History Channel celebrates Panama Canal Centenary

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The highest point on the route was Culebra Hill at 335 feet above sea level and was the main obstacle for the French effort of building a canal.

The highest point on the route was Culebra Hill at 335 feet above sea level and was the main obstacle for the French effort of building a canal.

The Panama Canal’s history, from its inception in the XIX century by the Frenchman, Ferdinand de Lesseps, will be presented as a documentary by the Latin American History Channel. The program, called “Panama, the country that united the world,” will air Friday, August 15 in celebration of the Canal’s centenary.

“This documentary is very different to others, because it is not about the technology that was used for the Canal’s construction, but about the historic figures that were involved in the decision to build the Panama Canal,” said Eduardo Ruiz, general manager of History Channel Latin America in Panama City.

Ruiz said that very few people in the world, even in Panama, know the real history of how the Panama Canal project came to fruition and that how during its construction, more 27,000 people, among them Afro-Antillians, U.S. citizens, Chinese, Indians and Europeans, died.

The Canal today.

The Canal today.

“The show recreates the characters involved and how their influence, in one way or another, made the Canal a reality. It is also the story of the battle between man and nature,” said Ruiz.

The documentary will also be shown on the same date on Channel 13, Telemetro, which partnered with the History Channel to carry out this project, filmed on location in Argentina, Panama and Paraguay.

The production will show the political struggle between France and the United States to be the first to build “an interoceanic passage” and also how, in the middle of this conflict, Panama was born as a nation when it separated from Colombia in 1903.

Philippe-Jean Bunau-Varilla.

Philippe-Jean Bunau-Varilla.

The Argentinian producer, Carlos Cusco, said that the idea behind “Panama, the country that united the world” was conceived from “the constant search to find Latin American stories that are relevant both outside and inside our region.”

The main character of the story is Philippe Jean Bunau-Varilla, who is the protagonist. The show also features French engineer, Ferdinand de Lesseps, the man in charge of the first construction stage, who not only bankrupts his own company, but almost does the same to his country and the French peasants who invested and lost their money. The documentary has commentary from Panamanian historians, the lawyer-singer and former Panama Tourism Authority administrator Ruben Blades, the former president Martin Torrijos and the current president Juan Carlos Varela.

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