e;ts, but when it comes to overall value, it is hard to beat
Panama with its truly cosmopolitan capital city, its extraordinary beaches, its tropical turquoise waters, breathtaking mountains, and the welcoming attitude toward
All this was recently at risk when China’s economic ascent ushered in a new era. Ships became larger due to the
concept that the more cargo they carried, the lower the
cost. New vessels were built so big that they could not pass
through the canal. Fearing that its waterway might end up
all but abandoned, the canal authority;set out to build an
even bigger, wider, and more e;cient one.
Today, the largest container ships carry more than
12,000 boxes, whereas the biggest that could ;t in the
original canal could carry only 4,500. Since the mid-1990s
when it became obvious that the bottleneck would need
to be cleared or Panama would lose its economic advantages, new locks were built by Panama ensuring that the
canal would remain as important a worldwide lifeline in
the 21st century as it was in the 20th.
;e historic idea of creating a water passage across
the isthmus of Panama to link the Atlantic and Paci;c
Oceans dates back to the 1500s, when King Charles I of
Spain asked his regional governor to survey a route along
the Chagres River. ;e realization of a route across the
mountainous, jungle terrain was deemed impossible at
the time, although the idea remained tantalizing as a potential shortcut from Europe to Eastern Asia. Led by Ferdinand de Lesseps, the builder of the Suez Canal in Egypt,
the French began excavating in 1880. Malaria, yellow
fever, and other tropical diseases conspired against the
campaign and a;er nine years and a loss of approximately
20,000 lives, the French attempt was abandoned.
In spite of the French failure, American interest in the
potential of a canal continued.;Lengthy negotiation with
the country of Columbia, overseers of Panama, failed and
led to the U.S. government’s support of a Panamanian uprising and a subsequent contractual treaty with the newly
created Republic of Panama. Finally, a second attempt
to construct a 50-mile-long canal across the Isthmus of
;e treaty provided the United States with a 10-mile-
wide strip of land for the canal, a one-time $10 million
payment to Panama, and an annual annuity of $250,000.
;e United States also agreed to guarantee the indepen-
dence of Panama.
For more than 100 years, the canal that resulted was a
vital artery nourishing the world economy, a testament to
American engineering, and one of the great public works
of the 20th century. Over the years, the canal made Panama (despite its few natural resources) a key player on the
economic chessboard and a major banking, world trade,
and airline hub.
Opportunity beckoned when the Howard Air Force
Base, a bastion of U.S. air power in Central and South
America for 50 years and located only minutes away from
the city, was closed. With the turnover of the canal from
the U.S. to the Panamanian government in 1999, the base
was demobilized and turned into an international airport.
;en, to support the expanded canal, a new city was
created from scratch on the old air base property and
an enterprise called Panama Paci;co was launched.
Strategically, Panama Paci;co, a master-planned
community, is ideally situated with direct access to
the Pan-American Highway that connects Central and
North America, yet is only a 15-minute drive from
downtown Panama City. ;is provides the new community with both country breathing space and big-city accessibility. Perfectly placed, Panama Paci;co has become
a major asset, a city in itself of corporate and residential
diversity, a true master-planned community that brings
together people of all ages to live, work, and play.
Panama Paci;co also includes a special economic
zone that centers on industries that can be competitive
throughout the world. Surrounding this economic zone
are lovely residential communities, excellent stores, shopping centers, and o;ce spaces, along with a vibrant mix of
walkable neighborhoods linked by parks and trails. ;is
novel approach of intersecting retail stores, corporate ventures, and convenient residences is an exciting concept for
an exciting country. It provides something new and different in our interconnected world and assures that, regardless of your interests for living in Panama, it o;ers
something for everyone.