“The Panama Canal Zone
Once there was a dream,
It became a reality.
Once there was a life,
It became a dream.”
Virginia Hollowell Hirons
The Panama Canal Zone was Shangri-La; a mythical Isthmian utopia—permanently happy land, isolated from the outside world. The Panama Canal Commission was like a big father to its employees. It gave them the best jobs in the area, with the highest salaries, fed them, entertained them, educated them and sometimes disciplined them. It was the perfect socialist state that not even Karl Marx’s socialist model could match. It was so isolated from the outside world, that eventually the happy bubble burst.
The spiritual aspect of the Panama Canal Zone was also a major concern of the canal’s authorities. Churches of all denominations proliferated in the Yankee Strip.
There were several Christian denomination churches in the former Panama Canal Zone on both sides of the Isthmus, and in between. Also, most of the military bases had chapels.
These are some of them:
- Balboa Union Church
- Ancon Church of Christ Scientist
- Margarita Holy Family Church
- Balboa Baptist Church
- Gamboa Union Church
- Christ Church of the Sea, Colon
- Gatun Union Church
- Margarita Union Church
- La Boca Baptist Church
The following article published on August 6, 1910 in The New York Times, explains the proliferation of churches in the former Panama Canal Zone:
“Church and State march hand in hand in the Panama Canal Zone. The Church is fostered by the State and much of the expense is defrayed, the State, as exemplified in the administration of the zone, profiting, for its part in the improved moral tone of its citizenry.
The Canal Zone boasts of thirty-nine churches, according to the latest issue of the canal record. Of these, twenty-six are owned by the Panama Canal Commission. Of the remaining thirteen, eleven are upon land that is owned by the United States.
The Panama Canal Commission likes to lend every encouragement to church work in the zone, believing that it makes for the stability of the forces employed on the canal and good order in the villages within its jurisdiction.”
Below are two pictures of a church located at La Boca in Balboa which dates back to the early days of the Panama Canal Commission. It’s La Boca Baptist Church. Notice the grand Norfolk pines that graced the former Canal Zone towns. Here we go.
I would like to point out how well preserved these building are, even though they are several decades old. I hope they remain this way for many years to come. Good Day.