Panama is known throughout the world as a tropical vacation paradise. When people hear about Panama, what immediately comes to mind are beautiful beaches, exotic sunsets, and vibrant nightlife. While all these are true, this nation in Central America prides itself on eccentric features that make the country all the more fascinating and enthralling for tourists. Here are 97 remarkable things about Panama, which makes the country all the more exciting to visit.
- Panama means “abundance of fish, trees, and butterflies”. This is the official definition from Panama’s Ministry of Education (MEDUCA). However, there are many other theories with regard to the etymology of the word. One theory says that Panama is the Hispanic translation of “bannaba”, a Guna term of the Kuna people in Panama, which means ” remote” or “distant”.
- Panama is the southernmost country of Central America the lies between Costa Rica and Colombia.
- Panama is considered as the Crossroads of the Americas because it lies between North and South America.
- Panama served as the transit point for gold and silver when Spain conquered the Inca Empire.
- There are 365 islands in San Blas Islands in Panama, which means you can spend one whole year in the archipelago visiting one different island each day.
- Panama has the only capital city which is home to the most primordial tropical forest in the hemisphere. There is a jungle in Panama City which you can visit via a short taxi ride.
- Panama has nine indigenous tribes namely: the Guna, Ngobe, Teribe, Buglé, Emberá, Wounaan, Talamanca, Cricamola and Bokota.
- In Panama, the sun rises in the Pacific and sets on the Atlantic. Panama is a unique place where you can only witness the sun rising on the Pacific horizon and sets on the Atlantic. This one of a kind experience is caused by the country’s distinctive geographical location and the country’s rare oblique S- shape.
- Panama is the first country in Latin America to adopt US Dollars as an official local currency in 1904 after its separation from Colombia.
- One dollar or “a buck” is referred to as “palo”
- The national currency of Panama is the Balboa with the symbol (B/.). The Balboa are all coins and has no paper bills.
- Panama has an area of 75,517 square kilometers which is about the size of South Carolina.
- Half of Panama’s population lives in Panama City.
- Panama has only two seasons, the wet and dry season. The dry season starts from December until April. The wet season is from May to November.
- Panama doesn’t experience tropical storms because it is located south of the hurricane zone.
- The Colon Free Zone is the second-largest duty-free shopping zone in the world.
- Panama’s educational system is divided into primary and secondary levels. It is free, universal and mandatory. The University of Panama is the state university which played a crucial role in the history of the republic
- Rodrigo Galvan de Bastidas is the first Spanish explorer to arrive in Panama in 1501 and was credited to the discovery of Panama.
- Native Indians like the Cuevas and the Coclé tribes already inhabited the place before the Spaniards arrived.
- Christopher Columbus discovers America in 1492 and visited Panama in 1502 on his fourth voyage to America.
- The national anthem of Panama is the Himno Istmeno, composed by Santos A. Jorge and Jeronimo de la Ossa.
- The Santa Maria la Antigua in Panama is the first dioceses in the American Continent founded in 1510.
- Balboa which is the national currency of Panama was derived from the name of Vasco Núñez de Balboa, a Spanish explorer.
- The Panama Flag was designed by Manuel Encarnacion Guerrero and made by María de la Ossa de Amador, who is also considered the “Mother of the Nation.”
- The Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion in Panama is the first European city built on the Pacific side of the American continent in August 1516.
- Angela Brown, the first European Royalty with Afro-descendant is from Panama. She was married to Prince Maximilian of Liechtenstein.
- The “Biomuseo” in Panama was designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, which tells the story of how Panama emerged from the sea, connected two continents, separated two oceans, and transformed the earth’s biodiversity.
- Without Panama, people would still live on trees. The climate patterns caused by the surfacing of the Isthmus of Panama allowed Homo sapiens to evolve.
- Panama celebrates two independence days. One is every November 3 for its declaration of separation from Colombia in 1903. Another is on November 28 for its declaration of independence from Spain in 1821.
- As a democratic republic, Panama holds its regular presidential elections every five years. Panama became a colony of Spain for more than 300 years. It is the Spanish Vice-royalty of New Andalucia in 1519. It also became a province of the Republic of Gran Colombia then of the Republic of New Grenada for another 80 years before it finally gained its independence in 1903.
