Panama as a Pesthole
Reports from early explorers and occasional visitors described Panama as a nidus of pestilence and disease. Incessant rain, heat and humidity, as well as epidemics of cholera, yellow fever, and other tropical diseases made life difficult if not impossible for unacclimated visitors.
“The most unattractive spot of land in the western hemisphere. It was a stretch of snake-infested, insect-ridden jungle between the Atlantic and Pacific…landscaped with bottomless swamps and mud flats…and a wet season extending from the 4th of July to Christmas, each and every year,” recalled Arthur Richards, an engineer who remained in Panama throughout the period of construction. Personal Papers, Library of Congress.