Canals, Ruins, Football! Oh My!

Summer in Panama 2024 is already in its second full week of the program, and its Assistant Director, Chassidy Simmons, sent us an update on their past week. Their adventure continued with another visit to the Canal, a hands-on experience at pre-Columbian ruins in Panama City guided by a local archaeologist, and more. Read the chronicle below and stay tuned!  


Written by Chassidy Simmons



Our first full week in Panama was a busy one, but we are making the most of our time outside of class! After visiting the Miraflores Locks of Panama Canal over the weekend, we met Dr. Marixa Lasso--historian and author of Erased--to learn more about the lesser known cities and communities that existed in the Canal Zone before its construction. To bring her lecture to life, Dr. Lasso guided us on a tour of the Panama Canal Administration building in Balboa where we learned more about the French and American developers who oversaw construction of the Canal. We saw 20th-century maps and artifacts like work badges for Canal Workers and commissary coupons as well as the US construction plans for Canal expansion from the 1940s. We even got a private tour of one of the Canal Administration buildings. Are we VIPs?   

Not only did we learn more about the Canal, but we met with a local archaeologist to explore pre-Columbian ruins in Panama City. Our archeologist shared the details about his most iconic excavation projects and taught us more about the field of archeology. We saw the remnants of religious structures and homes as well as ancient indigenous burial grounds. Scary! We learned about the populations of people of African descent who were integral in transporting goods across the isthmus of Panama during the colonial period. 

In Casco Viejo, one of our new favorite barrios in town, we had an opportunity to visit local vendors and small shops to buy unique souvenirs like beautifully painted hand fans and hand-made textiles called molas. These molas are traditionally made by the Guna Yala indigenous group that lives here in Panama.  

To keep the homesickness at bay, we got a little dose of American football. We watched as the fans of the Panamanian National American football team cheered for their favorite players in a head-to-head Friday night game with an American University. There was so much excitement in the stadium as the commentators yelled, “¡Gol!” over the loudspeakers even though we were not watching our own team.  

Not only are we learning more about the wonderful culture and people of Panama, we are making new friends and using our best Spanish to make the most out of our time here in Panama City. Until next time!