At that time, it was referred to as the Castilla de Oro, a source of gold and potential converts.
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In 1977, after lengthy negotiations, President Jimmy Carter signed a treaty that abolished the Canal Zone as a colonial enclave, arranged for Panamanian ownership of the canal in the year 2000, and provided for the closing of American military bases.
In 1925, the United States intervened in a revolt by Kuna Indians on the northeast Atlantic coast and established a tribal reserve. In the 1930s, the United States' military hired Kuna laborers to work at army bases.
People of African descent account for 15 percent of the population.
These "Afro-colonials" descend from slaves who were imported in colonial times. The "Afro-Antillean" group descends from Caribbean residents who came to work on the construction of the Panama canal.
Outside the city walls was a neighborhood of free blacks living in thatched structures.
Farther out were the cattle ranches and farms of the elite, which were staffed by slaves.After failing to build a sea-level canal in the 1880s, the French sold their concession to the United States, which conspired with the elite in Panama City to declare independence when they could not obtain a favorable treaty from Colombia.From 1903 to 1978, the United States controlled the Canal Zone, a five-mile strip on both sides of the canal.The government is transferring that housing to private owners but is committed by treaty to conserve the natural rainforest areas of the former Zone to prevent the canal from silting.A few neighborhoods of upper-class walled villas have appeared. The country is a natural land bridge connecting the South American continent with Central America.