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Beyond the Big DitchPolitics, Ecology, and Infrastructure at the Panama Canal$
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Ashley Carse

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780262028110

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262028110.001.0001

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Pueblos Perdidos, or How the Lake Ate the River

Pueblos Perdidos, or How the Lake Ate the River

7 (p.121) Pueblos Perdidos, or How the Lake Ate the River
Beyond the Big Ditch

Ashley Carse

The MIT Press

This chapterexaminesthe relationships between the Panama Canal administration and the nearby rural communitiessometimes called “ pueblos perdidos ” (lost towns). Canal administrators resettled these communities in the early twentieth century when the Chagres River was dammed and Gatun Lake was floodedfor navigation purposes. Drawing on ethnography and oral history, the chapter shows how “lost towns” has remained an apt characterization of canal-community relations a century later. An increasingly mechanized and intermodal global transportation infrastructure less dependent on manual labor has left somepeople and places behind. In the pueblos perdidos , residentsinterpretlocal landscapes to make sense oftheir changing and ambivalent relationships with the Panama Canal administration. In particular, community members highlight a shift from “clean” (maintained) to “dirty” (weedy) landscapes around the canal, describingweedinessas an abdication of responsibility.

Keywords:   clean and dirty, displacement, Gatun Lake, landscape interpretation, maintenance, memory, Panama Canal administration, pueblos perdidos, resettlement, weeds

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