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The Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is probably what first comes to mind when someone thinks about Panama. The Canal carries a long history, having been inaugurated 104 years ago. It is a crucial part of not only Panama, but the rest of the world as well.

During the 1800s a French company attempted to build the Canal, unsuccessfully. The company went bankrupt, and many of the workers died, mostly from yellow fever or malaria. On November 18, 1903, only fifteen days after Panama’s independence from Colombia, the United States signed the Hay-Bunau-Varilla treaty with Panama. This treaty settled the Canal Zone as well as the construction of the Panama Canal. The construction of the Canal by the United States began in 1904 and ended in 1914. After many years of tension caused by this treaty, in September of 1977, President Jimmy Carter of the United States signed the Panama Canal Treaty and Neutrality Treaty, which determined that the United States would give control over the Canal to Panama by 2000. On the last day of 1999, the control over the Canal and the Canal Zone was officially reverted to Panama.

Since the control of the Canal was given to Panama, the Canal has played a major role in Panama’s economy. The Canal connects the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, making it much easier for boats to get from one ocean to the other. On average, forty boats cross the Canal daily, and it takes them about eight to ten hours to do so. The original Panama Canal consisted of three lock structures: two in the Pacific and one in the Atlantic. The ones in the Pacific are called “Miraflores” and “Pedro Miguel”, while the one in the Atlantic is named “Gatun” locks. In 2016, the construction of two new lock structures was finalized. The one in the Pacific was named “Cocolí” and the one in the Atlantic was named “Agua Clara”. All of the locks are named after the places where they were built.

The Panama Canal is full of history and carries great meaning to most, if not all, Panamanians. Both the Miraflores locks and the Agua Clara locks have a visitor center as well as an observatory, where more can be learnt about the story of one of the most significant constructions for the world.


Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Hay–Bunau-Varilla Treaty.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 10 Aug. 2016,

Hughes, Sophie. “Panama Canal in Numbers.” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 5 Feb. 2016, nama-Canal-in-numbers/.

Jordán, Wilfredo. “Esclusas Tienen Nombres: ACP.” La Prensa, 30 Mar. 2016, nombres-ACP_0_4449305081.html.

Lively, Amy. “What Is the Purpose of the Panama Canal?” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network,

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