiges of military installations can be seen on these islands.
The Causeway has become one of the most popular and visited places in Panama. A site with a beautiful view of the city skyline, and the ships waiting to enter the canal. The perfect place to walk, exercise and enjoy a pleasant time with family and friends, or to visit one of its typical and international food restaurants.
Among the most visited places on this area is the Biodiversity Museum, and on Naos Island is the Punta Culebra Marine Exhibition Center, where you have the pleasant experience of seeing a sloth in its habitat or seeing the marine fauna of our country.
It was previously a United States military base. Today it is a garden city where there are government, private and non-governmental organizations offices (local and foreign), as well as thousands of Panamanians and foreigners who have established themselves in new real estate projects, as well as have chosen to acquire the residences where Americans once lived in the former Canal Zone.
The City of Knowledge is also an area created by the development of innovation, entrepreneurial culture and sustainability with international scope. From its facilities, many people from all over the world collaborate to develop initiatives that generate changes in society, and that leave a legacy for the world. They continually have cultural and inclusive activities that are open to the public.
Places to Visit in the Atlantic
- Gatun Locks
These engineering colossals are about a mile (1.5 kilometers) long, where ships climb to about 85 feet (26 m). Two sets of locks are needed to do the same on the Pacific side of the canal. Each of the three Gatun Locks is 1,000 feet (305 m) by 112 feet (34 m).
There is no museum here, but they do have an observation deck. This place has a great view, not only of the locks, but also of Gatun Lake and the entrance of the Caribbean into the Panama Canal. Watching the big ships go through the locks with no space on the sides is fascinating.
- Agua Clara Locks
The third set of locks allows the passage of Post Panamax ships (larger than the original locks allow) from the Atlantic to the Pacific and vice versa. The Agua Clara Visitor Center is a new concept of a park-like center, with terraces and open roofed and stepped platforms, where you can enjoy Panama Canal views, but in an environment of exuberant beauty, surrounded by nature and of views of the Agua Clara Locks next to those of Gatun.
In addition, from its viewpoint suspended at 60 meters high, and 50 meters from the Canal, it has two ecological trails to the forest, ideal to enjoy throughout the day.
The new Agua Clara Visitor Center – which reopened to the public on May 15, 2021 – offers a unique experience to observe the operation of the Panama Canal and learn the most curious data of this amazing project.
Panama – Colon Train
When it began operations in 1855, it was called Inter-Oceanic Railroad, later it was known as the first transcontinental transport in the world. Panama became the only place where containers could be moved on a customs strip from the Atlantic to the Pacific in less than four hours. It is said that the Panama railroad was a millionaire investment by New York businessmen, and that they founded a city named Aspinwall, today Colon City.
Currently, the Panama Canal Railway Company, governs the operation of the train, where they offer a service to passengers (senior executives, merchants and tourists), to cross through the middle of a Panamanian jungle area. It also travels along the Canal route between the two seas, (76.89 km), with a duration of one hour and 15 minutes. The train also carries out loading and unloading operations.
To travel along this railway route is to buy a ticket to take the trip made by thousands of adventurers who crossed Panama in search of California gold, or to imagine how the French moved in the 19th century in their efforts to build the canal, and the Americans in the early 20th century.
They cross the Isthmus and live the adventure of traveling from one ocean to another in a short time, is a guaranteed reality in this unique journey.