April 2, 2012

My imagination was stimulated by standing where Balboa, hearing that Panama had another coast, crossed the narrow isthmus  of Panama and became the first European to gaze upon the Pacific Ocean.  This is the place where several centuries later the engineering masterpiece of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries a canal was cut through the natural land bridge connecting  the Americas and became the economic oceanic crossroad of the world.  Where  Balboa stood today rises  majestic Panama City, my sharpest surprise,   a city in the midst of an economic boom with 100 skyscrapers  and 150 in process of building. The skyscraper view from oceanside rivals and in some respects overshadows  in expanse that of Manhattan or any American city skyline.  Visions of jungle and palm trees, visible enough, pale when considering  Panama City which alone has 80 banks and a Panamanian economy generating cash payment for canal transit of an economic stimulus of  some six billion dollars yearly.

The canal itself and its lock system is certainly one of the engineering feats of all time.  Ships are lifted from the Caribbean from sea level up 85 feet  to Gatum Lake created by a damned river providing  for ship passage and then again by lock system lowered back to sea level on the Pacific side.  process reversed carries ships from the Pacific to the Caribbean.  An extraordinary achievement is that a century after opening the lock system remains in near perfect operating  condition.  It is this canal lock system  that opens Panama to transit charges from world commerce  and supports  skyscraper Panama City and Panama’s economic boom.

Panama City and the canal itself  soon lead the visitor to reshape stereotypes  viewing Panama as a third world country of palm tress and jungle that just happens to have a canal.   Perhaps more regarding Panama another day.

Published by profbartling1

Retired professor Concordia University, St. Paul, Mn. Taught mainly American History. Also taught in other areas of history, philosophy, and theology,

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