The Panama Canal and its 101 years


On August 15 the Panama Canal meets 101 years of operation. For something always he said it was one of the seven wonders of the modern world, still works with the systems that are then installed, with a system of locks that defies time.

When the Americans decided that the channel would be for Panama tried to negotiate with Colombia, of whom there were a province. The negotiations failed and the Americans turned their gaze to Nicaragua, where it already had been exploring the possibility. But luckily for us, in that the possibility of separating from Colombia is presented and skillfully US President decides to support separation and restart the possibility of the channel in the territory that would now be independent.

I am not interested today to talk about names and characters, just the facts. USA debating whether to convert the separate territory in associated state, but after many considerations became more convenient and less expensive: in the Isthmus of Panama made sovereign of a strip of five miles either side of the canal would be US territory and have their laws They are governed by the laws of the State of Louisiana. Indeed, when a person reached the ports of Balboa and Cristobal was entering the United States, if he went by boat to the US no migration coming through there, it was a trip of a US port or another. So they had their police, their mail, their plates and driving licenses, judges and law, their commissaries and, more importantly, its 14 military bases including airports in four of them.

Initially the channel presence in American hands collaterally benefit the cities of Panama and Colon. Garbage collected, we endowed drinking water (the aqueduct made to the former Canal Zone produced enough for the city of Panama, as well as in Columbus). Similarly, they having left Panama at the beginning of a century of bloody Thousand Days’ War between liberals and conservatives, they chose to disarm the army of the new republic and put them his police to cover also the safety of both cities.

The influence over the years of their presence, channel product was just normal. ‘White Chapel Hill’ became ‘Guachapalí’, the restaurant where soldiers drank beer ‘at right hand’ after the bridge (ferry) became ‘Resume’. The police chief who lived on a hill in Bella Vista, called Hill, what became of ‘Perry’s Hill’ in ‘Parsley’.

The channel gave us some money, but the economic impact of the thousands living in the area and other as they gradually were moving and renting in Panama was significant. However, over the years Panama was awakened in their interest to a) recover its full sovereignty b) renegotiate a less damaging to us Treaty. Generational struggle started by the changes, achieving partial victories with Harmodius Arias in the first revision of the Treaties, Jose Antonio Remon Cantera (‘Ni million or alms, we want justice’) and finally with a January 9, 64 and then Torrijos achieved repeal and sign one ‘birth date’ when the December 31, 1999 would leave Panama the last American soldier.

We do not doubt that there were apprehensions in many Panamanians. How would this without the Americans here? Could we manage the channel right? How to replace the income that gave us the gringos in annuity, rent, buy? Does the use of the reverted areas? Recall the slogans of ‘reverted to the dear areas’. Today, everything is past, memories. We have done relatively well, 10 in managing the canal today gives us more than a billion dollars a year to the Government, five in use of the reverted areas, three in better collective use for the benefit of the people.

Today, as many do not remember the story behind that our channel. Many are unaware of the struggles, confrontations, the gringo presence. Today we live the reality of enlargement, a draft 7 billion and competition, this year’s water problems by El Niño, the expansion and the possibility of Suez Canal in Nicaragua. But we Panamanians face this, engineers, economists, Panama with a Panamanian administrator, that is our pride and although the new generations do not know much about history, mine lives proud of the role he played in that long generational struggle. In the end, only they are stories for my grandchildren.

Political analyst.


“… Although the new generation does not know much about history, mine lives proud of the role he played in that long generational struggle. In the end, only they are stories to my grandchildren ‘



Ernesto Chong de León, Ernesto Emilio Chong Coronado