The Geography of Panama and the Panama Canal
The Panama Canal is one of the greatest works of engineering and
modern achievements of mankind. An all-water passage through the
continental divide of the Panama region had been suggested since early
Spanish colonial times of the 16th century. Today a canal that was cut
through the Isthmus of Panama is a reality. It's presence has greatly
affected Panama in many ways, politically, economically, and socially.
The Panama Canal is possibly one of the most well known man made
geographic features ever.
Only five days after the U.S. secured Panama's independence from
Columbia, the first canal treaty was signed with the United States.
Signing the treaty for Panama was Frenchman Philippe Bunau-Varilla,
who was interested in selling the remaining assets of the French
company that had earlier tried to build the canal. When the canal
opened Panamanians were upset that they could not exercise sovereignty
over the canal. They could not tax it, license it, or direct it, since
it did not belong to them. The Panama Canal cuts through the center of
Panama. Built by the United States, it links the Atlantic and Pacific
oceans. The canal is bordered on both sides by the Panama Canal Zone,
a strip of land given to the United States in 1903 but returned to
Panama in 1979. The United States turned over the control of the canal
to Panama in 1999. While the Panama Canal is a bridge of water
connecting two oceans, building it ripped Panama apart.
For Panama the opening of the canal meant a great boom in it's
economy. Panama has probably earned about $200 million form the canal
every year. In war or peace, more than 12,000 ships from around the
world sail through the fifty-one-mile long Panama Canal every year,