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On this day August 15, 1914

The Panama Canal opened to traffic, providing a shortcut from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean through the Isthmus of Panama.

The canal was formally opened on August 15, 1914 with the passage of the cargo ship Ancon. Coincidentally, this was also the same month that fighting in World War I (the Great War) began in Europe.

1923 illustrates the elevations through which the canal cuts across the isthmus.

1923 Plan which the canal cuts across the isthmus

5,609 workers died during this period (1904–1914). This brought the total death toll for the construction of the canal to around 27,500.

Construction of the canal began on January 1, 1882, though digging at Culebra did not begin until January 22, 1882. A huge labor force was assembled; in 1888, this numbered about 20,000 men, nine-tenths of these being afro-Caribbean workers from the West Indies.

Although extravagant rewards were given to French engineers who joined the canal effort, the huge death toll from disease made it difficult to retain them — they either left after short service, or died. The total death toll between 1881 and 1889 was estimated at over 22,000. Read More…

LA migrant workers remittances

Slumping economies in the United States, Spain and Japan are causing reverberations in the countries of Latin America as migrant workers send less money home.

Latin America

Latin America

The Inter-American Development Bank reported that for the first time since they began tracking remittances in 2000, remittances to Latin America declined in the fourth quarter of 2008, dropping 2% relative to the fourth quarter of 2007.

In January, remittances declined further, with Colombia experiencing a 16% drop relative to 2008, Brazil suffering a 14% decline, Mexico 12%, and Guatemala and El Salvador each falling 8%.

These numbers come as 2008 saw an average 10% increase in remittances. Nearly US$70 billion was sent back to families in those areas in 2008. Read More…

On this day August 14, 1912

Panama Nicaragua canals

Panama Nicaragua canals

United States Marines invade Nicaragua to support the U.S.-backed government installed there after José Santos Zelaya resigned three years earlier.

In 1909, the United States provided political support to conservative-led forces rebelling against President Zelaya. U.S. motives included differences over the proposed Nicaragua Canal, Nicaragua’s potential as a destabilizing influence in the region, and Zelaya’s attempts to regulate foreign access to Nicaraguan natural resources. On November 18, 1909, U.S. warships were sent to the area after 500 revolutionaries (including two Americans) were executed by order of Zelaya.

Read More…