This country that links the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea also melds tradition and modernity, offering such a wide range of activities, from tours of ancient civilizations to mountain hiking or soaking in the sun on nearly virgin sandy beaches, that it is an ideal destination to visit any time of the year. This year, Panama offers an additional attraction: join in on the celebration of the Canal's 100th Anniversary by participating in the activities scheduled for the coming months.
Centenary of the Panama Canal, event by event
Panama wishes to share this centennial celebration of the waterway and enjoy together this anniversary of worldwide interest. The anniversary celebration culminates on August 14th with the Centennial Gala, a grand artistic, musical, and theatrical production that will be broadcast live on television. Canal staff will also be cast members in this show that will represent the epic construction of the Canal, the battle across generations to recover it, and its current expansion project.
Also scheduled this month is the film premiere of Canal Stories (Manglar Productions) at the capital city's National Theater. The five shorts that comprise the film, lasting twenty minutes each, relate various fictional stories that occurred in five significant moments in the history of Panama and the Canal.
In addition, the traveling exposition Centennial Experience of the Canal roadshow is available to visit through July in nine provinces of the country. The hands-on display employs audiovisual resources (maps, 3D, touch screens, photographs, etc.), interactive games, pieces of collections, and educational and group activities.
At the same time, various cultural and sports events have been held over the past months, such as the Ocean to Ocean canoe race that took competitors three days to paddle through the Panama Canal from the Atlantic to Pacific Ocean. During this time three commemorative books have been published: The Panama Canal, a deluxe edition by author Luis Blas Ariti, Transfer of the Panama Canal, by Jorge Eduardo Ritter, and 100 Years, 100 Landmarks, by Manuel Orestes Nieto, with photographs and short texts that frame the main events in the hundred years of the Panama Canal's history.
The Panama Canal and the mythical hat, symbols of this destination
Construction of the canal began in 1904. During the ten years it took to execute the colossal work of hydraulics, more than 56,000 people from over 30 countries came to Panama to participate in the project.
In November 1906, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt visited the construction site. That moment was immortalized by the New York Times in a photograph in which the American head of state appeared wearing a straw hat, which became known as a Panama hat and a symbol of the destination.
The bulk of the excavations for the construction of the interoceanic waterway were dug at Culebra Cut, in the central mountain range of Panama. An estimated 1,600 people were involved in this project from 1907 to late 1913. All of the soil excavated during this phase is equivalent to what was used to erect the Egyptian pyramids.
Since opening, the Panama Canal has registered the transit of more than one million ships from around the world and an annual average of 14,000 voyages. Extending about 80 kilometers long, the Canal currently serves 144 shipping routes that combine 160 countries and reach more than 1,700 ports worldwide. The Panama Canal is currently undergoing an expansion in order to double its capacity and strengthen the country's position as a maritime and logistics center.