- Christianity is the official religion of Panama. Majority of which is Roman Catholic. However, all other religions are welcome including Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism.
- The national colors of Panama are Blue, Red, and White. The blue and red represents the conservative and liberal party respectively. The white signifies peace and unity of Panama as a nation.
The Panama Canal
- The Panama Canal is an artificial 77-kilometer waterway that connects the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. The idea to build the Panama Canal is neither French nor American. It is an original idea of Spanish conquistador, Vasco Nuñez de Balboa which goes as far back as the 1500s.
- The US originally wanted to build a canal in Nicaragua. That idea, however, is still alive. However, a Chinese company may be building the canal.
- The US decision to build the canal in Panama was in part influenced by a stamp. The Nicaraguan stamp showed a volcano which helped US senators to consider Panama as a safer location to build a canal.
- The Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty between the US and Panama for the construction of the Panama Canal was signed by a diplomatic representative of Panama, Philippe-Jean Bunau-Varilla, who was French.
- SS Ancon was the first vessel to officially transit the Panama Canal on August 15, 1914. Today, over a million ships have traversed the canal with an average of 14,000 ships every year.
- The average time to pass through the Panama Canal is eight to 10 hours. Without which, you need to add 5 months of travel to your destination.
- The Panama Canal, which is constructed between 1904 and 1914 is one of the greatest feats of engineering which made it one of the seven wonders of the world. In 2014, it marks its centenary. More than 25,000 died building the canal due to malaria and yellow fever.
- The French were the first to try to build the Panama Canal that will link the Pacific and Atlantic ocean in 1880.
- One-third of Panama’s entire income is sourced from the Panama Canal.
- The US had full control of the Panama Canal since it started its construction in 1904 up to 1979. It shared control with Panama afterward until it finally ceded full control in favor of Panama in 1999.
- All vessels passing through Panama Canal need to pay a toll, which is determined based on the type of the vessel, its size, and its freight.
- Richard Halliburton swam the length of the Panama Canal in 1928. He paid a toll fee of 36 cents.
The Panamanian People
- Punctuality is not much of a virtue in Panama. Time schedules are flexible. Panamanians have a relaxing lifestyle.
- Panamanian women must be accompanied when going to pubs, bars or clubs. Going alone in those places without a man is deemed irresponsible.
- Panamanians barely touch each other when talking especially those who are not family members.
- Panamanians along with Filipinos are the only people in the world who used their lips to point at things and directions.
- Appearance and hygiene matter a lot among Panamanians. Despite the hot and humid climate, people wear suits to make the right impression.
- Using titles such as señor/ señor or Don or Doña (Mr. or Mrs.) as well as professional titles (e.g. professor, doctor, and Ingeniero, etc.) to address a person is a sign of respect.
- Mireya Moscoso is the first female president of Panama, who took the highest elective post from 1999 to 2004.
- Edward Murphy Jr., the inventor of Murphy’s law, which says, if something will go wrong, it will go wrong”, was born in Panama in 1918.
- Senator John McCain, who lost to Barack Obama in the US presidential election was born in Coco Solo, Panama, in 1936.
- Spanish is the official language of Panama. A great majority of the locals, however, are bilingual and speak English.
- Spanish language in Panama is Castillian.
- Panama has many native dialects spoken by its indigenous people such as Embera, Buglere, and Hakka, among others.
- “Que chevere” is a common way to say “cool” in Panama
- “Te Quiero” means “I love you” in Panama.
- Panamanians usually say “quizas” instead of “no”, which is a maybe so as not to embarrass people.
- “Buenas” is the common greeting in Panama. It literally means good or lucky but it is how they say hello.
- Another way to greet casually in Panama is to say ¿Que sopa?. This means “What’s up?”
Biodiversity: Flora and Fauna
- Panama has the most diversified wildlife in Central America. It has species both native from North and South America.
- With 986 bird species, Panama has more bird species than the whole US, which made it a must-see destination for bird watching enthusiasts.
- The national bird of Panama is the Harpy Eagle, one of the largest and most powerful eagles in the world.
- The world’s largest rats are found in Panama. It is called Capybara.
- The fragile white orchid called “Flor del Espiritu Santo” (Flower of the Holy Spirit) is the national flower of Panama, which has a unique beer scent. It is one of the 1200 species of orchids in the country.
