Panama was created as a country due to Columbia not doing a deal with American companies to build a canal across the same route that the French had tried and failed to do so 1881-1888. We supported a declaration of independence, sent our fleet to prevent the Columbian Navy from landing, and recognized the country only 15 days after they declared independence. Part of that deal was that the Canal Zone became U.S. territory. It was guarded by the U.S. military for all that time, much to the distain of many citizens and the dictator, Manuel Noriega in particular. We all know how that turned out, but what happened to all those former U.S. military facilities?
I am happy to report that, although not in perfect shape, they have overwhelmingly been turned into private schools, offices for humanitarian organizations, or other worthy organizations. This is opposed to the Philippines where I saw them all sold off to the rich and turning the land into homes for the country’s wealthy families. One such former facility in Panama is Quarry Heights which contains the Ancon Hill overlooking Panama City. The guard will not let you drive your vehicle through the gate, but you can park there and hike up the road to the top of the hill for some spectacular views.
Warning: be prepared to sweat! Even in February, the temperature here was in the high ’80s. Some people passed us running or biking up the hill, so the challenge is there for you amateur athletes! On the way up the hill, which is about a three mile round trip, you have plenty of opportunity to see Panama City and the Miraflores locks.
On the left, you’ll see modern Panama City’s high-rises while on the right is Casco Viejo (Old Town) which I will write a whole post about tomorrow. There is a wonderful waterfront park running all the way from Casco Viejo along the entire modern downtown. My friend says this was just completed in the last year.
The shot on the left is the port of Panama City with the Miraflores Locks off in the distances. The shot on the right is the ocean leading up to the locks and looking across to southern Panama where a large portion of the population lives.
This shot shows the local airport which is almost exclusively Panama Air. This is a lot easier to get to for inter-American flights than going out to PTY. Lastly, I leave you with a great shot of the Panamanian flag flying from Ancon Hill.