Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Panama Canal

AHA Session 219
Conference on Latin American History 65
Sunday, January 5, 2014: 8:30 AM-10:30 AM
Columbia Hall 3 (Washington Hilton)
Kimberly Mahaffy, Millersville University
Alan McPherson, University of Oklahoma

Session Abstract

The three papers that comprise this session share the Panama Canal Zone as their focal point. Each paper examines the economic benefits and costs of the United States presence in Panama. These costs are financial, social, and cultural. Two papers specifically address the contests over power and the tenuous relations between Panamanians and Zonians. One paper discusses the illicit trade associated with Panama’s ports. Panamanian state control over the illicit trade of the mid 1900s sets the stage for Panama’s rise as an illicit global entrepôt. A second paper describes the economic, physical and cultural distance between Zonian residents and Panamanians that ultimately contributed to the 1964 Panama Riots.  The third paper examines the United States’ financial investments in the Panama Canal to determine its profitability from the opening of the canal to the Carter-Torrijos Treaty of 1977. The Panama Canal’s weak return on investment lays the foundation for its relinquishment.

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