From the Stacks: Cayuco Race

The PCMC team came across these photographs from a cayuco race that occurred in 1999. Cayuco are boats that are traditionally used by native people in Panama, and are crafted from a large tree trunk.

Do you remember watching or participating in one of these races? Can you recognize any of the competitors in these photographs?


Look at the interesting figurehead on this cayuco!


Two teams neck-to-neck!


If you look carefully, you can see the words “We’re almost there” inscribed in the inside of the cayuco.




In 1954, Wesley Townsend, an employee of the Panama Canal Company, decided to take a group of Boy Explorer Scouts to visit an indigenous community on the Chagres River. During their visit, the boys learned about native culture and how to paddle a cayuco, which was a major method of transportation of the region. In time, the competition between them intensified and they decided to have a formal race, leading to the Ocean-to-Ocean Cayuco Race, a tradition which has now lasted for more than half a century.

To read the story behind one cayuco, Due Process, visit the Panama Canal Museum’s website here:

Make sure to join us for the 2018 Panama Canal Society Reunion in Orlando from June 27 – July 1, 2018, where there will be an exhibit about popular culture in the Panama Canal Zone on display. See more information and register here: We hope to see you there!