- The golden frog (Atelopus Zeteki) is the national animal of Panama, which is considered as an epithet of good luck.
- The Panama Tree (Sterculia apetala) is the national tree of Panama. It is a common tree species.
- Panama City was founded on August 15, 1519, by Spanish explorer, Pedro Arias Dí¡vila.
- The US invaded Panama in 1989 to depose General Manuel Noriega, who was involved in drug trafficking.
- Rambutan (Mamon Chino) is the national fruit of Panama.
- Sancocho is considered as the national native dish in Panama. It is basically chicken soup with vegetables like and yucca and cilantro. Sancocho literally translates to “Stew” and is used for curing hangovers.
- Yucca is a carrot-shaped potato found in Panama. It means cassava in Spanish. This root crop is the most common vegetable eaten in Panama.
- Tres Leches is the national dessert of Panama. It is a sponge cake saturated with heavy cream. Another popular dessert sold in the streets is the “Raspao”, which is a snow cone topped with colored syrups.
- Chinese restaurants are present in practically all towns and cities in Panama. This is because of the numerous Chinese workers who migrated to Panama to build their railroads in the 1850s.
Culture and Festivities
- Panamanian culture is a blend of African, European (Spanish) and indigenous Panamanian culture.
- The first literature relating to Panama is about a woman named Andrea de la Roca which dates back to 1535 and was authored by a Spanish writer, Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés.
- Casco Viejo is the historic district of Panama City where you can take a nostalgic trip to the past of Panama and enjoy the vibrant nightlife of present-day Panama.
- Traditional Panamanian music is “Tipico”. Latin music such as Salsa and Cumbia are also popular. For younger people, Reggaeton is the most popular which is basically Latin hip-hop.
- Panama has its own version of the Mardi Gras, which is called Carnaval. It is celebrated a week before the Lenten Season and culminates before Ash Wednesday.
- The “Pro Mundi Beneficio” is the official emblem of Panama which depicts the country’s liberation from Spain and Columbia. It literally means “For the Benefit of the World”.
- The traditional clothing of Panamanian women is the Pollera
- The traditional clothing for men is the Montuno.
- Volcan Baru, the most famous mountain in Panama is also the country’s highest peak with an elevation of 3475 meters (11401 feet).
- The royal pearl known as “The Pilgrim” was found in Panama. It was part of the Spanish and English Crown.
- Panama hats are actually from Ecuador. The traditional toquilla straw hat, which is characterized in popular culture as a Panamanian icon is originally from Ecuador. These tropical hats were popular among Panamanian aristocrats as a sun-shield, which was later adopted by the locals.
- The Tamborito is the national song and dance of Panama. It literally means “small drum”.
- The Diablos Rojos (Red Devils) in Panama are old American buses that were transformed as public transportation in Panama. They are now extinct.
- The national drink of Panama is the Seco Herrerano, a sugarcane-based liquor that was traditionally served with cow’s milk.
- Ricardo Miro is the national and most prominent poet of Panama. Among his known works included Preludes, the Pacific legend, The Last Seagull and Native Land.
- Copa Airlines is the flag carrier airline of Panama. Its central operations are based at Tocumen International Airport, the largest international airport in Central America.
- The Biblioteca Nacional de Panama is the national library of Panama that was inaugurated in July 1942.
- The Darién National Park in Panama is one of the most important world heritage sites in Central America which covers 1,430,740 acres (579,000 hectares).
- Molas are hand-made clothing characterized by geometrical patterns that were originally from the Kuna people of Panama. They are made into skirts, blouse, and scarf and others.
- Established in 1999, the Rod Carew National Stadium is the Estadio Nacional de Panama.
- While Baseball is Panama’s national sport, boxing is the most widely practiced sport among locals. Football is another famous sport in the country.
- Coca Cola is first sold outside the US in Panama. Coca Cola, the world’s largest and most famous soft drink considered as an international symbol of American taste was first exported in Panama. Coca Cola was first sold in Panama in 1906 and had since broken through the global market.
Panama is more than just the Panama Canal, as most people thought. While it plays an important role in the country’s history, identity and economy, that country is a truly beautiful vacation paradise on its own. It has its own rich culture, unique history and great people that make it one of the must-see places to be when you are planning out to see the world.
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