Building La Zona: Landscaping Urban Development in the Panama Canal Zone, 1904-1914


ACLS Fellowship Program




Between 1912 and 1914, entire Panamanian towns located in the ten miles of American territory bordering the canal were dismantled. Owners of houses and shops were forced to abandon their towns, while peasants and wealthy landowners were compelled to relinquish their lands. In three years, 40,000 people were expelled from the Zone. In this way, a four-hundred-years-old commercial route dotted with towns and traversed by roads was transformed in idyllic tropical landscape, in which the jungle served as background to manicured suburban towns that were physically and culturally disconnected from Panama's rich urban past. For all the excellent books that have been written about the Panama Canal, no scholar has told the history of this enormous transformation as this project will.