MI NOMBRE ES PANAMA!
A Brief History of Panamá
and the Panama Canal
DR. MANUEL AMADOR-GUERRERO (1833
First President of the Republic
and one of the most prominent agents in the
Secession of 1903 (from Colombia)
the thinnest link between Central and South America. It became the
center of Spanish exploration and expansion after its discovery in 1501.
Panamá is rich in history and man-made achievements, from its pre-Colombian
history to modern man-made engineering features, such as the Panamá
Some of the major
Indian tribes are:
Some of the noted
explorers and conquistadors to have passed through Panamá were Christopher
Núñez de Balboa, Francisco
Pizarro, Sir Frances
DeSoto and in the late 19th century, the Frenchman, Ferdinand
de Lesseps. On occasion, it was plundered by buccaneers and pirates,
most notably Henry Morgan,
who burned Panamá to the ground while searching for treasures.
A few ruins of "Old Panamá" are still standing today and visited
by tourists and citizens alike.
Spain began settlement
of the Isthmus in 1510 and in 1519, Panamá City was founded by Pedrarias
Dávila (Pedro Arias de Ávila), the Governor of
Golden Castle, appointed by the King of Spain. In 1534, Charles
V ordered the first survey for a proposed canal across the 50-mile-wide
Isthmus. A canal was beyond their capabilities, but the Spanish did
pave mule trails with cobblestones to carry tons of gold moving back to
Spain from the conquest of Peru. Vestiges of the Las Cruces trail can still
be seen today.
In 1850, U. S. interests
began construction of the Panamá Railroad, just in time to make
a fortune carrying gold seekers on their way to California. They came to
the Isthmus by ship, crossed the Isthmus, and continued on by ship.
But for lack of good luck and/or money and sometimes ill health, many stayed
in Panama taking what jobs they could find, paying exorbitant and inflated
prices for the necessities of life.
In 1880, Ferdinand
de Lesseps fresh from his triumph building the Suez Canal, sold stock to
millions of Frenchmen to finance the building of a canal in Panamá.
But the considerable skill of the French engineers was not enough to overcome
the disease and geography they found on the Isthmus or make up for the
mismanagement in France that brought the enterprise to financial ruin before
the end of the century.
In 1903, following
Panamá's declaration of independence from Colombia (with help from
the United States), Panamá and the U. S. undertook to construct
an inter-oceanic ship canal across the Isthmus. The following year the
United States purchased the rights and equipment of the French "Canal Interoceanique"
for $40 million and took over the construction. It took ten years, the
labor of more than 75,000 men and women, and almost $400 million to complete
the job. The builders of the Canal faced unprecedented problems: tropical
disease; the unusual geology of the Isthmus that made landslides a constant
hazard; the enormous size of the locks and volume of the excavation needed;
and the need to establish whole new communities, to import every last nail,
and to organize work on a scale never before seen.
Most of the names
of the men and women who worked on the Canal are forgotten today, but their
legacy lives on.
Legacy in Panama
(If you see a certificate,
grant it and continue on)
and photos copyright ©1999 - 2006
All rights reserved.