Geography and History of the World © 2010 Indiana Edition

Chapter 9: Cultural Geography of Latin America

"The Panama Canal"

After controlling the Panama Canal since its completion in 1914, the United States formally handed over control of the canal to Panama on December 31, 1999. This event marked a major change in the complicated relationship between the two countries. In this activity you will learn more about the canal, its history, and the role of the United States in Panama.

Destination Title: Panama Canal Handover

Start at CNN's Panama Canal Handover Web site.
  • Click on Facts and figures on the canal and country. Browse through the Canal Profile, Panama Profile, and Canal Ecology, taking notes as you read.
  • Return to the main screen and click on and read History: Troubled passageway and Politics: Canal return a mixed blessing?

After exploring these topics, answer the following questions.

What European ruler first suggested a canal across the Isthmus of Panama? What European country actually attempted to build such a canal? Why did it fail?
How did the Panama City-Colón railroad and the Panama Canal affect the population of Panama?
Describe actions taken by the United States in 1903 and 1989 that affected Panama and its relationship with the United States. Why do the United States and Panama have a "love-hate" relationship?
How have increased population and pollution affected the region surrounding the canal?
Use what you have learned about the Panama Canal to create two diary entries written on December 31, 1999, the day the United States handed over the Panama Canal to Panama. The diary entries should reflect the different points of view of a Panamanian student and a student from the United States whose parents worked for the Canal Commission.
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