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one knows exactly how Panama got its name. Among the most popular theories, the
country is perhaps named after Panama beach, in which Panama meaning "abundance
of fish," it's named after the Panama tree, which is common in the region,
or Panama means "many butterflies," since there are many butterflies in
the summer, which is when the first settlers arrived.
Panama is fairly rocky, but also has great soil, making
farming quite sustainable. Due to this, the country has been home to people for
thousands of years as people are spread throughout the region fairly evenly. In
addition to this, the seas on both sides of the narrow country provide sea life
for an additional food source.
Prior to the Europeans' arrival to the Americas the
indigenous people lived almost wholly off the land, but with the European arrival
many of these people died from wars or due to European diseases. Of those who survived,
they moved to the forests and maintained at least aspects of their culture.
As the land crossing from the Caribbean
to the Pacific was established by the Spanish the region
became the center of Spanish trade. This led to the enslavement of the remaining
indigenous people as well as an economy focused on trade. It also led to many single
Spanish men marrying indigenous women, creating a mixed race called "mestizo,"
which most of Panama's population is today.
Despite the relations between the groups, it was still the Spanish
traditions, religion, language, and culture that dominated the region and the people
as the Spanish held nearly all the power. However, these indigenous roots have not
been forgotten and the foods of Panama today are a true combination of locally available
foods in Spanish dishes or cooked in Spanish techniques and with Spanish spices.
Today Panama is a mix of their past as farming and living
off of the sea is still an important way of life for much of the population as the
people truly live throughout the country, not just in cities. Trade is also an important
industry as many people find themselves working on the Panama Canal or in the service
industries that have arisen due to this trade.
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