The People of Panama

The People of Panama

The People of Panama

The People of Panama

Excerpt

Panama is the "Crossroads of the World." Thousands of ships use the Panama Canal each year to pass from one ocean to the other. Airplanes shuttling between the United States and South America pause in Panama and other planes take off for Europe. And when the last great obstacle to completion of the Inter-American Highway, the Darien jungle in eastern Panama, is conquered, an overland route will add new luster to her title.

An accident of geologic history decreed this role for Panama. Millions of years ago, when the oceans and continents were taking shape, a narrow ridge of land rose above the surface of the waters to link North America with South America and divide the Atlantic from the Pacific. Had this ridge been submerged, Columbus would have found his passage to Cathay; the ancestors of the Incas might not have settled in Peru; history would not record the great moment when Balboa stood upon a peak in Darien and gazed at the Pacific, or the bloody tales of pirates who pillaged Portobelo and Panama City when they were treasure houses of Peruvian gold, or the saga of railroad builders and canal diggers who helped Panama to fulfill her destiny.

The geography that shaped Panama's history has also produced paradoxes which puzzle the newcomer. The narrow ribbon of the Isthmus curves from west to east, like an S , with . . .

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