On Gorgas Road in Balboa Heights, the Panama Canal Authority Administration Building was built during the canal construction and is still home to the principal administration offices. Inside, four dramatic murals by US artist William Van Ingen depict the story of the canal’s construction under a domed ceiling supported by marble pillars.

At the rear of the building, where a Panamanian flag now flutters, a broad stairway runs down to the Goethals monument, a white megalith with stepped fountains that represent the canal’s different locks, erected in honour of George Goethals, chief engineer from 1907 to 1914 and first governor of the Canal Zone. Beside the monument is Balboa High School, whose ordinary appearance belies the dramatic events it has witnessed. It was here in 1964 that Zonians attacked students attempting to raise the Panamanian flag, triggering the flag riots that left a group of young Panamanians dead. During the 1989 invasion, the school was used as a detention camp for Panamanian prisoners, some of whom were allegedly executed by US soldiers.

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