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.