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The United States President Who Oversaw the Construction of the Panama Canal

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Exploring the presidency behind the monumental Panama Canal construction.

a black and white photograph depicting workers toiling in the construction of the panama canal. the image captures the immense scale of the project, with workers laboring under challenging conditions.

The Panama Canal was first developed following the failure of a French construction team in the 1880s when the United States commenced its ambitious endeavor to build the canal. This colossal infrastructure project was overseen by none other than President Theodore Roosevelt, who played a pivotal role in its successful completion.

In 1513, the Spanish maritime explorer, Vasco Núñez de Balboa, crossed the Isthmus of Panama and saw the Pacific Ocean. This discovery sparked the idea of constructing a canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, a venture that would drastically reduce travel times and transform global trade.

It was unexpected, bold, and shattered tradition when Teddy Roosevelt left Washington and traveled to Panama in November 1906. His visit demonstrated the United States' commitment to ensuring the canal's completion and solidified its influence in the region.

After a Spanish-led consortium won the right to build locks for bigger ships at a rock-bottom price, internal arguments soon gave way to cooperation. The United States took control of the project in 1904 and faced numerous challenges, including engineering feats, tropical diseases, and labor disputes.

Panama's next president, a U.S.-educated college football fan, emphasized the importance of improving relations with the United States. This cooperation not only benefitted Panama's economy but also solidified the bond between the two nations.

This article is adapted from AQ's special report on Latin America's election super-cycle, highlighting the historical significance of the Panama Canal. The canal remained under US control for nearly a century and was only recognized as Panamanian on New Year's Eve 1999, marking a significant moment in Panama's history.

The construction of the Panama Canal also had unintended consequences, such as the creation of black internationalist networks resulting from racial segregation in the Panama Canal Zone. This led to long-lasting impacts on the fight for civil rights and equality.

Built on sacred Native American land and sculpted by a man with ties to the Ku Klux Klan, Mount Rushmore National Memorial carries a complex historical background similar to the Panama Canal. Both monumental projects represent the intricacies of historical events and the diverse narratives they encompass.

panama canalunited states presidentconstructionteddy rooseveltcompletionglobal tradeengineering featslabor disputeseconomic cooperationpanamanian sovereigntyblack internationalist networkscivil rightsmount rushmorehistorical complexities

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