Chunnel makes breakthrough Shortly after 11 a.m. on December 1, 1990, 132 feet below the English Channel, workers drill an opening the size of a car through a wall of rock. This was no ordinary hole–it connected the two ends of an underwater tunnel linking Great Britain with the European mainland for the first time in more than 8,000 years. The Channel Tunnel, or “Chunnel,” was not a new idea. It had been suggested to Napoleon Bonaparte, in fact, as early as 1802. It wasn’t until the late 20th century, though, that the necessary technology was developed. In 1986, Britain and France signed a treaty authorizing the construction of a tunnel running between Folkestone, England, and Calais, France. Over the next four years, nearly 13,000 workers dug 95 miles of tunnels at an average depth of 150 feet (45 meters) below sea level. Eight million cubic meters of soil were removed, at a rate of some 2,400 tons per hour. The completed Chunnel would have three interconnected tubes, including one rail track in each direction and one service tunnel. The price? A whopping $15 billion. After workers drilled that final hole on December 1, 1990, they exchanged French and British flags and toasted each other with champagne. Final construction took four more years, and the Channel Tunnel finally opened for passenger service on May 6, 1994, with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and France’s President Francois Mitterrand on hand in Calais for the inaugural run. A company called Eurotunnel won the 55-year concession to operate the Chunnel, which is the crucial stretch of the Eurostar high-speed rail link between London and Paris. The regular shuttle train through the tunnel runs 31 miles in total–23 of those underwater–and takes 20 minutes, with an additional 15-minute loop to turn the train around. The Chunnel is the second-longest rail tunnel in the world, after the Seikan Tunnel in Japan. 1955 Rosa Parks ignites bus boycott In Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks is jailed for refusing to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man, a violation of the city’s racial segregation laws. The successful Montgomery Bus Boycott, organized by a young Baptist minister named Martin Luther King, Jr., followed Park’s historic act of civil disobedience. “The mother of the civil rights movement,” as Rosa Parks is known, was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1913. She worked as a seamstress and in 1943 joined the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). According to a Montgomery city ordinance in 1955, African Americans were required to sit at the back of public buses and were also obligated to give up those seats to white riders if the front of the bus filled up. Parks was in the first row of the black section when the white driver demanded that she give up her seat to a white man. Parks’ refusal was spontaneous but was not merely brought on by her tired feet, as is the popular legend. In fact, local civil rights leaders had been planning a challenge to Montgomery’s racist bus laws for several months, and Parks had been privy to this discussion. Learning of Parks’ arrest, the NAACP and other African American activists immediately called for a bus boycott to be held by black citizens on Monday, December 5. Word was spread by fliers, and activists formed the Montgomery Improvement Association to organize the protest. The first day of the bus boycott was a great success, and that night the 26-year-old Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., told a large crowd gathered at a church, “The great glory of American democracy is the right to protest for right.” King emerged as the leader of the bus boycott and received numerous death threats from opponents of integration. At one point, his home was bombed, but he and his family escaped bodily harm. The boycott stretched on for more than a year, and participants carpooled or walked miles to work and school when no other means were possible. As African Americans previously constituted 70 percent of the Montgomery bus ridership, the municipal transit system suffered gravely during the boycott. On November 13, 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Alabama state and Montgomery city bus segregation laws as being in violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. On December 20, King issued the following statement: “The year old protest against city buses is officially called off, and the Negro citizens of Montgomery are urged to return to the buses tomorrow morning on a non-segregated basis.” The boycott ended the next day. Rosa Parks was among the first to ride the newly desegregated buses. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his nonviolent civil rights movement had won its first great victory. There would be many more to come. Rosa Parks died on October 24, 2005. Three days later the U.S. Senate passed a resolution to honor Parks by allowing her body to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. 1884 Elfego Baca battles Anglo cowboys Elfego Baca, legendary defender of southwestern Hispanos, manages to hold off a gang of 80 cowboys who are determined to kill him. The trouble began the previous day, when Baca arrested Charles McCarthy, a cowboy who fired five shots at him in a Frisco (now Reserve), New Mexico, saloon. For months, a vicious band of Texan cowboys had terrorized the Hispanos of Frisco, brutally castrating one young Mexican man and using another for target practice. Outraged by these abuses, Baca gained a commission as deputy sheriff to try to end the terror. His arrest of McCarthy served notice to other Anglo cowboys that further abuses of the Hispanos would not be tolerated. The Texans, however, were not easily intimidated. The morning after McCarthy’s arrest, a group of about 80 cowboys rode into town to free McCarthy and make an example of Baca for all Mexicans. Baca gathered the women and children of the town in a church for their safety and prepared to make a stand. When he saw how outnumbered he was, Baca retreated to an adobe house, where he killed one attacker and wounded several others. The irate cowboys peppered Baca’s tiny hideout with bullets, firing about 400 rounds into the flimsy structure. As night fell, they assumed they had killed the defiant deputy sheriff, but the next morning they awoke to the smell of beef stew and tortillas–Baca was fixing his breakfast. A short while later, two lawmen and several of Baca’s friends came to his aid, and the cowboys retreated. Baca turned himself over to the officers, and he was charged with the murder of one of the cowboys. In his trial in Albuquerque, the jury found Baca not guilty because he had acted in self-defense, and he was released to a hero’s welcome among the Hispanos of New Mexico. Baca was adored because he had taken a stand against the abusive and racist Anglo newcomers. Hugely popular, Baca later enjoyed a successful career as a lawyer, private detective, and politician in Albuquerque.