The College of Saint Rose and UDELAS in Panama

A partnership about education, culture and the exchange of ideas

The Panama Canal!

One of the 7 Wonders of the Industrial World: The Panamá Canal

While living and working in Panamá I visited one of the 7 Wonders of the Industrial World. There is an immense amount of history about the Canal. The Panama Canal connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
I am impressed with how every Panamanian knows the history of the Canal. They are up to date with the resources, use of the Canal, the history and the international relations.
On my second day in Panamá, I went to see the Canal at the Miraflores Locks. The tour guide said this pueblo (town) was called Miraflores because of the beautiful flowers everywhere. She said they called it Miraflores because everyone always said “Mira las Flores,” look at the flowers. Each day many barges pass through the canal. The barges pass through the Pedro Miguel lock and drops 9 meters in the Miraflores Lake. After being elevated to sea level, the barge moves onto the Miraflores lock where I visited the Canal. Lucky enough, there was a barge passing through!

After interviewing Professor Rosario from UDELAS, I learned something genial (cool). Each time a boat passes through the canal, a Panamanian captain must drive it through the lock. Professor Rosario said during this short navigation, the Panamanian flag is raised to show respect for the country. I thought this was interesting and symbolizes the orgullo (pride) the Panamanians have for the Canal. Each of the engineers who drive the ships must go through a series of training. The Canal is important with our world trade. The tour guide shared how each barge is made to fit the dimensions of the Canal.

Through the tour of the Canal, I learned a lot of history about the creation of the Canal. In 1880, the French tried to construct the Canal. With the lack of knowledge, they failed at the construction for many reasons. The French were prepared with winter clothes while the climate in Panamá, yearly, is hot! An epidemic of yellow fever and malaria killed over 20,000 workers. The United States took control over the construction in 1904. There were a lot of political battles fought over who obtained ownership of the Canal. The United States controlled the land that surrounded the Canal. Passing through this area, I saw the homes the workers lived in, and the mansions of the Americans who lived in these areas. The tour guide said no Panamanians were allowed to enter the land of the United States  After many many years, December 31, 1999, the United States handed over absolute control of the Canal and all its benefits. Absolute control gives Panamá the right to own the areas surrounding the Canal and the profits earned from the barges that pass through.

Through our partnering school, UDELAS, we visited a school near the Pedro Miguel Lock. Omar Torrijos de Herrera is a school specializing in special education. When we asked about the founder of the school, Omar Torrijos de Herrera, we learned how he was a benefactor for Panamá’s ownership of the Canal. Omar Torrijos was a general who handled the negotiations between Panamá and the United States. Omar Torrijos is looks up to by Panamanians because of his dedication and hard work. With his negotiating skills, the Unites States agreed that the land belonged to Panamá and were gracious to hand over the Canal.

Living in Panamá for a month has been a wonderful experience for me. I have learned a tremendous amount of history about Panamá and my motherland, the US. The Panama Canal was enthralling in how much hard work and dedication went into the construction. The revenue of the Canal has benefited Panamá as a country. The revenue earned has helped programs in schools, housing projects, and the government. The school, Omar Torrijos de Herrera, is one example. The school provides many inclusion classes and outside resources for students with disabilities. With all the insight I have gained in this experience, I am so happy to add the Panamá Canal to my list of unique places I have visited!


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