Yes, it's true. You can see the sun rise over the Pacific Ocean from Panama City, Panama! Just like the Green Flash, you may have to see the sun rise over the Pacific in person to believe it, but they're both most definitely there to be seen! The 'why' is easier to explain than the Green Flash -- contrary to our popular mental map of the area, not only does this area lie east of Miami rather than south of Mexico, but Panama twists along here so that the Canal runs, southeast to the Pacific from the Caribbean (instead of the long held notion that it runs east to west.) Thus, making the sun rise from the Pacific Ocean.
A very cosmopolitan area, the mixture of the many peoples who came here from around the world to help build the Canal can boggle the mind. Mr. Irving Chicalarney (sp??), the official who cleared us into this country, is a third generation Panamanian. He mentioned three of his grandparents -- Italian, Chinese and Irish, and his features indicated that the 4th was likely to be either a local native or West Indian. Quite proud of his family's involvement with the Canal, he spoke in glowing terms of its future.
According to the Rains' book, Cruising Ports: Florida to California via Panama (the major cruising guide for this area) only 10% of the population here claims to be Caucasian, with another 10% claiming New World Indian status. They also note that 1% of the population owns more than 50 % of all non-government land here.
A 'path between the seas' had been talked about as far back as the Spanish occupation of the new world when the gold of the local Indians was being transshipped across the isthmus on the backs of mules. (Again according to the Rains' book, Panama City was founded in 1519, making it the oldest European city on this continent!)
Today we have a canal here, despite the many studies showing that a route across Lake Nicaragua was a far better location, only because one Frenchman was able to talk Columbia (of which Panama was then a department) into a concession for a canal along the right of way of the railroad which had been built (along that previously mentioned Spanish mule path) by Americans to facilitate the rush to California's gold in the mid 1800's. The French, in the person of Count Ferdinand de Lesseps, were trying to build a sea level canal, as he had done at Suez. That effort lasted more than 20 years, employing, in a peak month, 19,000 people, and cost over $287,000,000 which came from public subscription, in a great measure paid for by the less than wealthy class of French people.
Spurred on by the American experience of having to send the warship Oregon around Cape Horn to deal with the aftermath of the explosion of the Maine in Havana harbor (the impetus to the Spanish-American War), the U.S., in the person of Teddy Roosevelt, was determined to see completion of a canal between the Atlantic and Pacific.
The U.S. began its effort in 1904, foregoing the preferred Nicaraguan route, when the French offered their incomplete canal for sale at a price that couldn't be turned down. Beginning with "the largest sanitation campaign in history" (Col. Wm Gorgas' successful campaign to control yellow fever, malaria and bubonic plague) it was completed in 1914, and it ranks with the moon landing as one of the most important events of modern time. (If you only read one chapter in McCullough's book, do read the chapter on Gorgas. If you can then put down the book, I'd be amazed!)
The statistics are staggering. David McCullough says, "No single construction effort in American history had exacted such a price in dollars or in human life." Official records show a loss of life during these years of 5,609 lives. Dollar expenditures were $352,000,000 or 4 times what Suez cost. To put that value into perspective, McCullough offers this footnote, "Except for wars, the only remotely comparable federal expenditures up to the year 1914 had been for the acquisition of new territories, and the figure for all acquisition as of that date -- for the Louisiana Territory; Florida; California, New Mexico and other western land acquired from Mexico; the Gadsden Purchase (the border between the US and Mexico at Arizona and New Mexico); Alaska; and the Philippines -- was $75,000,000, or only about 1/5 of what had been spent on the canal."
I could easily go on, as you well know.