“It was a strange kind of artificial place,” says Michael Donoghue, author of Borderland on the Isthmus: Race, Culture, and the Struggle for the Canal Zone. His father travelled through the zone during World War Two, and compared it to “a small southern town transplanted into the middle of Central America”.
English was predominantly spoken and even life-long Zonians could get away with not learning Spanish.
“They were pretty much set apart from the general Panamanian population by their own decision,” says Alonzo Delaguardia, vice rector for university relations at Florida State University’s Panama campus. The school was established in 1957 at the request of the US Department of Defense to provide education for Zonians.
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