(infosurhoy) PANAMA CITY – On Aug.15, the Panama Canal will celebrate 100 years since it opened and became an epicenter of world trade.
Since the countdown to the milestone anniversary began last August, Panama has been holding events highlighting both the inter-oceanic waterway’s contributions over the past century and efforts being made to adapt the canal to future requirements via its upcoming expansion.
“The Panama Canal has been connecting the world since Aug. 15, 1914,” said Roberto Roy, president of the Panama Canal Authority’s (ACP) board of directors. “The fact that 14,000 vessels make use of the waterway every year in order to serve 1,700 ports in 160 countries is sufficient proof of this statement.”
The milestone has brought a host of commemorative events, ranging from forums focusing on the canal’s influence on world trade, to activities including architectural exhibitions, music, culture, religious and art festivals, and sporting events.
By linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans via an 80-kilometer canal, the Panamanian waterway became a catalyst for world trade by reducing distances, costs and shipping times for the movement of merchandise between production and consumption centers, Roy said.
In the final run-up to the Aug. 15 celebrations, the ACP has programmed an exhibit of paintings by both Panamanian and international artists portraying the expansion of the canal. The Panama City Contemporary Art Museum will open the show on Aug. 5.
Furthermore, on Saturdays throughout August, the Miraflores Visitor’s Center, located on the eastern side of the Miraflores Locks in Panama City, will present the “Magical Museum Nights,” a performance designed to recreate the canal’s history.
The world premiere of the movie Historias del Canal (Canal Stories), which portrays the canal’s impact through five fictional stories, will be screened at Panama’s National Theater on Aug. 13.
The official celebration of the centennial will take place Aug. 15, starting at the Miraflores Locks with an inspection of the first vessel to pass through the canal that day.
The Centennial Gala will follow that night at the Figali Convention Center. This musical-artistic performance will try to recreate the canal’s construction and will be broadcast nationwide.
After the celebrations, a number of Panama Canal employees will embark on an interactive educational tour around the country, employing technological and museographic tools to share information about the waterway among Panamanians.
“Our objective is to extol the epic human effort, the technological innovations and the cultural, economic and social impact that will forever define the Panama Canal on a global level,” ACP Administrator Jorge Luis Quijano said. “[We want] to pay tribute to the human ingenuity that made it possible to unite the oceans.”
The celebrations are attracting visitors from all over the world, who are coming to the country in droves out of an interest to learn about this colossal feat of engineering, according to Salomón Shaman, former general administrator of the Panama Tourism Authority (ATP).
“Over recent years we have been working to position our country as one of America’s favorite destinations,” he said.
As a result of these efforts, CNN voted the canal as number two of the top 11 locations to visit in 2014, second only to Brazil.
The canal’s appeal also gives visitors the opportunity to acquaint themselves with other natural and urban attractions in the country, making Panama a very interesting tourist destination, Shaman said.
Pacific and Atlantic beaches, volcanoes and jungles are just some of the many landmarks to be visited in the country.
“[Panama] is a very beautiful country with a lot to see, enjoy and learn about,” said Ecuadoran tourist Alejandra Gallegos, who recently visited the isthmus. “I will come again whenever I can.”
In addition to the canal, the ATP also recommends the following sites in the Panamanian capital:
- The Casco Antiguo or Old Town: Also known as the walled city, its streets are home to important historical sites that reveal Panama’s origins. Declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1997, it has been undergoing structural restoration for the past 14 years;
- Amador’s Causeway: Built in 1913 during the construction of the canal, the causeway is a favorite spot among locals and tourists. It connects the city with three Pacific Ocean islands – Naos, Perico and Flamenco. Their amenities feature restaurants, discos, duty-free shopping and extensive areas for jogging, walking, cycling and skating. The islands also are home to museums, such as the Punta Culebra Marine Exhibition Center and the Frank Gehry-designed Natural History Bio-museum;
- Panama La Vieja: These architectural ruins, currently surrounded by modern buildings, constitute the beginnings of Panama’s history. Founded on Aug. 15, 1519, Panama City was the first European settlement on the Americas’ Pacific coast. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 2003;
- Ancón Hill: At 199 meters above sea level, Ancón Hill is Panama City’s highest point. It serves as a lookout point for the city’s modern skyscrapers, the Coastal Strip, the Old Town, as well as the canal and Puerto Balboa.