“I Took Panama” is a short novel based on the life and achievements of the French Colonel Philippe-Jean Bunau-Varilla, the man considered by Eric Sevareid to be the “inventor of Panama,” and about whom President Theodore Roosevelt expressed, “I took Panama because Bunau-Varilla gave it to me on a silver platter.”
This work of fiction covers five decades of Bunau-Varilla’s very full and accomplished life: from his beginning as a student of the Polytechnic School in Paris; his accidental ascension to General Director of the canal construction when he was barely twenty-six years old; his lucrative business period on the isthmus; his covert lobbying of the United States to discard Nicaragua as the ideal site for canal construction, and finally, his controversial participation in the secession of Panama from Colombia when the country had rejected a treaty that he had helped to negotiate.
The intervention of Bunau-Varilla forever changed the histories of the United States, Colombia, Nicaragua, and Panama. This ambitious and forward-thinking man set into motion a series of events that led, not only to the construction of the Panama Canal, but to the liberation of Panama from Colombia. His actions affected people and politics on two continents, and his accomplishments forever changed the course of history. Philippe Bunau-Varilla’s story is one of trial and error, and ultimately, of triumph.