Population: 3.5 million
Capital City: Panama City
Official Language: Panamanian Spanish
Currency: Balboa (1 Panamanian balboa is the same as 1 dollar)
Maps of Panama
Panama is surrounded by two countries and two bodies of water- Costa Rica, Columbia, the Pacific Ocean, and the Caribbean Sea. It's biggest and most popular cities are Panama City, San Miguelito, and Tocumen
Climate and Geography
A big amount of Panama territory is covered in water. With over 500 rivers and lakes, as well as being surrounded by oceans and islands and having high temperatures, it's not surprising the some of the most beautiful rain forests are found here. However, Panama also has a few big mountain ranges, such as Volcán Barú. Located very close to the equator, Panama is extremely hot and humid. The huge amount of water causes lots of precipitation as well.
THE PANAMA CANAL
The Panama Canal is a stretch of water that connects the Atlantic to the Pacific. This 48 mile-long international waterway allows ships to pass through to avoid the extra 8,000 miles it takes to go around South America's tip. It was a source of conflict between Panama and the US for a while before a treaty was formed.
CHIRIQUI NATIONAL MARINE PARK
This particular park covers 14,740 hectares of islands and sea off the western Pacific coast of Panama. Only two of these islands are inhabited- Parida and Paridita. The other 20 are still preserved, with no human residents. The main goal of Chiriqui is to help preserve the ecosystems, and keep the diversity of flora and fauna. The tropical forests on the islands are wonderful places to find rare birds, reptiles, and other animals. However, the real sight is the coral reefs and marine meadows located just off the islands shores.
The english translation of Casco Viejo is The Old City- which is exactly what it is. Completely rebuilt in 1671 after the destruction of Panama Viejo, Casco Viejo (aka Panama Viejo; the name changed) was constructed with a combination of 16th & 17th century Spanish and French Colonial architecture. Many of the original buildings are still in tact and in use. The modern Old City has an equal mixture of Panamanian citizens, and Europeans, Canadians, and Americans.
Common phrases or words in Panama include:
- ahuevazón – a dumb situation
- ¡vamos de arranque! – lets go party
- ¡esto es una ñameria! – this is foolishness!
- Hojaldras - doughnuts sprinkled with sugar
- Carimañolas - fried rolls stuffed with pureed yuca, meat, vegetables and hard-boiled eggs
- Sancocho - an extremely popular local stew, especially during Carnaval, usually made with chicken, vegetables, tomatoes, and coriander
- Pastel de tres leches - a cake soaked in evaporated milk, condensed milk and cream
- Flans - egg custard with caramelized sauce
Carnaval (Carnival) is the season right before Lent. For the four days before Ash Wednesday, work is no longer a priority and "all seriousness stops". Las Tablas is the center (probably not literally) of festivities during the Panamanian Carnaval. In Las Tablas, according to locals and tourists, the atmosphere is much more intense and folkloric, and the competitions for best costume and float are at their peak.
This is a short clip of a few small Carnaval traditions in Panama. Firstly, on the last day of Carnaval, the girls dress up in traditional clothing, including headdresses and jewelry. (Having a complete and proper set of traditional can cost about $10,000.) On the last night, the girls and women do traditional dances. The dancing and clothing is the part of the Carnaval that honors the past, and shows off their heritage and culture. I really enjoy the fact that they always incorporate that into more modern festival. Panama has a very interesting culture, and it's citizens found a way to make that a big deal for everyone in the country.