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You’re about to learn many interesting facts about Panama. When you travel here, you’ll have a better experience with some knowledge of the place. Fun in the sun on tropical beaches, trekking through lush jungles, and rich Panamanian culture are part of it. You’ve heard of the Panama Canal maybe but do you know much else about this Central American country? It’s time to learn more about this wonderful place. These fun facts about Panama will give you a great idea of what this country is all about.
Table of Contents
- 1 Panama Canal Facts
- 2 Where is Panama located?
- 3 History of Panama
- 4 Population of Panama
- 5 Famous People from Panama
- 6 Capital of Panama
- 7 Panama Geography
- 8 What is unique about Panamanian culture?
- 9 Important Cities in Panama
- 10 Language Spoken in Panama
- 11 Is Panama a US territory?
- 12 Panamanian National Sport
- 13 Oldest City in Panama
- 14 Popular Traditions in Panama
- 15 Traditional Foods in Panama
- 16 Origin of the Name Panama
- 17 Final thoughts on facts about Panama
Panama Canal Facts
The most well-known feature of the country is the Panama Canal. The Panama Canal is a waterway cutting across Panama used by cargo ships. The 82-kilometer canal stretches from the deep waters of the Atlantic to the Pacific. Therefore it makes international maritime trade so much easier. Here are a few things you probably didn’t know about the Canal:
- Construction of the Panama Canal took over 3 decades, from 1881 to 1914
- The Canal construction was first started by the French, but the US took over in 1904
- Four nations own the land around the canal: Colombia, France, America, and finally Panama in 1977
- Crossing the Canal cuts out about 13,000 kilometers since ships no longer have to travel around the tip of South America
Where is Panama located?
Panama is the southernmost country of Central America. Panama’s neighbors with Costa Rica to the west and Colombia to the southeast. Looking at a map, you can see that this country literally links Central and South America. It’s literally impossible to drive from Panama to Colombia because of safety concerns.
History of Panama
Native Americans of the Cocle and Cuevas tribes were the original inhabitants of Panama. Then in 1501, a European (Spanish) explorer named Rodrigo de Bastida landed his ship there. Christopher Columbus arrived one year later.
Vasco de Balboa proved that the trek from the Atlantic to Pacific was possible in 1513. Panama became a world trading post overnight. The Spaniards ruled Panama for over 300 years. Colombian’s considered Panama their territory during that time.
In 1903, the people declared independence from the Spanish and signed a treaty with the US. This treaty resulted in the creation of the Panama Canal, which is now entirely owned by the Panamanian government.
Population of Panama
Panama had a population of 4.099 million according to the 2017 official census. The current population has increased to 4.216 million according to estimates. Panama City is where most live because it’s the biggest city and home to 1.9 million people.
Famous People from Panama
There is no shortage of famous Panamanians, including artists, novelists, political figures, actors, and sports stars. Gloria Guardia is a well-known novelist who has been awarded tons of national and international recognitions. Other famous Panamanians that you may have heard of include Antonio Jose Guzman, Jose Quintero, and Pedro Alcazar.
Capital of Panama
Panama City is not just the capital, but also holds the largest population in the country. The capital is extremely modern and has an interesting history going back 500 years. Panama City played a big part in the Peru gold rush. The city is currently a mecca for international business and tourism because of it’s location.
The most iconic landmark (or perhaps I should say watermark) is the Panama Canal. In addition to the canal, Panama is abundant with natural waterways, including 500 rivers and several major lakes.
The tropical climate promotes the growth of everything from evergreen forests to mangrove swamps. Hikers and trekkers tend to gravitate towards Cordillera de Talamanca, a mountain range that stretches into western Panama from Costa Rica.
What is unique about Panamanian culture?
Panamanian culture combines the cultures of 3 types of people: African, European (Spanish), and Native Panamanian. This makes the culture of Panama different than anywhere else in the world. One example of this is a traditional dance called tamborito. Tamborito is a unique blend of traditional Spanish dancing and movements native to early Panamanians.
Important Cities in Panama
Panama City is certainly the most well-known city in the country. Partly because of its size but also since it is at the Pacific entrance of the Canal. Other notable cities in Panama are San Miguelito, Tocumen, David, and Colon.
Language Spoken in Panama
Like all Central American countries, Spanish is the primary language spoken in Panama. There are indigenous groups throughout the country that speak a variety of dialects. So if you are traveling here and have zero knowledge of Spanish, you’ll be able to get by with English in touristy places.
Is Panama a US territory?
No, this is a major misconception around the world. The Panama Canal area was an “unincorporated territory” of the US (called the Panama Canal Zone) before 1979. Panama has never been owned by the US nor has it been a US territory though. The Panamanian Government full owns “The Zone” today.
Panamanian National Sport
Baseball is the most popular sport in all of Central America, and this is no exception in Panama. The Panama National Baseball team is highly ranked among teams around the world. Futbol (or soccer) is slowly gaining popularity, especially because the national team qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 2018.
Oldest City in Panama
Panama City is the oldest city in Panama, established 5 centuries ago in 1519. More specifically though, the spot that was first established in the city is the neighborhood called Casco Viejo. To begin with, the name literally means “Old Quarter” in Spanish. So the area offers the perfect combination of small-town charm and big-city vibes since it is just a few miles from downtown.
Popular Traditions in Panama
Most Panamanian traditions certainly revolve around dance and music. These traditions are frequently celebrated at annual cultural festivals similar to Brazil’s Carnival. One of the best ways to celebrate Panamanian traditions is to attend Festival de la Mejorana en Guararé. It incorporates the interesting folklore of the country with song, dance, and of course food.
Traditional Foods in Panama
Seafood is a main staple of Panama since the narrow country is surrounded by ocean from all angles. Everyday Panamanians eat a healthy combination of seafood, coconut, root vegetables, and tropical fruits. For special occasions like Christmas, the dish of choice is chicken tamales.
Origin of the Name Panama
Nobody knows for sure the meaning behind the name “Panama”, but there are a few theories. The name Panama came from a nearby village inhabited by native fishermen is a common belief. The name Panama meant “many fish” in the native tongue of those fishermen.
Final thoughts on facts about Panama
In conclusion, these Panama facts are just an example of how interesting this country is. Panama is an incredibly interesting country with lots of history so naturally lots of facts. The facts presented in this post will give you an idea of what to expect when you arrive in Panama. Like any destination, you will need to travel there to truly get an understanding for the place.