The Race to the Pacific
The Caribbean is a contentious but interesting region. It has seen multiple changes throughout history. Initially, there only were the Spanish. Soon, however, they wouldn't be the only ones to take advantage of colonial expansion. Britain and France soon established colonies of their own in the 17th century, challenging Spanish authority over the region. Then came the 18th century, which saw the rise of trade nations such as Genoa and Tuscany prop up their ports, as well as American nations like New Netherland acquiring islands in the region.
Smack-dabbed right in the middle of the Americas, with its lucrative opportunities for agriculture and trade, the Caribbean naturally became the theater of competition for the dominant American powers in the 18th and 19th centuries. The most notable of these events was the "Race to the Pacific" in the late 19th century, with the various powers competing against each other in finding a shorter route to Asia.
However, to understand the historical and cultural complexities in the region, it is important to first identify the dominant political blocs in the Americas in this timeline.
The Two Spheres of America: The Amerikaner Sphere and the Hispanosphere
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, two cultural spheres had been engaging in the battle for dominance in trade, industry, and power in the new world: the Amerikaner Sphere (Dutch American) in North America and the Hispanophere in South and Central America.
The Amerikaner Sphere had emerged out of former Dutch colonies in North America. Far from the metropole, these former Dutch colonies gradually became independent and formed their own distinct identity: the Amerikaner Identity. With their roots firmly cemented on the eastern coast of North America, the Amerikaner sphere is something to be reckoned with. New Netherlands is seen as the de facto leader of this bloc and is considered the epitome of Amerikaner culture.
However, in Central and South America lies the Hispanosphere, the legacy of the vast and powerful Spanish Empire, and the eternal rival of the Amerikaner sphere. Multiple wars have been fought between the two blocs, most notably: the Dutch-Spanish War in 1850 which saw huge losses for Dutch territory in the Mississippi Basin, and the Boer War in 1901 (or the 1st Dutch-Mexican War), which saw the recovery of these lost territories and the emergence of two new nations in Amerika: the Amerikaanse Free State and Opdamslandt.
The Race to the Pacific
Stubbornness between the two blocs had led to a "cold war" in trade and the matter of access to the pacific. Various embargoes imposed against each other led the two blocs to pursue their own shorter route to the Pacific and secure their trade. The Race to the Pacific had led to the creation of two artificial waterways connecting the Atlantic and the Pacific. One that was built and managed by the Dutch/Amerikaners (Boschlandt Canal), and one built by a consortium composed of Mexico, Genoa, and Colombia (Panama Canal), both completed in 1899.
Race to the Pacific: Early Amerikaner and Dutch Attempts, and the Northwest Passage
Decades before these canals were built though, the New Netherland government had commissioned multiple exploration missions throughout the 1860s-1890s, trying to find a northwest passage to Asia. This northwest passage was believed to be located in the Arctic regions. Although a lot of these missions failed, enthusiasm for this arctic route was still strong, due to several factors, including patriotism (trying to beat the Hispanosphere in finding a shorter path to the pacific first), and just general misinformation (the inaccurate belief of early Amerikaner scientists that arctic salt water doesn't freeze, therefore guaranteeing a path in the through the arctic isles). These expeditions led to nowhere.
Battle of the Canals
By the 1880s, three nations in Central America sought to beat the Dutch in having a shorter route to the Pacific: the newly independent Empire of México, the Republic of Colombia, and the Republic of Genoa. They sought to make Central America a hub for international trade and shipping. Talks of a joint canal project cutting through the isthmus of Panama began between the three governments. Initially, the New Netherland was untroubled and indifferent to their rivals' plans, but as ideas soon materialized into solid plans, the New Netherland government hurried to make a canal plan of their own, in an attempt to retain being a significant trading power in the region. New Netherland started to pressure their sister Dutch nation in Central America, Boschland, to allow them to construct a canal in their land.
Spanish: Canal de Panamá; Genoese/Ligurian: Canâle do Panamá
The Panama Canal was a joint effort between Mexico, Genoa, and Panama. The project was led primarily by Mexican and Colombian engineers and had Genoa as the banking base for the project. This canal started construction in 1891 and was completed in 1899, and to this day is the most used canal in the Americas.
Amerikaans: Boschlandtkanael; Dutch: Boslandkanaal The Boschlandt canal started construction a few months after the Panama canal did. Engineers from New Netherland aimed to utilize modern techniques to build the canal faster. However, with it being hurried, it has experienced major hurdles and setbacks during construction. But with the Amerikaners inheriting the Dutch trait of being adept at waterway construction, they were still able to recover from these setbacks. Nevertheless, they failed to meet their goal of being the first Atlantic-Pacific canal in the Americas, being beaten by the Panama Canal by a few months.
The Boschlandt canal was not a failed effort, however. The existence of two canals had heavily polarized trade relations in the Americas, with the Amerikaner sphere favoring the use of the Boschlandt Canal, and the Hispanosphere favoring the Panama Canal.
In the modern-day, both canals are still actively being used, although the Panama canal features more advanced systems than the one in Boschlandt. Thanks to the dual-canal system and the competition surrounding it, wealth and economic prosperity had been brought to the nations of Boschlandt, Genoese Panama, and Colombia, and the Caribbean in general.