Enter the post Panamax World

Today [June 26, 2016] marks a historic moment for Panama, for our hemisphere and the world.”

– Juan Carlos Varela, President of Panama

In this age of increased border policing and nationalism, nothing reminds us of global connectedness like oceans.  Also, I will take all opportunities to write about Panama.

Author disclaimer: I love Panama! My father is from there. My family lives there. I did my dissertation fieldwork there. The Smithsonian has a Tropical Research Institute there (STRI). It is constantly among the happiest countries in the world and frankly, it is beautiful!

The defining thing [about Panamanian identity] I would say is the Panama Canal … what else … that is all … we can’t even go any further!” – DC resident from Panama

In August 1914, the Panama Canal opened, revolutionizing global sea traffic. The Canal created a “path between the seas,” joining the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Ships no longer had to travel all the way around South America. They could now pass through the 50 mile long Canal. Ships traveling the canal connect 160 countries and reach about 1,700 ports worldwide. To date, more than one million ships have passed through the Canal.

The politics and culture of the Panama Canal is a central element — literally and figuratively — of Panama’s national identity and on December 31, 1999 the U.S., who operated the Canal since 1914, turned over full control of the Panama Canal to Panama.

The last time I visited Panama was a research trip 2014 with ACM photographer Susana Raab to document the 100th anniversary of the Canal. During that trip, we visited the Canal expansion project on the Atlantic coast

August 2014 view of the Panama Canal expansion near the Locks of Gatun. These photographs were made for the upcoming Bridging the Americas exhibit at the Anacostia Community Museum. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

August 2014 view of the Panama Canal expansion near the Gatun Locks.  Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution. Photograph by Susana Raab

We also took a partial transit through the Panama Canal. It is a marvel to watch ships being raised and lowered to pass through the locks system of the Canal.

 

Susana and me transiting the Panama Canal in August 2014 , documenting 100 years of the Panama Canal

Selfie! Susana (with camera) and me transiting the Panama Canal in August 2014

 

 

On June 26, 2016 , over a hundred years after the Panama Canal opened, the new locks at the Panama Canal were inaugurated. We are now living in a Post-Panamax or NeoPanamax maritime era! The expansion brought two new sets of locks, Cocolí on the Pacific coast near Panama City and Agua Clara on the Atlantic coast at Colon.

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Photograph by Moises Castillo from Associated Press

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Photograph by Moises Castillo from Associated Press

Photograph by Oscar Rivera EPA

Photograph by Oscar Rivera EPA

The size of the original canal made it difficult for high-volume Asian shipments to get to the East Coast of the U.S.  Post-Panamax ships can reach 1,200 feet long — more than three football fields — and are up to 160 feet wide. The expansion doubles the Canal’s capacity.

So while this feat is certainly worth celebrating, it has global ramification and human costs especially in the U.S.. Canal expansion has meant that ports like Savannah, New York, New Jersey, and Houston among others have invested billions in order to accommodate the larger ships that will pass through the new Canal.  Larger ships mean updating ports, and consequently increased road traffic, as more trucks will be needed to transport the increased number of goods.  In December of 2014, the Melissa Harris Perry Show discussed some of the environmental concerns of Canal Expansion in New Jersey.

 

In the coming month, years, and centuries we will all be witness to the Panama Canal’s continued influence on global trade for the U.S. and the world.

August 2014 - Boats wait at the opening of the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal. These photographs were taken for the Bridging the Americas exhibit at the Anacostia Community Museum. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

August 2014 – Boats waiting on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal.  Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution. Photograph by 
Susana Raab

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You can learn more about the Washington D.C.’s connection to Panama, the U.S. presence in Panama, and the Panama Canal in the exhibition Bridging the Americas: Community and Belonging from Panama to Washington DC in the Anacostia Community Museum Program Room. The exhibition is up indefinitely.

Anacostia: Through the Photograph of Frank R. Jackson

Through his camera lens Frank R. Jackson (1908-2007) documented the Anacostia area of Washington, DC.  A native Washingtonian, Mr. Jackson graduated from Dunbar High School in 1925, then he attended Miner Teachers College.  Jackson taught for several years in Maryland before returning to the District.  He was also a creator of crossword puzzles and worked for the Government Printing Office.

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Frank Jackson with Dunbar High School classmates, circa 1926. Frank R. Jackson papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Carole A. Hyman.

Mr. Jackson became a professional photographer in the 1950s and co-owned a photography studio: Turner-Jackson Photography at 1934 11th street, N.W. He married Florence Thomas in 1933, a teacher at the Apex Cosmetology School on U Street. In 1940, the couple bought a house on Alabama Avenue in Anacostia.  Mr. Jackson started photographing various activities of neighborhood kids a decade later.  Although he specialized in family portraits, Jackson’s photographic negatives of Anacostia not only provide a window into the local community during that time period but “reflect the growth and development of Anacostia.”

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Mrs. Florence Jackson at her home on 1949 Alabama Avenue, SE. Frank R. Jackson papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Carole A. Hyman.

Frank R. Jackson collection also include studio portraits, snapshots from his Dunbar High School years, a scrapbook of poetry, and beauty school objects belonging to Mrs. Florence Jackson.  The collection was donated to the museum in 2009 by Carole A. Hyman (Mr. Jackson’s niece).

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Soap box derby, photograph by Frank R. Jackson, Frederick Douglass Dwellings collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution.

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