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PANAMA
The Business and Banking Center of Latin America
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HISTORY, CULTURE, LANGUAGE AND TOPOGRAPHY 
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Encompassing some 28,753 square miles, Panama has a unique shape and diverse topography.  This small country, which has been compared in size to South Carolina, is quite literally a land mass bridge between the Americas.  Bordering Columbia to the south and Costa Rica to the north, Panama rarely exceeds 75 miles at its widest point.  Being a country that literally connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, it offers the beach lover a true year round summer of seemingly unending coastline on both sides.  In all fairness, Panama is not only extensive coast.  The north western half of the country is home to a mountain range that extends up to 6,500 feet near the Costa Rican border.  In addition, in and around the same Chiriqui district, one can find several volcanoes.  The largest being the volcan de Chiriqui (also called Baru), which extends up to 11,400 feet above sea level. This Northern part of the country tends to be quite cool and is the home to much of the agricultural production, including coffee.  If you think that all of Panama is hot and humid, think again.  You would be well advised to take a light jacket or sweater for this part of the country.   

While it can be generally said that Panama is a Latin country and that there are common cultural ties with other Latin areas, Panama is unique in and of itself.  Panama has a rich diversity of peoples and influences.  Older influences include Spanish and other Europeans, black slaves brought over from Africa and the native Indian population.  More recent years have seen an influx of Chinese and Hindus.  While Meringue, Salsa and the latest Panamanian rap music can be heard on the radio, there is a traditional Panamanian music in which the accordion is the prominent instrument.  Throughout my travels in Latin America, I have yet to find this style of music, which tends to be identifiably Panamanian.       

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The population of Panama is estimated to be slightly less than 2.5 million, with most of the inhabitants living closer to the areas surrounding the Canal Zone and Panama City.  Panama City is the capital, with a population slightly less than 1 million.  Sitting on the Pacific coast, near the canal, Panama City’s skyline of new buildings offers a vista than can be compared to Miami or Atlanta.  Colon, which is near the Atlantic side of the canal, is the location of what has been called the second largest free trade zone in the world. With less than 100,000 inhabitants, Colon is not the same metropolitan city as Panama City, but is extremely active as an import-export center.   

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Spanish is the official language of Panama, with a small percentage of people fluently bilingual with English.  Like most of the present day countries in Central America, Panama was under the control of Spain during the colonial period.  Christopher Columbus was actually the first explorer to navigate the Atlantic or Caribbean side of Panama in his last voyage of 1502.  In 1513, Vasco Nunez De Balboa followed, crossing the distance to the Pacific side.  Panama’s strategic importance started as a transport route for gold from other Spanish colonies in South America to a fortification near what is now Isla Grande and Colon.  From there it was loaded for final shipment to Spain. To this day, Panama still remains an important trade route for products bound for South America and elsewhere.  

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Panama Main Page History Culture Language Topography Banking Incorporations in Panama
Panama canal Panama Hotels Panama Restaurant guide and review toboga island bocas del toro