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    Panama CanalPanama Canal Panama City, Panama
    The Panama Canal, considered to be one of the modern seven wonders of the world, is a 48 mile ship canal that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific and has grown into one of the most significant passages in the world, for international trade. The canal was constructed from 1904 to 1914 and it passed some 1000 ships per year in the early days to more than 14,700 in 2008. It was one of the most difficult and dangerous engineering projects ever attempted, that would have an incredible impact on the shipping industry, allowing ships to cut their travel distance from over 14,000 miles around the Strait of Magellan or Cape Horn. The idea was first considered in the early 16th century, and actually attempted by the French in 1880, but eventually had to be abandoned after 21,900 workers died from various diseases that included yellow fever, landslides and malaria. The United States became involved in the early 20th century, but would lose another 5600 people before completing the canal in 1914. It now takes about 8 to 10 hours for a ship to pass through the canal and bring it into either the Pacific or Atlantic Oceans. The longest ship to ever travel through the canal was the San Juan Prospector, that was an ore-bulk-oil carrier, 973 feet long and 106 feet across. In the 1930s, authorities realized that there could be a water problem with the canal's sources, so they constructed a dam, called Madden, across the Chagres River beyond Gatun Lake; which would be finished in 1935. The dam would create Madden Lake, which was later changed to Alajuela Lake, and is now available for another water source. A new set of locks would be created in 1939, that would be big enough to allow US warships to pass through, and continued until the start of WWII, when the project had to be canceled. When WWII was over, the United States control of the canal and the Canal Zone would become the center of a dispute between it and Panama, since they believed that the canal should be controlled by them. The clash would culminate in 1964, after locals and US soldiers were killed, so fencing was installed and military presence increased. Negotiations began in 1974, under Jimmy Carter, and the Torrijos-Carter Treaty became the results in 1977, that gave the Panamanians control so long as they could permanently guarantee the neutrality of the canal. The country would become the controller completely in 1999, handled by the Panama Canal Authority.

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    Metropolitan CathedralMetropolitan Cathedral Panama City, Panama
    The Metropolitan Cathedral in Panama City, Panama is one of the most significant architectural structures in the city, showcasing the Spanish influence in design and dimensions, and taking over 108 years to build. It sits beside a large plaza, where the community would meet in 1903 to celebrate its separation from Columbia and become the moment when the Republic of Panama was created. It was built between 1688 and 1796, and is one of the finest examples of religious colonial architecture in the nation, with a stone carved facade that is flanked by twin towers that contain the bells that had been taken from the Cathedral of Panama La Viejo after it had been destroyed by the Welsh pirate, Henry Morgan, in 1671. It would fall into a critical state of decay and decline by 2004, that would instigate a $4 million renovation that has made it one of the major destinations in the city. The church would be constructed using many of the old stones from the original city, while the towers are inlaid with beautiful mother-of-pearl. The enormous arches in the interior are missing the aesthetic craftsmanship of the exterior, although the walls inside are magnificently decorated with spectacular paintings. The majestic gray and black facade, with its white bell towers showcase the beauty of Latin American classical architecture. The nation's president and staff come here to attend the official religious ceremonies.

May 16, 2011