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Most of the cargo moving through the canal through its first 20 years is oil moving from the West Coast of California to the East Coast of the United States. And this produces massive economic benefits for the United States. One of the keys to how they did it was a system of racial segregation, similar to Jim Crow in the U. The so-called "silver and gold" payroll system whereby white workers were on the "gold" payroll, made much higher wages than they would have in the United States.
Whereas the "silver" roll, predominantly people of African descent from the Caribbean, lived on much lower wages, lived in much more shabby housing without screens on the windows, etc. And yet the catch, the interesting thing is that although it was kind of a bi-racial Jim Crow segregation system, the demographics in the Canal Zone were so complex that a two-toned system didn't work very well.
You had Spaniards coming in who were considered semi-white, and the officials couldn't figure out where they should be within the segregation system. So a lot of the history of the actual construction was about workers kind of coping with these conditions, resisting or challenging them, and officials finding that they had to revise and tweak their policies over and over again.
Nobody's shipping oil from California to the East Coast by the s. By the s, the Panama Canal is handling two kinds of cargo: one is wheat coming from the Midwestern United States. And by then Midwestern farmers are entirely indifferent between shipping it out to Seattle and then taking it across the Pacific or shipping it down to the coast. This is because you have the dieselization of railroads which greatly dropped railroad costs inside the United States after World War II.
Well, if a hypothetical independent Panama Canal authority decided to jack up rates, that's only going to hurt Japanese producers, and they don't have a terribly big constituency in the United States. Similarly, the canal has no strategic purpose. During World War II, seven warships moved through the canal in the first year of the war. Only one, The Wasp , was in any battles at all where a 19 day delay would have affected anything, and that was the battle of Guadalcanal, where the U. So strategically it had proved worthless in World War II.
Certainly by the time you've got the Cold War going on, no one really cares about the Panama Canal. KGOU and World Views rely on voluntary contributions from readers and listeners to further its mission of public service with internationally focused reporting for Oklahoma and beyond. To contribute to our efforts, make your donation online , or contact our Membership department.
And it's just a fascinating project. Obviously, everybody knows what this is all about, but they don't really know the details. And so maybe, Noel, you could start by giving us a little bit of history about the canal. When did people start paying attention? This goes back much further than, of course, the United States completing the canal in the early s. And there were ideas to build canals also all the way back to the 17th century. Of course, back then this was sort of on the same scale as wanting to build an elevator to orbit today -- a little bit ahead of the engineering capacity of the time.
The Panama railroad opens up in the mid-nineteenth century. And that's certainly a big deal for Panama, although it would be an exaggeration to say it was really that important for the United States economically or politically. I suppose in terms of literature, there are a lot of really good stories that apparently get written by people going on the Panama railroad or on their way to and from the Panama railroad. The canal itself, the big construction effort, the first one is by the French in the s.
So they had a 20 year concession, and the clock was running out on their concession towards the early 20th century.
It was slated to expire in You've now got Hawaii and the Philippines, there's sort of a strategic interest in a canal, there's always been economic interest, but this sort of catalyzes the politicians to get involved. And I don't want to get too much into it, although I will if there's a follow-up on it, but essentially that's where you get the kind of sleazy deal to cleave Panama off from Colombia.
So this is not monopoly money. So the Colombians are just procrastinating and waiting and engaging in these negotiation strategies that are slowly but surely driving President Teddy Roosevelt, who's not the most patient of men anyway, up the wall. Now, they're waiting for a reason.
But Roosevelt's patience runs out in There's a meeting in the Waldorf Astoria between a Panamanian revolutionary, a fellow named Amador, a lawyer from the French company, and representatives of the U. And the canal turns out to be monumentally, phenomenally economically important to the United States, but for reasons which nobody expected. So the first thing I want to say here is that it goes over budget in construction by a factor of two, and opens seven years late.
There're also big drops in oil prices on the East Coast of the United States. But before World War II it's a huge deal. But I want to pick up on something you said and actually turn to Raisa now and talk about the environmental impact. I mean, you're talking about all the dirt and you read about the amount of earth that was moved in order to create this canal.
So the engineering part of it: incredible. Absolutely incredible.
How the Panama Canal helped make the U.S. a world power
But the environmental impact is also incredible. They should know how to proceed…. Sauvegarder l'image. Date: pages: ISBN: On August 15, , the Panama Canal officially opened for business, forever changing the face of global trade and military power, as well as the role of the United States on the world stage. The Canal's creation is often seen as an example of U. Examining the Canal's influence on Panama, the United States, and the world, The Big Ditch deftly chronicles the economic and political history of the Canal, from Spain's earliest proposals in through the final handover of the Canal to Panama on December 31, , to the present day.
The authors show that the Canal produced great economic dividends for the first quarter-century following its opening, despite massive cost overruns and delays. Relying on geographical advantage and military might, the United States captured most of these benefits. How does a person reconcile two very distinct sides? Poetry is a VERY tricky thing as a reader, particularly this kind of poetry that also doubles as a memoir.
Published on June 27, pm. I love her non fiction. I love her fiction. Published on January 23, am. I tend to read a lot of non fiction, so I am inevitably behind on good fiction reads. This was recommended to me via a social media request by several of my trusted reader friends and it did not disappoint. I laughed. I cried.
At , Reflections On The Panama Canal’s Past And Future | KGOU
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