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Outside the city walls was a neighborhood of free blacks living in thatched structures.Farther out were the cattle ranches and farms of the elite, which were staffed by slaves.The government is transferring that housing to private owners but is committed by treaty to conserve the natural rainforest areas of the former Zone to prevent the canal from silting.
These mostly white employees of the Canal Company lived an isolated life and were prejudiced against the Panamanian population.
In 1977, after lengthy negotiations, President Jimmy Carter signed a treaty that abolished the Canal Zone as a colonial enclave, arranged for Panamanian ownership of the canal in the year 2000, and provided for the closing of American military bases.
In 1925, the United States intervened in a revolt by Kuna Indians on the northeast Atlantic coast and established a tribal reserve. In the 1930s, the United States' military hired Kuna laborers to work at army bases.
The urban elite is primarily Creole, mostly of Spanish descent.
There are also populations of Spanish, Italian, Greek, and Jewish origins.