Anthony Trollope heads for San Jose

These are some more excerpts from Trollope’s book “The West Indies and the Spanish Main.”

“We had been recommended to stay the first night at a place called Esparza [Sparta], where there is a decent inn. But before we left Punta-arenas we learnt that Don Juan Rafael Mora, the President of the Republic, was coming down the same road with a large retinue of followers to inaugurate the commencement of the works of the canal. He would be on his way to meet his brother-president of the next republic, Nicaragua, at San Juan del Sur; and at a spot some little distance from thence this great work was to be done at once. He and his party were to sleep at Esparza. Therefore we decided on going on further before we halted: and in truth at that place we did meet Don Juan and his retinue.

As both Costa Rica and Nicaragua are chiefly of importance to the eastern and western worlds, as being the district in which the isthmus between the two Americas may be most advantageously pierced by a canal – if it be ever so pierced – this subject naturally intrudes itself into all matters concerning these countries. Till the opening of the Panama railway the transit of passengers through Nicaragua was immense. At present the railway has it all its own way. But the subject, connected as it has been with that of filibustering, mingles itself so completely with all interests in Costa Rica, that nothing of its present doings or politics can be well understood on this canal subject.

Don Juan and his retinue had arrived some hours before us and had nearly filled the little hotel. This was kept by a Frenchman, and as far as provisions and beer were concerned seemed to be well kept. Our requirements did not go beyond these.

With the President himself I had not the honour of making acquaintance, for he speaks only Spanish, and my tether in that language is unfortunately very short…”

The eventual failure of the canal project had an enormous impact on the future of Central America. Had a canal been built along the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border, the development of the two countries would have been quite different. Panama would not even exist.

Interest in building a canal, or a railway exclusively for freight containers, has been renewed in recent years. At one point it seemed that Japan might be prepared to fund the construction work.

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