of highways that extends from the United States-Mexico border
to southern Chile, connects the east and west
coasts of South America, and links the capitals
of seventeen Latin American countries
The Pan American Highway has
four major terminals in the United States --
Nogales, Arizona and Eagle Pass, El Paso, and
Laredo, Texas. These four terminals connect via
different individual routes to Mexico City, and
from there the Highway runs through Mexico,
Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica,
and into Panama. The
Darién Gap, a 250-mile stretch of jungle, blocks
the Highway at Chepo, Panama. To continue
to South America, vehicles must be ferried from
Panama to La Guaira, Venezuela, or Buenaventura, Colombia.
South of this area, the Highway
follows the western coastline of South America to
Puerto Montt, Chile.
At Santiago, Chile, a major
branch of the Highway cuts eastward across the
Andes Mountains to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
From Buenos Aires, it follows the east coast
north to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and then turns
inland to Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. Other
branches lead to the capitals of Bolivia (La
Paz and Sucre), Paraguay (Asunción), and
Venezuela (Caracas). The Highway is sometimes
said to extend through the United States and
Canada into Alaska, but neither country has
officially named any highway as part of the Pan
American Highway system.
In the late-1800's there was
talk of building a railway to connect most of
Latin America, but no serious effort to build
such a railway was ever undertaken. The first
serious discussion of building a highway through
Latin America began in 1923, at the Fifth
International Conference of American States. That
discussion led to the First Pan American Highway
Congress at Buenos Aires in 1925.
Organization of the system
began in the late-1920's, and by 1940 over 60 per
cent of the Highway between the United States and
Panama had been completed. By the early-1950's,
most of the project was open to travel in South
America. One of the most important links in the
system, the Thatcher Ferry Bridge over the Panama Canal
at Balboa, was completed in 1962.
Each country on the Highway has jurisdiction
to build, designate, and maintain its part of the
system. The chief coordinating body is the Pan
American Highway Congress, which meets once every
four years. International agreements concerning
the Highway have dealt mainly with international
connecting points, the financing of bridge
construction at borders, and reciprocity of
drivers' licenses and vehicle registration.
World Book Encyclopedia.
Chicago: World Book-Childcraft International,
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