CHAPTER 11Pirates in the Canal Zone

The next day, the Panamanian government sent a man to show me around. His name was Fidel, and I was immediately drawn to him. He was tall and slim and took an obvious pride in his country. His great-great-grandfather had fought beside Bolívar to win independence from Spain. I told him I was related to Tom Paine, and was thrilled to learn that Fidel had read Common Sense in Spanish. He spoke English, but when he discovered I was fluent in the language of his country, he was overcome with emotion.

“Many of your people live here for years and never bother to learn it,” he said.

Fidel took me on a drive through an impressively prosperous sector of his city, which he called the New Panama. As we passed modern glass-and-steel ...

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