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Erased

Erased

The Untold Story of the Panama Canal

Marixa Lasso

ISBN 9780674984448

Publication date: 02/25/2019

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The Panama Canal's untold history—from the Panamanian point of view. Sleuth and scholar Marixa Lasso recounts how the canal’s American builders displaced 40,000 residents and erased entire towns in the guise of bringing modernity to the tropics.

The Panama Canal set a new course for the modern development of Central America. Cutting a convenient path from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans, it hastened the currents of trade and migration that were already reshaping the Western hemisphere. Yet the waterway was built at considerable cost to a way of life that had characterized the region for centuries. In Erased, Marixa Lasso recovers the history of the Panamanian cities and towns that once formed the backbone of the republic.

Drawing on vast and previously untapped archival sources and personal recollections, Lasso describes the canal’s displacement of peasants, homeowners, and shop owners, and chronicles the destruction of a centuries-old commercial culture and environment. On completion of the canal, the United States engineered a tropical idyll to replace the lost cities and towns—a space miraculously cleansed of poverty, unemployment, and people—which served as a convenient backdrop to the manicured suburbs built exclusively for Americans. By restoring the sounds, sights, and stories of a world wiped clean by U.S. commerce and political ambition, Lasso compellingly pushes back against a triumphalist narrative that erases the contribution of Latin America to its own history.

Praise

  • Erased is the most splendid of ghost stories. Tracing the hidden history of the depopulated ‘lost towns’ of the Canal Zone, Marixa Lasso reveals a traumatic transformation of the landscape as important in its impact as the construction of the Panama Canal. The result is a powerful and dramatic tale of lost histories that illuminates our understanding of Panama and its relationship to the United States.

    —Julie Greene, University of Maryland

Awards

  • 2020, Winner of the William M. LeoGrande Prize
  • 2020, Winner of the Friedrich Katz Prize

Author

  • Marixa Lasso teaches history at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. Prior to that she was a tenured Associate Professor at Case Western Reserve University. She received grants from the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Humanities Center to support her research on this book. She has also held fellowships from the Social Science Research Council, the Fulbright Foundation, and the Wenner Gren Foundation. In 2016 Lasso was the Sheila Biddle Ford Fellow at Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. Her work has been translated into Spanish and Portuguese.

Book Details

  • 352 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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