Like thousands of kids I grew up with THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD by “Watty Piiper” but the problem that after over 100 years, nobody knows for sure who Watty Piper was, although it’s generally assumed there never was an author named Watty Piper, but after all these years nobody knows for sure who wrote the book.
But it inspired me! And like the Little Engine That Could I was, and frankly still am, motivated by the thought, “I think I can! I think I can!”
I’ve always thought a takeoff on the title of this ever popular kids book, long before all the technical hoopla that kids have to put up with today … I’ve always thought that a good description of Panama would be THE LITTLE COUNTRY THAT COULD.
I KNOW it would be an apt description of the Panama Railroad that really was the LITTLE RAILROAD THAT COULD. Eclipsed, as usual, by its younger sibling the Panama Canal, while this year the Canal celebrates its 100th Anniversary, the Panama Railroad, and its current lineal descendant, the Panama Railway, celebrates its 160th Anniversary!
In many ways the construction of the railroad was even more challenging and interesting than the construction of the Panama Canal. That’s why in my book PANAMA CANAL DAY I have an entire chapter about the Panama Railroad, telling a fascinating story that is often ignored.
I think it can be fairly argued that the fantastic achievement, which it was in its day, of linking the oceans together, and the Panama Railroad making Panama a crossroads, inspired the courage and commitment to create the Panama Canal. With the Canal and Panama’s unique geographical location [Location! Location! Location!] it has become possible for Panama to be what it is today, “The crossroads of the world.”
That, “I think I can!” spirit, is a motivating factor in Panama’s success in the world today: nothing seems to daunt the spirit of Panama. It’s interesting that the video progress reports on the expansion of the Canal often refer to “our new nation.” Of course Panama as independent country and not a vassal of Spain or Colombia is over a hundred years old, yet, after the dictatorship and the turnover of the Canal, in many ways Panama really became a new and independent nation and after a few transition years things really began to happen.
Panama is in the midst of grappling with what afflicts most Latin countries, but few ever attack, and that is corruption. It happens everywhere, including [Wake up folks!] the US, but in a country of less than 4 million people it is a little harder to hide. It is becoming apparent that the Martinelli administration was possibly even more corrupt than its predecessors and the current administration is trying to sort all this out. Hopefully the current President, Juan Carlos Varela, will manage to keep his hands clean and become the exception to the rule. Maybe Martinelli was lining his pockets, but his “Just do it!” and “Get ‘er done!” attitude of just going ahead and awarding contracts without years of meetings, studies and committees, while it opened the door to wide-scale corruption, did get things done!
Look at this tiny little squiggle of a country: a massive $6 billion expansion of the Canal coming to completion, scores of architecturally interesting towers dotting the skyline, a brand new subway with line 2 near ready to start, two new bridges under construction or ready to begin across the Canal, the fantastic Costa Cintera, the expansion of the Pan American Highway nearing completion, multiple new hospitals across the country under construction, and a long-range project to clean up the Bay of Panama moving toward completion, and the former Fort Howard being developed as a new, planned community called Panama Pacifico, another expansion of Tocumen International airport which just can’t seem to keep up with the additional traffic created by Panama’s Copa Airlines and our geographical position as the “Hub of The Americas”..
Look at what’s on the drawing board and being planned: a new, massive LNG terminal, a brand new major container port on the Pacific near Agua Dulce, a possible container and cruise ship port in Puerto Armuelles, the renovation of the City of Colon, thousands of new homes being constructed by the government to continue Panama’s long-range plan of creating a strong middle class, and the Canal de Panama already working on yet another expansion project to accommodate the ships already out there known as the New Panamax vessels.
This is an exciting country and at the heart of all this, at the heart of Panama, is that “can do” attitude, and a general positive and upbeat feeling about the country and life here. Maybe that’s why for the second year in a row, Panama WINS the Global Well-Being Award!
All important stuff to consider if you are thinking of an expat lifestyle or retiring to another country. Plus, Panama, which has always been the crossroads of the world attracting people from all over the world, puts out the welcome mat for foreigners. There are more skilled jobs than locals to fill them. Assuming you have a clean police record, you are welcome in Panama. There are work visas, visas that will enable you to build business in Panama, and visas for retired “Pensionados” that even entitle new Pensionados to the same discounts and benefits that Panamanian retirees enjoy.